Earlier this year, I suffered my first major panic attack. For days afterward, my heart would race and my mind would fill with doomsday visions as I worried about everything around me, including whether I’d have more panic attacks and if I’d ever be able to stop them.
Knowing that it wasn’t just me, however, was strangely reassuring.
“Anxiety disorders are the most common condition in psychiatry,” said Dr. Naomi Simon, professor of psychiatry at N.Y.U. School of Medicine and director of the Anxiety and Complicated Grief Program at N.Y.U. Langone Health. Some 40 million people aged 18 or older in the United States, or 18 percent of the population, will suffer from an anxiety disorder each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. In the course of a lifetime, that rate goes up to 28.8 percent of the American public.
Dr. David Rosmarin, the founder and director of the Center for Anxiety and an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, added, “We’ve seen a massive increase in services in New York City in the last six months.”
“From North Korea to hurricanes, we live with a greater degree of uncertainty,” he said. “What it boils down to is: How much can people tolerate it when they don’t know what’s going to happen next?”
To make matters more anxiety-provoking, there’s an overwhelming number of methods you might turn to to help you manage life in these uncertain times. I talked to some experts to get a bit of guidance. (Of course, everyone’s situation is different; if you’re concerned about dealing with anxiety, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.)
Being anxious vs. having a disorder
There’s an important distinction between anxiety and an anxiety disorder, Dr. Simon said.
“Anxiety is a natural reaction to stress — it’s not necessarily pathological or dangerous,” she said. “There’s the point where it becomes a condition, and the way we separate those has to do with the level of persistence, severity, distress, and if it’s impacting day-to-day function.” Read More