Node Smith, ND
Is Anxiety a Question of Denial or is there more to this Question?
Approximately 45 million Americans suffer from during any given year. It is the most commonly recognized mental health condition in the United States. “Anxiety disorders” include a handful of psychiatric diagnoses, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.
However, many people experience anxiety, and don’t ever seek professional help. Are they in denial of a real problem or is there more to this question?
Anxiety is a Normal Part of Life
We all experience occasional anxiety, and certain situations or events may bring it up, or make it worse. But when it becomes persistent, overwhelming and uncontrollable it can significantly alter a person’s life – this is when there is a problem. Anxiety is our body/mind’s way of telling us that there is something to be concerned about in the future – “danger is lurking, and so I must be at the ready.” But when this fear consumes our perception of everyday events it can be debilitating. For instance, getting a little anxious about meeting a new friend at a party because you don’t know anyone is far different than experiencing intense dread, sweating, and a racing heart every time you enter a room with more than five people in it.
There’s no clear line to delineate the contexts that should or shouldn’t create anxiety. Individuals will experience anxiety at varying levels and be able to deal with those periods of anxiety with differing degrees of success. Whether or not anxiety is a “disorder,” largely lies in one’s own personal experience of it, and the effects that it has on daily life.
Here is a helpful juxtaposition of “Everyday Anxiety” and “Anxiety Disorder”
|Everyday Anxiety||Anxiety Disorder|
|Worrying about important life events – romantic break up, recent work loss, paying bills||Constant general worry that causes immense amount of distress and interferes with life|
|Embarrassment or nervousness in an awkward or new social environment||Avoiding social interactions or situations for fear of being humiliated, embarrassed or judged|
|Sweating and nervousness before a big life event: test, marriage, public speaking||Seemingly random panic attacks and the fear of having another one at any moment|
|Realistic fear of dangerous object, situation or person||Irrational fear or avoidance of object, person, or situation that is not dangerous|
|Sadness, anxiety or insomnia after a trauma||Recurring nightmares, flashbacks or emotional numbing connected to an event that occurred years or months before|
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.