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Photos taken by me to depict a few physical responses to being in an anxious state - crying, the need to be alone or isolate, nail biting are among a few common responses.

A research study published by Our World in Data in 2018 showed that approximately 284 million people around the world experienced an anxiety disorder in 2017.

The high number of anxiety cases make it the most rampant mental health disorder in the world. There is a prevalence of anxiety varying by country from 2.5 per cent to 7 per cent with women more likely than men to suffer. 


The word 'anxiety' is commonly thrown around to describe a feeling of worry or fear. However, an anxiety disorder is much more than that. According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), when these feelings of intense fear become overwhelming and prevent us from doing simple everyday activities, it could be an anxiety disorder.


There are several types of anxiety disorders and they affect each individual differently. These include, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).


“Have you ever felt what my friend felt  - imprisoned by your own anxiety and sadness? Maybe you’re feeling as though you can’t escape or that you’re one million pounds or overwhelmed by and scared of the unknown.” - Julian Brass Own Your Anxiety


The above quote, and book in its entirety provide 99 ways that an individual can make small lifestyle changes in their daily lives to turn their anxiety into what Brass calls “your secret edge.” 


Brass is a personal coach and author that took his own struggles with anxiety to create a book filled with easy tips for others to use. Anxiety is a very individualistic disorder, meaning that everyone has different triggers and reactions but Brass suggests that for most people, there are a few trial and errors to conclude what tools work for you as an individual. 


With anxiety statistics so high throughout the world, there is no set cure or fix-all for individuals but suggestions made by experts who have studied and worked towards finding ways to ease suffering. 


Gordon Asmundson is a professor of psychology at the University of Regina, Sask., among many other accolades. In an interview I did with him in 2020, Asmundson said that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is the “gold standard” for anxiety treatment. 

“CBT is an umbrella term under which there are a number of treatment strategies, including cognitive therapy, behavioural strategies, combined cognitive behavioural therapy … and others. These treatment strategies are evidence-based; that is a considerable body of careful research has shown that they work; and, they work well, typically better than other treatment options,” Asmundson said.


He specializes in providing CBT to patients as well as teaching it. He said that there are many other means of reducing stress, but there is no one-size fits all for any therapy or work. Exercise can be helpful for some people, but not for others - the same goes for traditional therapy. 

“One of the most powerful tactics that I use is to help challenge the “fear of dying” experienced by many people who have panic attacks. It often goes something like this,  “So, you fear you will die when you panic?”…”Yes, almost every time!”…”And, how many panic attacks have you had?”….”Well, a lot. Hundreds” ….”And how many times have you died?” This tactic often helps the person to recognize how they are thinking and how this influences the way they respond to sensations in their body,” Asmundson said.

While this conversation with Asmundson was done prior to my research for this project, his tips as well as those found in Julian Brass’ book and many other self-help books have become common practice in my everyday life as someone who suffers with anxiety. 


The access to self-help books and resources on seeking mental health help has improved drastically over the years. I remember being a young child in a book store in Trinidad and not seeing one book on the shelves, but if you were to walk in to a book store, today here in Canada there is an entire section dedicated to seeking help. 


The Global Burden of Disease study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in 2019 revealed that in the year 1990, 4.89 per cent of Canadians suffered with an anxiety disorder while in 2019, only 4.77 per cent suffered. 


However, while the evidence proves otherwise, because of the common misuse of the word anxiety, I believe that many cases go undiagnosed or unrecorded. In certain parts of the world, many individuals refuse to admit that they struggle with anxiety. 


As is proven later on in this project, Caribbean parents and grandparents for instance, are not the most educated nor open-minded about mental illness. The same goes for individuals from other parts of the world as well. 


Canada does a fairly decent job of advocating for mental illness, with institutions such as CAMH or Ontario Shores being normalized. If you were to ask to be hospitalized in Trinidad and Tobago where I grew up, the community would probably make fun of you. The only mental hospital on the island is referred to as “the mad house,” and it is used as a threat to children when they misbehave. 


Google Trends, a website used to see the popularity of a term searched, revealed that in February 2020, the term anxiety disorder was more commonly searched than ever before. This is most likely due to the pandemic and in some ways, was a very transformative time in anxiety research. 


With more people seeking help with their newfound anxiety, more conversations surrounding the topic were had within families. More advice and research was done in order to calm the public, and more people became open-minded with accepting the problem at hand. 

If you were to search the word anxiety right now, there is a good chance you would see the word “epidemic” placed next to it. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word “epidemic” as “affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time,” and anxiety disorders surely are.

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