While everyone will go through anxious periods at some point in their lives, others unfortunately experience anxiety on a regular basis. It is a very real issue. With 1 in every 4 people suffering from mental health related issues every year, why is there such a stigma surrounding mental health in the first place?
A study showed that nowadays people have a tendency to view anxiety disorders as a “personal weakness.” Only about 10% of those suffering from a mental health issue see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Is this because we are afraid that if we hear a confirmed diagnosis, we’ll believe that it truly is a “personal weakness”?
In reality, anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health issues. It is the leading cause of mental health disorders in the USA, and affects up to 9% of the British population. If so many people suffer from mental health related issues, then why does British society regard it as such a taboo? Perhaps it’s partially due to the ‘stiff upper lip mentality’, but in the end it all boils down to the stigma society has created about mental health problems.
We all feel anxious from time to time, and as odd as it may sound, this is actually good! From an evolutionary standpoint, anxiety is very beneficial to our wellbeing. It allows us to know when we may be in an unsafe environment, and heightens our senses so we may be able to react quickly. Feeling anxious from time to time is not the same thing as suffering from an anxiety disorder – and that is one of the first things that leads to such a stigma surrounding mental health.
Suffering from anxiety can be particularly debilitating, especially when it begins to interfere with normal tasks that usually wouldn’t inflict such emotions. This can make even simple day-to-day tasks like grocery shopping seem like a huge obstacle for those who suffer from even mild anxiety. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of treatments for those who suffer from mild to chronic anxiety ranging from CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which involves changing your way of thinking to medication. Although medication is not always the best answer, sometimes it’s good as a short-term solution until you can get CBT or another form of help and a lot more people are on medication for anxiety, both short-term and long-term than most people realise! So if you explain to your doctor you’re having anxiety issues, don’t feel ashamed or alarmed, other people are in the same boat as you; and you will start to feel better.
Unfortunately, some people believe that anxiety disorders are “just in your head” or are “not a real health problem.” Sadly, people are often nervous to reveal to their close friends and family that they’re suffering from a disorder like anxiety for just these reasons. This creates what is called a “social stigma”, or fear of revealing personal imperfections for fear of judgement. These social stigmas can make it difficult for those experiencing anxiety as the fear of judgement by their peers typically surpasses a person’s inclination to ask for help.
What most people don’t know is that mental health disorders, like anxiety, come with not just mental symptoms, but physical ones too. An increase in heart rate, feeling nauseous, sweaty palms – all of these are all common signs of someone feeling anxious. Mental health disorders stem from both environmental factors and genetic predispositions. Something as simple as a chemical imbalance within the brain can create chronic feelings of anxiety. Some people don’t realize that anxiety is as easily stemmed from physical factors as it is mental ones. Without the proper knowledge and resources, many people believe that anxiety is a completely controllable disorder as it’s “all inside your head”; yet chronic anxiety can present just as many physical symptoms as it does mental.
If you are suffering from any mental health related issue, it’s important to not let social stigmatisation affect your willingness to get help. A study has shown that, more often than not, those suffering from anxiety felt a huge improvement in their relationships once they revealed their feelings of anxiety to those close to them. As long as you are aware about the stigmas surrounding mental health, you may make an active decision to ignore them, or even challenge them, and ask for the help that you need.
If you ever find yourself struggling, there are many places in Southampton you can ask for advice or get help. Your GP is always a great starting place. The university has a doctors surgery right on campus at the University Health Center, where most, if not all, students register at the beginning of their time at university. You can schedule an appointment with your GP to discuss your mental wellbeing and treatment options best suited for you. Enabling Services within the student services building also host drop-in sessions regarding mental health problems.
To find out more about the Enabling Services, just click on the link here.
So please remember, you don’t have to suffer in silence.