Anxiety in America
If you Google “How many people suffer from anxiety?” you will most likely get the following front and center in your search:
“Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population). Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.”
The quote is from a group called the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). It seems harmless enough until you realize that this group is subsidized by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, and others. The purpose of the propaganda is to instill in our minds that we are mentally ill and must have our brain chemistry adjusted in order to be “normal” or to “manage the illness”.
The statement from ADAA translates to “You are far better off when you are a drug customer!” or “We are far better off when you are buying drugs from us!” More information on the marketing of mental illness for profit can be found in these documentaries:
The Marketing of Madness: Are We All Insane?
The more people that think they’re ill, the more drugs are purchased and the more billions are added to the revenue of pharmaceutical companies. The alleged “disorders” of which I speak are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) under headings such as Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Unspecified Anxiety Disorder – to name but a few. None of these alleged “disorders” can be proven by any medical test of any kind – a fact which runs contrary to medical science.
Nonetheless, the pharmaceutical marketing apparatus will do their best to convince you that you need mind-altering benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin and Valium, or some other psychotropic drug with dangerous side-effects and addictive properties.
Real Medical Science
If you’re going to be prescribed an antibiotic, it is only after tests have proven the presence of bacteria, such as streptococcal pharyngitis (aka strep throat). Standard medical tests include blood tests, urine tests, asthma and allergy tests, CAT scan, MRI, blood pressure reading, respiratory reading, oxygen reading, EKG, and many others. None of these tests apply to mental illness since no mental illness can be proven by medical tests. It is observable that physical conditions can result in mental distress. Someone with the flu can feel very depressed indeed. A person who is physically fatigued or has shortness of breath due to asthma or allergies can simultaneously feel acute anxiety.
Anxiety is Real!
But whenever this point is made, someone will argue “How dare you claim that no one has a mental illness or serious problem with anxiety or depression?!!” The answer is that no one said mental illness wasn’t real. Mental distress is very real indeed. It could be argued that everyone has a mental problem of some kind or other. Maybe we’re all “mentally ill!” But is the solution more and more drugs? Is the magic pill or holy shot in the arm approach really working? Are the men in white smocks or the lab technicians at Pfizer and Merck the saviors of mankind because they really know what it’s all about and can tweak our brain chemistry so we feel elated all the time? Common sense tells us that is not the answer.
No One is Immune
There are many good reasons to feel anxiety: You watch beheadings on CNN; you get stuck in traffic; you’re late for work and threatened with being fired; your kids may or may not be using drugs; your mailbox is full of unpaid bills and little else; your marriage is strained. Feelings of anxiety and depression are part of being human. No one is immune. But what if you feel anxiety most of the time or all of the time? What if you feel acute anxiety with little provocation or for no reason at all? Fortunately, there are things that can be done even for that.
The first thing I would recommend for dealing with anxiety, depression and other unwanted emotions would be something like a checklist, a process of elimination. You may find that something is contributing to the condition that can be remedied rather easily, while other situations may require more work. But the first step is to take a look! This is by no means a set-in-stone checklist, but it is based on common sense and logic. In fact, you could come up with a similar list yourself. All I’m doing is pointing out things that are so obvious that they get overlooked:
Are You Physically Ill?
Untreated physical conditions can appear to be mental illness if you don’t look any further than symptoms. Hormonal problems (such as those related to the thyroid gland), asthma, allergies, a heart condition, diabetes, menopause, and many other conditions can exist that trigger mental reactions in a person. If you feel that such a situation could exist, visit a qualified physician. And if you don’t feel any condition is present, there is nothing wrong with a checkup. The routine physical is kind of a dying art these days, but if you run diagnostics and regular maintenance on your car, why not your body? It’s infinitely more valuable than your car. Don’t overlook underlying physical causes for mental distress.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
People who are not well-rested can act rather neurotic and even psychotic. Maybe you drink too much coffee after dinner and this affects your sleep. Perhaps a schedule adjustment is in order so you get more sleep. Many people are light sleepers or suffer from sleep apnea (temporary cessation of breathing, especially during sleep). Fortunately, there are remedies for apnea that do not involve any drugs whatsoever. In fact, adding drugs to apnea is potentially dangerous. There is a wealth of non-drug remedies for sleep: Turning off machines that make noise, a mattress and pillow that conform to your body, herbal remedies, peaceful sounds and music, and many others. Get enough sleep and see how you feel.
Are You Eating Properly?
