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The Rise of Anxiety in Society: Why Rates Are Rising

Anxiety has become a growing concern in recent years as more and more individuals seemingly develop and live with Anxiety Disorders. With several factors affecting mental well-being on a societal scale, it is crucial that we take a closer look at the potential reasons behind this rise in anxiety rates. Learn more about modern factors that affect Anxiety Disorders with this overview of why anxiety rates are rising in society. 

The Impact of COVID-19 

The pandemic brought a major disruption to lives around the world, and with it came stressors that many people had not faced before. Worries about health, access to food and other essentials, job security, and so on created higher stress levels across the board.  

Isolation also became the new norm, which created a breeding ground for Anxiety Disorders such as Social Anxiety or Agoraphobia. Even in a post-pandemic world, many people have adjusted to working from home, ordering food and groceries to their door, and continuing to avoid crowds and public spaces. This prolonged social isolation allows feelings of unease and loneliness to continue and prevents individuals from seeking support from loved ones or treatment from mental health professionals.  

A Rise in Academic Stress 

With more young adults and adults attending college than ever before, academic stress is on the rise. Factors such as heightened competition, escalating tuition costs, the constant pressure to excel academically and socially, and feelings of isolation from home contribute to elevated levels of stress among students. Additionally, limited access to mental health resources on many campuses further exacerbates these challenges, leading to above-average experiences of stress, loneliness, and hopelessness. These factors collectively contribute to the development of depression and anxiety among college students and young adults. 

Social Media and Social Isolation 

Social media has changed the way people interact with each other. With many people getting their primary connections and interactions out of social media, isolation, and loneliness rates are on the rise. Social media also creates a culture of comparison, where people are viewing their real-world, everyday struggles next to the highly edited and filtered glimpses of life they see from others. This phenomenon can lead to feelings of inadequacy, envy, and heightened anxiety. 

Though social media was once a phenomenon focused solely on young people, it has become common with every generation—as have its issues. Excessive screen time, access to traumatic or unsettling information, fraud and stolen information, and comparison culture are affecting more and more people every year. Meanwhile, many people have become less engaged with their surroundings, missing out on genuine human connections that can alleviate feelings of stress and isolation. 

Higher Rates of Comorbid Disorders 

Another factor contributing to the rise of anxiety rates in society is the increasing occurrences of comorbid disorders. Comorbid disorders occur when a person experiences two or more mental health conditions simultaneously.  

Examples of Mental Health Disorders that often coincide with Anxiety Disorders are Depressive Disorders, Eating Disorders, Panic Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder. Many of these Mental Health Disorders are also seeing rising rates in recent years. As each individual disorder increases among adults, so do comorbidity rates.  

Access To World Issues 

Watching the news on any given day can be a major source of stress. Even if you are actively avoiding the papers or news channels, it is hard to escape updates about traumatic events around the world. Now more than ever, war, disease, climate change, economic inequality, divisive politics, and social issues bombard our lives on TV, in news articles, and on social media platforms.  

It is a lot of information to take in—information that previous generations usually only faced in smaller doses and only when they actively looked for it. Individuals today are constantly absorbing information about death, violence, and other distressing topics, which can lead to heightened stress, hopelessness, and, ultimately, higher levels of anxiety. 

More People Are Living Alone 

Because of social and economic shifts in society, more and more adults in the US are living alone. While some find peace in this solo life, others find loneliness and a lack of a social circle or support system that leads to a decline in mental and emotional health. Loneliness also plays a role in the development of Depressive Disorders, Alzheimer’s, and other Mental Health Conditions, which can connect to Anxiety Disorders. 

Human beings are social creatures. Building and maintaining meaningful connections—both in personal and professional contexts—is essential in keeping our mental well-being balanced and anxiety at bay. 

The Hierarchy of Needs 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a psychological theory that suggests individuals must meet basic needs (such as food, water, and safety) before focusing on higher needs like belonging and self-esteem. With more people in modern society meeting base needs relatively easily, they have more time and energy to fixate on higher needs. For many people, food, water, and shelter are a given—essentials of survival that they have never had to think twice about. This satisfaction of basic needs creates a psychological shift as society revolves less around survival and more around inner feelings of belonging and acceptance. 

While this shift creates opportunities for personal growth and exploration, it also leaves more room for the development of negative emotions and thought patterns. For instance, individuals may develop the need for perfectionism, spend more time comparing themselves to others, or feel as if they are falling behind in various aspects of life. 

The increased focus on higher-order needs can make people more susceptible to anxiety because they feel a heightened pressure to achieve success in various facets of life. In addition, the constant quest for fulfillment and belonging can contribute to the development of chronic anxiety and other mental health issues. 

A Change in Mental Health Discussions 

Generally speaking, society is more willing to talk about mental health than ever before. With better representation in the media and major public figures talking more openly about mental health experiences, mental health stigma is lessening. This, in turn, makes it easier for individuals to seek support and professional treatment. In the past, many people would attempt to hide or ignore anxiety and other Mental Health Disorders. With this new openness and access to knowledge and care, diagnosis rates rise, which means cases of Anxiety Disorders and other Mental Health Conditions rise, too.  

Anxiety is not a hopeless condition; there are ways to get help, build more positive emotions and thought patterns, and continue to lead a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. At Blair Wellness Group, we have experience treating myriad Anxiety Disorders with compassionate care and effective, evidence-based therapy models. If you are looking for Anxiety Therapy in Irvine or its surrounding areas, contact our team and book your first appointment today. 

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