Today, nearly one in five Americans say that they suffer from anxiety or depression — that’s about 40 million people.

Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, apprehensive uneasiness, or nervousness. It’s an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear that’s often marked by physical signs such as feeling out of breath, sweating, and an increased pulse rate. Anxiety may include recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns that can become obsessions.

People who have never experienced anxiety often dismiss it by saying that everyone gets nervous or uncomfortable at some time. That’s true. But anxiety isn’t normal nervousness. While medical science is still learning about the underlying causes of anxiety, we do know that some life experiences — particularly those that are traumatic — may trigger anxiety in many people. And in some cases, anxiety may be an early warning of medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and thyroid problems. (That’s one reason receiving professional help for anxiety is a wise idea.)

The good news is that for most people, anxiety is not a permanent condition. It’s usually improved through therapy, sometimes in conjunction with medication. People who enter therapy because they feel anxious typically report better outcomes in as few as ten sessions. Trained therapists such as our professional counselors focus not only on helping people address their current feelings of anxiety, but also on developing strategies to reduce the likelihood that those feelings will return in the future.

The not-so-great news? Half of all people experiencing anxiety will not seek help for it, for a variety of reasons that may include fear, shame, or a sense of resignation that nothing can be done to help them. The people who don’t get help will report lower marital satisfaction, increased divorce rates, and more missed work because of their symptoms. Many will attempt to alleviate those symptoms by turning to alcohol and/or drugs, which often leads to addictions and more severe problems.

If you or someone you love is experiencing anxiety, please don’t ignore it. The right help can make a difference, and a professional can determine the degree of anxiety and whether there may be other causes, such as possible medical issues. Start on the road to feeling better by setting a time to talk with one of our professional counselors.

Jean Crane is one of Care to Change’s professional counselors. She has helped adults and children cope with issues related depression, anxiety, stress and trauma.

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