7 Reasons why Anxiety is On the Rise and What You Can Do About It

The “Norm”, not the “Exception” 

At the moment, it might seem more common for people to have anxiety than to not have anxiety. Anxiety is a state of discomfort involving racing thoughts, excessive worrying thought patterns, worst-case scenario thinking, negativity bias, insecurity, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and body tension or shakiness. Clients, friends, and loved ones have questioned how it’s possible to not feel anxious in our current world. I believe that in order to answer this question, it’s first important to validate and recognize why anxiety seems to be the “norm” rather than the “exception”. Here are 7 reasons why anxiety is on the rise and what you can do about it. 

1. The world is scary

From global warming, to mass shootings, to wars, to fear mongering, to crime, to WebMD and Tik Tok self-diagnosing, to polar vortexes and tornado warnings, to pandemics and to prices rising, let’s face it, there simply is a lot to be scared of. Always having a doom feeling and fear that something bad will happen? If you look around, you can see that terrible things are happening all around us and our world. While the pain and suffering in the world is indeed undeniable, we can also train our brains to find that goodness, support, positivity, love and connection are also present around us. Toxic positivity and ignoring the bad isn’t healthy either, but accepting the duality of the good and bad that always exists can be. 

2. Greater access to more constant information

There always have been times when many of these scary things were happening, however without technology, we simply didn’t know about it, at least not as constantly. Doom scrolling is real and is going to impact anxiety states to consistently be bombarded with the terrible things happening in the world. I’m not encouraging anyone to put their head in the sand and avoid the reality of the worldly happenings and traumas, however, there may be a better way for your nervous system to mindfully absorb critical information. Consider taking a social media break or not reading the news right before going to bed. Try and find events, groups or services that you can actively participate in. Find something within your control, rather than sitting in the powerless and overwhelming feelings consistent intake of all the suffering can create. 

3. Greater publicity and more constant opportunities for judgment, criticism, rejection, and disapproval

With the rise of social media, much of our “selves” exist in a public format. Many have an online “presence” or “persona” that may or may not align with who they are offline. While social media can bring many forms of community and connection, with it comes many more opportunities for judgment, criticism, rejection and disapproval. As social beings who desire connection, this can put us in a near-constant triggered state of whether or not we are being accepted or rejected by others. Mindfulness of your social media use, and whether it is helping your state of mind and emotional well-being or hurting it can be a powerful reflection piece. 

4. It’s an “accepted emotion” or the “catch-all” of emotions

I often hear clients use the terms “anxious”, “stressed” and “uncomfortable” interchangeably. With further processing, clients learn that when they say they’re feeling “anxious” they may actually be feeling another emotion. Whether it be fear, sadness, disappointment, grief, annoyance, anger, or anything else. Societally, many of us just don’t have the proper language to describe our emotions. So we label all emotions or uncomfortable sensations as “anxiety”. If you are always feeling

“anxious”, you might just be feeling “emotional”, and that is part of being human! Learning to identify and soothe the different emotions can help you feel more regulated and in control of your life. I invite you to try and identify 3 emotions you experience each day without using the term “anxious”. You might be surprised by what you find! 

5. Internalized Capitalism and the Drive to Always be Better

We live in a culture where we are expected to constantly achieve more and more. There is never an “endpoint” and the bar is always rising. This starts in our school systems and continues in our workplaces. Many internalize this need for achievement to mean that rest and recovery is “bad”, “not allowed” or “wasteful”. This can produce a very common negative core belief of “never being good enough”. It is healthy to strive for our goals, and critical for us as a species and society to continue to evolve. However, not at the expense of our livelihoods and basic human needs. You can work toward believing that you are more than just your external accomplishments; even if our greater society says otherwise. It is okay (and even revolutionary) to rest. Care for yourself. Even like yourself in a world that tells us not to! 

6. Genetics

Whether it’s nature or nurture, there’s certainly a passed-down component of anxiety. Just as we inherit other aspects of DNA, if generations are anxious they’re likely going to birth and raise more anxious generations. Studies have found that the genes for anxiety are inherited and if we observe anxious thoughts, feelings, and behavior, we are likely to develop similar ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. By learning to change your relationship to your emotions and nervous system responses, you can have a major impact on breaking these generational cycles.

7. Fast-Paced/Urgency Culture

Patience is getting harder and harder to come by. We used to have to wait for dial-up internet to connect, and now we panic if a video buffers for a few seconds. We used to wait in line at stores and now we can have almost anything we want within a few hours delivered to our doorsteps. Many used to read books and now we read captions. We used to watch movies and now we watch short reels. We used to watch commercials and now we fast forward through them and are incredibly frustrated when they appear. Our attention spans are decreasing, which sometimes makes us confuse peace with boredom and need for more stimulation. Life is moving faster and we don’t have a lot of opportunities to practice patience or slow down. You can create these peaceful moments for yourself and learn to tolerate and cultivate patience. 

I hope that this list of 7 reasons why anxiety is on the rise and what you can do about it helps you better understand some reasons why anxiety is on the rise. Hopefully, this helps you have more compassion for why you or a loved one might be feeling so anxious so often. Keep in mind, that just because anxiety is ever present, doesn’t mean that you need to live your life with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is totally treatable. You can learn the skills to find more peace in our increasingly anxious world. You deserve to not feel anxious all the time!

Article written by Jessica Dattalo, LCSW, a licensed Chicago therapist who specializes in treating a variety of mental health disorders with evidence based treatments. To schedule an appointment with her or one of our other therapists, contact intake@cityscapecounseling.com

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