Advocacy for Anxiety 

By Nupur Kudapkar 

According to the Mayo Health Clinic, anxiety is defined as, “Intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur”. While anxiety is a real mental illness it still has a stigma attached to it.

According to the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, they found that an astonishing 56% of people thought that “an anxiety disorder is not a real medical illness” and 20.1% thought “people with an anxiety disorder should be ashamed of themselves.” As a result, people suffering from anxiety oftentimes fail to speak up. In addition, individuals might fear seeking support from professionals, friends, or family members because of what they might think. The repercussions of mental illness for those suffering from mental illness, the repercussions are drastic if not treated. Untreated mental health problems can lead to impairment, unemployment, drug dependence, homelessness, improper imprisonment, suicide, and a poor quality of life (National Alliance on Mental Illnesses). The Anxiety & Depression Association of America published an article stating, “Anxiety disorders affect 31.9% of adolescents between 13 and 18 years old. Research shows that untreated teenagers with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse”. If anxiety is undiagnosed and untreated, especially in anxiety in early adolescent children can lead to a variety of problems. So the question begs: why does anxiety still have a stigma to it?  

It is evident that anxiety has a stigma linked to it, so let’s discuss it. Stigma is described as a mark of shame attached to a person and when considering the variety of mental illnesses that exist, there proves to be quite a bit.  Stigma is classified into three types: societal, systemic, and self. Social stigma refers to prejudice against others in society, which can prevent those suffering from anxiety (or any other mental illness) from accessing opportunities, resources, and general well-being. In addition, social stigma can also be how people perceived mental illness such as how someone thinks everyone else thinks about those who have mental illnesses. Then there is systematic stigma, which occurs when an individual has access to less care due to expectations or laws, rules, policies, and so on. Finally, there is self-stigma, which is likely the most difficult to overcome since negative self-talk paired with unfavorable preconceptions can lead to denial of symptoms and pessimism. Although many mentally ill individuals are affected by societal, systemic, and self-stigmas, there is a method to overcome them. Recognizing the impact of stigma and working to reduce it are crucial steps in resolving mental health concerns. One of the ways to break the stigma is to remember that people are more than their mental illnesses. When you discover someone’s mental illness, it might be difficult to distinguish that, while it is a part of them, it is not who they are entire. As a result of changing your perspective on mental illness, it becomes evident that people who suffer from mental illness have many outstanding traits that do not revolve around their condition. Another strategy to overcome the stigma is to educate yourself and demonstrate empathy. You don’t have to be an expert to educate yourself and others on a range of mental diseases; this can clearly persuade others to seek care while also breaking the stigma. Furthermore, demonstrating empathy and listening to people who have mental health difficulties can make them feel validated, which might persuade them to seek care. Undoubtedly, there are several methods to break the stigma around mental health, and as a person living in a rapidly changing culture, you should work to break the stigma, allowing others to obtain the assistance they require.