Global Study Says Anxiety Disorders Need More Research

June 6th, 2016
Global Study Says Anxiety Disorders Need More Research

A global review of anxiety says that as the disorder is more common than we think, more attention should be paid to it in mental health research.

Anxiety is defined as feelings of fear, unease and worry that carry on for extended periods of time and affect everyday life, becoming overwhelming. This is commonly accompanied by feelings of nausea, disrupted sleep and raised blood pressure. At this point, anxiety becomes a mental health problem and a specific disorder diagnosis can be given.

University of Cambridge researchers said people with medical health problems, women and people younger than 35 were predominantly affected. They suggest that 4 out of 100 people suffer from anxiety.

However, the review stated that more research is necessary to find out which other communities are at high risk.

The global review can be found in the Brain and Behavoir journal and found that each year, more than 60 million people in the EU are affected by an anxiety disorder.

North America was deemed the worst affected, with 8 in 100 sufferers. With 3 in 100, East Asia was the least affected.

The percentage of people suffering with anxiety remained fairly constant between 1990 and 2010, but despite this, the authors said that unlike depression, the problem isn’t often researched.

According to Olivia Remes, who authored the review, anxiety disorders can cause extreme difficulty in people’s lives. She said that lots of focus has been put on depression, but anxiety is just as debilitating. It can lead to other psychiatric disorders and increase suicide risk. She also said it’s important for our health services to understand the frequency of anxiety and who is at the biggest risk.

Around the world, women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety as men. According to Ms Remes, this might be due to fluctuating hormones or because women are generally more prone to stress. She said it could also be due to their traditional role of looking after children.

Pregnant women were also discovered to be prone to anxiety disorder OCD, either before or immediately after their baby’s birth.

The review stated that those with chronic health problems were particularly at risk. As an example, 32% of people with MS suffer with an anxiety disorder and it also affected 15-23% of cancer patients.

It was noted in the review that anxiety statistics are significantly lacking in some populations, for example indigenous cultures, as well as communities like sex workers and drug users. Research is also lacking in gay, lesbian and bisexual communities.

Help for anxiety disorders

It’s important to discuss your choices with your doctor before you start any treatment for anxiety. They might recommend that you refrain from alcohol and caffeine and stop smoking. They might recommend psychological treatment, for example CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or mindfulness therapy. CBT challenges negative behaviours and thoughts and mindfulness encourages you to focus on the present moment.

Your doctor might also prescribe medication to manage the disorder.

Online courses and self-help books can provide ways to help manage your anxiety and regular exercise could help you relax.

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