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Scary Health and Wellness - Part Two

Last week I introduced you to Part One of my Scary Health and Wellness theme for October. All month I'm going to discuss some not so fun facts that pertain to our Health and Wellness in America. And trust me: These Are Super Scary! If you missed Part One, well you should check it out.

Every week this month I will post an article addressing the state of some of the scariest (in my opinion) statistics facing the Unites States in the area of Heath and Wellness. Today is Part Two - Scary Health and Wellness: Mental Health in America.

When I say the words mental health you may go straight to Schitophrenia or some dramatic version of a padded room, but generally speaking that's not what we're talking about. I'm talking about the your general run of the mill mental health issues. And by 'general run of the mill' I mean: In the United States, almost half of adults (46.4 percent) will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Insomnia, and PTSD are the most common.

Yup, almost half the population.

Mental illnesses can vary from mild to moderate to severe which may be why we are unaware of how prevalent it is, but that's also why it's important to discuss and continue to learn more about it. For that, some more statistics.

1 in 25 adults, or 9.8 million Americans, will experience a mental illness this year that is serious enough to interfere with or impact major life activities.

1 in 5 youths (21.4%) between the ages of 13-18, and 13% of children aged 8-15, live with a severe mental health disorder.

At some point in almost everyone’s life, they will experience a mental health crisis or challenge.

You are more likely to experience mental illness than you are to develop heart disease, diabetes, or any kind of cancer (which should be scary given the statistics provided on these last week).

Mental illness is something that needs to be taken seriously. If you feel you may suffer from anything mentioned above, please seek professional help. There is no need to try to manage it alone. Find a professional and discuss treatment options.

For this post, I am going to focus on two major issues facing Americans: Depression and Anxiety.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in America. Depression affects 350 million people worldwide.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety affects 40 million adults age 18 and older, or roughly 18.1% of the population. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

How do you know if you're experiencing these disorders?


"Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

Feeling sad or having a depressed mood

Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting

Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much

Loss of energy or increased fatigue

Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)

Feeling worthless or guilty

Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions

Thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.

Also, medical conditions (e.g., thyroid problems, a brain tumor or vitamin deficiency) can mimic symptoms of depression so it is important to rule out general medical causes."

Again, if you feel you are experiencing any of these symptoms please seek help. If you are having thoughts of death or suicide, seek help immediately - an Emergency Room is a wonderful and viable option.


Anxiety disorders can be a little trickier than depression. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.

Again, according to the America Psychiatric Association:

"Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

Anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.

Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction – either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.

Anxiety disorders can cause people into try to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school work and personal relationships can be affected.

In general, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the fear or anxiety must:

1) Be out of proportion to the situation or age inappropriate.

2) Hinder your ability to function normally.

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.

The broadest spectrum: generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder involves persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. This ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as restlessness, feeling on edge or easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension or problems sleeping. Often the worries focus on everyday things such as job responsibilities, family health or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments."

Coping with Anxiety

There are a number of things people do to help cope with symptoms of anxiety disorders and make treatment more effective. Physical activity is a proven way to reduce stress. Regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, and improve sleep and self-esteem. Other effective methods include mind-body practices of breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.

Another important reason to take these disorders seriously: the effect on your health.

Stress can take its toll in many ways. If the stress becomes chronic, long term, or lasts long after the danger has subsided your body’s ‘fight or flight’ systems stay active. With chronic stress those life-saving responses in your body can suppress the immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems, which may cause them to stop working normally. Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses. Remember the post from last week? It's cyclical. In addition to these illnesses, it can lead to more anxiety and depression. The cycle continues.

Up next week for Scary Health and Wellness: Physical Activity.

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