What is Causing the Rise of Anxiety in America?

According to economist Stephens-Davidowitz, as reported by Big Think, Google searches for anxiety have doubled over the past eight years. In particular people are more often looking up ‘anxiety at night’, while ‘anxiety in the morning’ still continues to rise. Stephens-Davidowitz suggests that one cause for increased anxiety is financial instability, both before and after the Great Recession. Unemployment skyrocketed and thousands of people lost their homes and life savings. For an example, the U.S. Census, reported that between 2012 and 2016, 22.2% of individuals in Presque Isle, Maine lived below the poverty level.

The World Bank recorded that, 769 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013. These are the world’s poorest of poor. After factoring differentials based on human needs, (according to Angus Deaton, a professor of economics and international affairs emeritus at Princeton University), 5.3 million people in the United States meet absolute, global poverty levels. As well as the opioid epidemic, we are also having a crisis of extreme poverty.

Another reason for the increase in anxiety points to the fear of opioid withdrawal. Per Stephens-Davidowitz, searches for opioid withdrawal are climbing, even as prescription rates are falling. Another factor in addiction and anxiety disorders that bears witness is memory. When someone has an addiction and they feed the body’s craving with a substance, the body will receive a reward. In order to sustain the feeling of the reward, ones memory kicks in and says, hey, I need more, and I need it now. The body’s need becomes increasingly aggressive. The desire for the drug also turns into a negative experience. The person with an addiction can become anxious and fearful they won’t be able to acquire the drugs. Piggybacked with this reality is the potential that running out can cause fear and anxiety over withdrawal. High anxiety or panic attacks are subsequently a sign of withdrawal.

Teen anxiety is running rampant across the United States as well. Teen anxiety is in part fueled by parents who give unhealthy or unrealistic praise, and who are overly protective. With the dependency on electronics, kids today can easily escape from what they find uncomfortable.

Anxiety is a treatable mental disorder. If you are disturbed by anxiety, it is important to seek professional help. We must reframe views of poverty and anxiety with compassion.

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Spurgeon

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