A malnourished body will result in an uneasy mind. Eat only junk food, skip a lot of meals and you’ll feel mentally distressed. Eating foods high in saturated fats, sugar, preservatives, pesticides, chemicals, and additives is not a wise diet. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are increasingly suspect, so much so that foods that do NOT contain GMOs are now often given a special label. Concerned officials and citizens in Vermont, Oregon, and other states are attempting to get food labeled as to what ingredients are GMO, but it has been an uphill fight. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are bad enough, but certain artificial sweeteners, aspartame in particular, have been linked with depression, fatigue and other symptoms.
I always tell people that eating lean meats, plant proteins, superfoods, fruits and vegetables – all preferably organic – is a good start. You need not be diet-obsessed. Just eat better and see if your physical and mental state improves.
Do You Take Any Vitamin or Mineral Supplements?
The whole idea of vitamins and minerals is that the foods you eat may not provide all the nutrients you need. Vitamins and minerals are FOOD, not drugs. Just as with diets, there are a lot of fads out there when it comes to supplements, and not all supplements are created equal. Some are great. Some are just OK. And some are virtually useless. Finding a good multivitamin is a good start, but you may want to do a little research as to what supplements to choose.
It is a known fact that specific deficiencies can results in depression, anxiety and fatigue. The B vitamin group, in particular vitamin B1, along with vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium should also be part of your routine. These things do cost money, but you need not go overboard.
Do You Exercise?
The body needs exercise. Apart from purely physical reasons such as your health and longevity, exercise and state of mind are intimately related. Skip exercise and you’re likely to get moody, fatigued and irritated, not to mention more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Exercise daily, or at least regularly, and you can markedly improve your overall outlook on life. You need not push yourself past the limit. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start in on low impact cardio (walking, running) for 20-30 minutes per day or every other day, then work it up from there. Any exercise is better than none, but when you do it daily you’ll probably notice a significant improvement in your mood and calmness of mind.
A friend of mine would get out of breath even when she walked a few blocks. When she tried exercising, she could only go a few minutes. She’d also be up at night with breathing problems. Finally she went to the doctor and found out she wasn’t getting enough oxygen and had asthma and allergies; she had just been ignoring the signs. After remedying some of the symptoms, she felt MUCH better and was able to work out at the gym. And she felt much better mentally and physically.
Are You Using Drugs or Alcohol?
The ads that tell you to “ask your doctor” would have you believe that being on drugs is a positive move. Truthfully, many drugs that are now illegal were once fully legal and contained in tonics, elixirs, Coca-Cola, children’s cough syrups, and many other products. These once legal drugs include cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Alcohol is of course a legal drug and countless people drink occasionally or socially without much drama, but its abuse has been the source of endless pain and misery for centuries. If you have a drug or alcohol problem, legal or otherwise, you should get help. Drugs are one of the chief problems, NOT the solution!
Are You Watching the News?
I’ve stated before that watching too much media can cause you considerable stress and anxiety. You want to know what’s happening in the world, and that is fine. But it is VERY easy to overdo it. Do you know what a “Merchant of Chaos” is? It’s a person who makes a profit in direct proportion to the amount of chaos in the environment. The press and media in general simply LOVE chaos, confusion, death and destruction. The more of it there is, the more issues they sell, the more webpage hits, the more viewers, the more money from advertisers, etc.
I put pharmaceutical companies that sell psychotropic drugs in the same category. Why? Because the more anxiety and depression you feel (or think you feel), the more you perceive that you’re sick, the more money they make. And if you get prescribed two, three, four, ten more drugs to offset the side effects of other drugs, the more their coffers are filled and the better their dividends.
Get home after work, sit down and get an earful and eyeful of the latest beheadings, disasters, murders, missing persons, disease outbreaks, and so on – and observe how it affects you. If you aren’t going to do anything immediately about it, why inundate your mind and your home with disturbing news? Plus they don’t tell you once; they tell you over and over and over again until it rings in your ears. Not only that, their “news” is slanted and pushes an agenda, as well as often being completely made up.
Turn off the television and devices and enjoy the silence. Talk with your loved ones and friends. Play a board game. Play soccer. Do a family project. Do this for days or weeks and see if your anxiety subsides.
Is Your Conscience Weighing You Down?
