Generalised Anxiety Disorder Levels Continue To Escalate

Generalised anxiety is the biggest thing I help people with by far in my hypnotherapy sessions. Having experienced anxiety myself, I know all too well how unpleasant and uncomfortable it can be, as well as how it impacts on you physically, emotionally and socially. Anxiety can be well and truly debilitating.

Fortunately we know from the research that hypnotherapy is a very effective treatment for anxiety that can help you (for more on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for anxiety have a read of this article: The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as a Treatment For Anxiety).

What we also know is that, despite effective treatments for anxiety such as hypnotherapy, the levels of generalised anxiety disorders continue to escalate over the years. More and more people are finding themselves struggling to cope with anxiety-related thoughts, feelings and symptoms.

Some time ago, I wrote about results from the Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (published in 2016) which suggested that one in six adults in England has a common mental health disorder (such as anxiety and depression). This translated to about one woman in five and one man in eight having a mental health disorder, and they also reported that rates of self-harming had increased. Studies have also previously suggested that increases in mental health disorders is being primarily driven by adolescents and young adults (for more on these see: The Rise and Rise of Anxiety and Depression).

Building upon the research that shows that generalised anxiety disorder levels continue to rise, comes a new study that looked at trends in anxiety and related mental illness in UK general practice over a twenty year period.

 

Trends in Generalised Anxiety Disorders In The UK

The study (Slee et al, 2020), investigated the trends in anxiety and related mental illness in UK general practice over a twenty year period up to 2018. To do this they  studied the annual incidence rates of generalised anxiety diagnoses and symptoms using information from 795 UK general practices.

Generalised anxiety disorder is defined by worry that has exceeded its usefulness as a motivating force and become counterproductive and debilitating. As mentioned above, it can lead to daily challenges that impact on your physical, emotional and social functioning. In reality, generalised anxiety will impact on many, many facets of your life, such as employment, education, relationship, well-being and more.

Generalised anxiety and depression are frequently found together, with both sharing problems such as a diminished ability to think or concentrate, restlessness and sleep disturbance.

The study and analysis here found that a sharp increase in the recording of generalised anxiety disorder. The rate of generalised anxiety diagnoses was higher for women compared with men across all age groups, and there were substantial impacts on younger people. Although the increase was most striking in young women, there had also been a significant recent increase in generalised anxiety recording for young men.

As they concluded, "We observed a substantial increase in general practitioner consulting for generalised anxiety and depression recently, concentrated within younger people and in particular women".

And so here too, we have evidence of the continuing escalation of anxiety disorders in the UK, that fits with previous research findings. 

As the study authors note, rates of generalised anxiety disorders and symptoms began their current upward trajectory around the time that the effects of the 2008 economic downturn and during the policy of austerity which will have impacted upon employment and finances, leading to anxiety. There is also data showing an increasing level of employee sick days lost to stress, depression and anxiety.

With the economic challenges posed by coronavirus and concerns over more job losses and redundancies into the end of this year, there is a risk that levels of generalised anxiety (and other mental health issues) can only continue their upward trajectory.

 

generalised anxiety disorder hypnotherapy in ely

 

Why Is Generalised Anxiety Disorder On The Rise?

The study here demonstrates that levels of generalised anxiety disorder continue to rise, and that women and younger people are disproportionately affected.

Certainly it is possible, with this data being drawn from GP practices, that increased awareness and public mental health campaigns have led to more people recognising their symptoms and feeling able to seek help to address them. Back in my day, this level of awareness and support was something that had yet to be uncovered (we didn't even have the internet back when I was a lad!!).

More conversations are taking place around mental health, more education is available, people are (hopefully) becoming more understanding and there is greater awareness that support and treatment exists.

A client recently described his opinion that younger people are more open about how they are feeling and more willing to talk about their mental health. Although it is just conjecture, it may be that this means they are more likely to talk to their GP, in a way that perhaps some other generations (and if the stereotype is accurate, specifically men) may be willing to open up about.

And we need to keep in mind that this data likely under-represents the true rate of generalised anxiety disorder in the UK because many people do not seek any help, or seek help from other sources than their GP. In addition, many more people will struggle with other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder and social phobias, that are not covered by this study.

How much is social media contributing to increased anxiety in younger adults? The finger of blame often gets pointed at social media use, however, there is some emerging research that suggests that more social media use is linked to a greater likelihood of having an anxiety disorder. There is also a possibility that technology and social media can be linked with sleep disturbance and can impact on well-being and mood (and I've written on this subject before: Anxiety and The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health).

 

Getting Help For Anxiety

All of the data seems to consistently show that levels of anxiety (along with other issues such as depression) continue to rise. 

Some of this rise may be due to increased awareness and willingness to seek GP help for your mental health issue. Awareness and understanding campaigns can only be a good thing if it leads to more of us getting help. However, just talking about mental health and anxiety is not enough to help you deal with it. I applaud things like mental health awareness courses and time to talk campaigns and other initiatives that raise awareness and promote understanding and empathy. And whilst there are benefits in talking (and you should talk to someone if you are struggling), in knowing more about mental health issues, and in realisng that you are not alone, they don't make you an effective therapist or help you sort your anxiety.

However, it isn't clear whether levels of effective support and help are available to meet this demand. Prescriptions for anti-depressants to combat anxiety, such as sertraline, continue to rise and many people get benefit from these. Yet for many the side effects are too severe or the level of improvement in their anxiety is not enough to allow them to feel better. 

And mental health support (such as psychological services) can provide information yet the level of funding means you may face a very long wait for help, or only be offered less intensive options. There is a need for more easily accesible and readily available treatment options for those who have found the courage to speak to their GP about their anxiety and mental health.

Thankfully, more and more people continue to come and chat to me so that we can work together to help them overcome their generalised anxiety. As mentioned above the research demonstrates the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for anxiety disorders, and many people have shared their positive results on my pages (take a look here: What People Say).

Above all else, please remember that no matter how bad your anxiety is making you feel right now, it is possible to change how you feel and to start feeling happier and better. Whether you go to your GP or come to me (or both) to talk about your mental health, please don't suffer in silence and please do take that first step towards feeling better today. 

To your anxiety freedom,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket

 

Reference:

Slee, A., Nazareth, I., Freemantle, N. and Horsfall, L (2020)., Trends in generalised anxiety disorders and symptoms in primary care: UK population-based cohort study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, pp.1-7.