This is a touchy issue because it can make someone sound like a puritan or a moralist. But that is not the version of which I speak. The angle I’m describing is the one where you have trouble looking yourself in the mirror. It’s all about YOU and your relationship with yourself and others. If you’re cheating on your spouse or embezzling funds from your office, don’t be surprised when you experience several forms of anxiety – anxiety of crushing guilt, anxiety of getting caught, anxiety about the future, etc. If you don’t get caught first, you may decide to “fess up” or make it good – but it will be your personal decision to do so.
The conscience is a powerful force, so much so that you become your own worst enemy. Walk down the street or into any bar in America and know that many of the people you are looking at are constantly getting in their own way. They are creating barriers for themselves and if they just straightened it out, they’d feel immense relief. I speak from experience. It’s not puritanism or moralism. It’s just YOU being true to your innate values.
Is Someone Being a Negative Influence?
There is another side to the coin. You can certainly get in your own way and countless people do. But others can do so as well. Let’s be clear: I’m not saying to be hypercritical of others and go around finger-pointing. There is WAY too much of that going around. “YOU did this to me!” and “See what YOU did that has made me miserable!” – on and on without end.
But if someone is constantly telling you how you CAN’T do this and you will NEVER succeed and you are just NOT cut out for this, you know that you’re dealing with a decidedly NEGATIVE personality. Their comments can be couched in the language of constructive criticism, such as “Don’t quit your day job” or “Maybe it’s just not for you and you should do something else” and the like. Realize that such comments are not really constructive criticism; they’re simply criticism. Is that person trying to push you forward or are they trying STOP you? That is a question to ask.
The aforementioned Merchant of Chaos is a great example of this. They’re trying to tell you that you’ll be hit by Ebola or an asteroid or some such thing if you walk out your front door, or that you must be all drugged up on Xanax in order to feel remotely “normal”. The “friend” who pushes drugs on you (peer pressure) is another type of negative influence. Personality types, human behavior, and related subjects obviously comprise a broad field, and I’m only giving you the tip of the iceberg, scratching the surface, but hopefully you get the basic idea.
Do You Finish What You Start?
If you really want to generate feelings of anxiety for yourself, never complete anything you start. Start mowing the lawn and don’t finish it. Start fixing up the house but leave it a mess and don’t clean it up. Start a course of study, get really interested in it and then abandon it. You’ll build up one anxiety upon another.
A great thing to do is to list out all your incomplete projects. Once you’ve put down everything you can think of, start getting them done. You may decide on a sequence in which to do them, but this is a secondary concern. The most important thing is to COMPLETE one at a time. Just pick one and do it, then the next, the next and so on.
You can even take it a step further and jot down the projects you’ve WANTED to start but never did. I would recommend, however, completing the ones you started first. Just make sure that when you start a new project, keep working on it and complete it. Some projects are longer and are broken down into smaller sections which are completed one at a time. You’re likely to feel much better when you’re completing what you start.
Do You Have a Trust Network?
When you feel all alone, realize that you are not. At the very least, you’re not alone in feeling alone. In truth, no one makes it alone. People need each other just like we need the plants and trees to breathe and vice versa. You hopefully have family and friends that you trust and who trust you. But if there is some trouble in that department, there are places you can turn. Your church can be a great place to find help and guidance. You can go online and find legitimate support groups and programs.
Locating groups of people with similar interests can be of great benefit. There are groups for everything: Hiking, biking, climbing, running, sports, art, crafts, music, cars, motorcycles – anything you can think of. Walk into any coffee shop and there are probably several little meetings happening of people with some sort of highly specialized interest. I was in a coffee shop a little while ago and next to me was a meeting of thirtysomething-year-old men who wanted to revitalize skateboarding as a method of transportation – pretty specific!
Your family, friends, church, group, etc. should comprise what could be called your “trust network” – those with whom you’ve established mutual trust and respect. This trust is established through the course of life and it is furthered and reinforced through healthy two-way communication. You should have people you can talk with, who will listen, who won’t heavy-handedly judge you but will tell you the bare-bones truth.
Sometimes, trust is betrayed. You were betrayed or you did the betraying. Regardless, such things can be repaired one way or another. That’s the next thing to understand: The situation is never without hope. Something can always be done to fix it. Life is challenging to say the least, and it is a team effort. In the end we must work together, and working together is a continuous process.
Alright, that was more than a checklist.
No one said life would be neat and tidy and eternally joyful. Our unpleasant emotions, such as anxiety, depression, fear, anger, etc. may simply be stepping stones on the way to enthusiasm, joy, a sense of camaraderie and the feeling of a job well done.
Always remember to look ahead and know that you create your own destiny. From the famous poem, “Invictus”:
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.