Anxious America

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Four people suffering from various forms of clinical anxiety explore what it's like to live with this illness.

- 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders

- Few people realize depression and anxiety are the leading cause of disability in Australia

- The elderly and even children experience symptoms of anxiety

While the disorders are treatable, only one in every three people who suffer from anxiety ever seek treatment

- [Narrator] Everyone has anxiety

At least that's what they say

And it's true

It's a normal, everyday thing to experience anxiety occasionally

However, when you're experiencing anxiousness that is persisting, overwhelming, and seemingly uncontrollable, it can be absolutely disabling

- Hi, I'm Jason, and I suffer from a pretty extreme case of generalized anxiety disorder

- My name is Kelsey Mathews and I work in entertainment here in Hollywood

The best way to explain anxiety is literally just a voice in your head telling you you're not good enough all the time, and it makes everything seem like you are messing up

And it can be a little bit much

And it goes hand in hand with PTSD and depression and everything like that, I feel like they both coincide

- I'm Rick and I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, and a little bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder in 2003, but I've suffered from it all my life

- My name is Dustin and I suffer from anticipatory anxiety

- People are stressed out

But I wonder if it has to do with that people are just more aware of their feelings

- I don't think so, Sharon

(gentle music) - To me, anxiety is my worst enemy

I wake up with it in the morning

I live with it throughout the day

I go to bed with it

I remember having anxiety from when I was very little 'til now in my mid 40s

Anxiety has been a constant companion

(somber music) - To me, anxiety means a challenge

It's something that I face every day that I sort of look at as the enemy that I have to overcome and sort of what keeps pushing me in the direction I need to go in life

- I'm 40 years old

I grew up in a small town in Southern Virginia, right along the North Carolina border

I've always been kind of a technical guy, I've always been very interested in video and the things you do to make video look good

And pretty much since I was seven or eight I kind of focused my whole life on getting out of my small town and to a place where I can help people make their videos and films look good

I don't have a lot to say myself but I am interested in helping other people who have something to say, say it the best they can

(gentle music) - Anxiety is an epidemic

- [Narrator] When anxiety consistently interferes with your everyday activities, you're most likely suffering from an anxiety disorder

An anxiety disorder is a real, serious medical condition, just as real as any physical ailment

Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent and pervasive mental disorders in the US

For people who have one, worry and fear become constant and overwhelming

But with treatment, many people can manage and get back to a fulfilling life

Researchers are unsure of the exact cause of anxiety, but it's likely a combination of factors that play a role

- I think I first noticed anxiety was an issue for me back in elementary school

At the end of the summer vacations when the school supply commercials would come back on, I would get anxious

I kinda blame the Trapper Keeper commercials for showing the klutzy kid having a horrible first day at school

It gave me terrible anxiety for going back and I think that's when I first really noticed it

- My anxiety usually comes out of nowhere and it's brought back by flashbacks from my PTSD, and it makes me black out, and I will break down in tears just out of nowhere from it as well

- [Narrator] There are five major types of anxiety disorders

Panic disorder, a



panic attacks

This disorder's characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear or terror, accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest paint, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal pain

Two: generalized anxiety disorder

It is characterized by chronic anxiety, even when there is nothing or little to provoke it

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Characterized by recurrent unwanted thoughts, obsession, and/or repetitive behaviors, or compulsions

Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning, are often performed with a hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away

Performing these so-called rituals, however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety

Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which great physical harm occurred or was threatened

The fifth type of anxiety disorder is social phobia, or social anxiety disorder

It's an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations

Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation, such as fear of speaking in a formal or informal event, or eating or drinking in front of others, or, in its more severe form, it may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost any time they're around other people

- Physically, anxiety makes me feel, well, tense

(chuckles) I get numbness in my hands

I get a heaviness in my chest

My stomach contracts, becomes upset

I get headaches sometimes

I have trouble sleeping

- I tend to avoid things that make me anxious, and I will feign sleep and eventually, when one feigns sleep, one goes to sleep, so I sleep a lot

Or I will work on things that have nothing whatsoever to do with the thing that is making me anxious, even though the thing that's making me anxious probably shouldn't make me anxious, it's just part of my brain chemistry that's amplifying and over-driving, like a guitar

A little strum of something that needs to be taken care of and turning it into kind of an industrial-style sawtooth wail of frustration and rage and fear

It's like having Nine Inch Nails in your head playing all the time

(tense music) - Lots of

You know, your body actually tenses up with anxiety attacks a lot too, so I get muscle aches from it

I don't sleep very well so I usually have bags underneath my eyes recently, 'cause it's been so aggressive as of recent

But, for me, it just weighs down on your body a lot and gives a complete exhaustion

You just feel so fatigued that it's hard to have any want to do anything

(gentle music) - [Narrator] If you have an anxiety disorder, you may also be depressed

While anxiety and depression can occur separately, it's not unusual for these mental health disorders to happen together

Anxiety can be a symptom of clinical or major depression

Likewise, worsening symptoms of depression can be triggered by an anxiety disorder

- The anxiety is always there, ready for something to worry about, whether it's how poorly you're doing in life or outlandish things that could never happen

- With anticipatory anxiety, it's interesting because it'll be very extreme, I would say

It's a 10 when I'm about to do certain things, but then once I'm in the moment for what I was worried about, it completely dissipates and it's pretty much a zero

- My anxiety would keep me up at night and leave me too tired to keep my house the way it should be to have people over and to make personal relationships and to find romantic partners

(tense music) - On a scale from one to 10, I would say my anxiety is about a nine

I don't think I've ever had what would be a called a panic attack where it felt like a heart attack or something like that, but I just live in a constant state of heightened tension

- On a scale of one to 10, I'd say my anxiety was at about a seven or an eight

- So, currently, mine is like an eight to nine, and that's because I've had a lot of things that have been triggering me lately with my PTSD, and I seem to have worse anxiety attacks when that occurs

- What's interesting about anticipatory anxiety is that it's completely, it's subjective to different people because it's based on what you worry about could possibly happening

For me, because I live outside of LA and I often have to come to LA for things, I have anxiety about what could happen on the drive

Having car trouble, having my phone, the battery died, I don't know where I'm at

It's a lot of things that I think I realize are very neurotic to worry about but you kind of really can't help it anyways, and I think that it takes getting with, if I'm worried about the drive, once I'm actually on the road, it starts to slowly go away because reality sets in that I'm okay and it's not what I thought it was gonna be

- I was not able to have the personal life that I wanted because I was deathly afraid of screwing things up

No, I didn't need to be

- I think I first realized anxiety was an issue for me in college

I had had it through high school

I was somebody that was always worried about what other people would think

I would lay awake at night sometimes just worrying about the day-to-day of school way too much

(somber music) - I'm a survivor of domestic violence, and I'm still dealing with my ex in court stuff

So whenever that happens, I get overwhelmed a bit, just 'cause it brings all those past traumas, and it can be a little bit much and so then my anxiety just takes over

The other night, I had an event to go to, and I'm trying to do my make up and just putting it on I started breaking down crying 'cause I had a flashback, just out of nowhere

So it's little things like that and the anxiety just kinda overwhelms you and it doesn't wanna make you go anywhere, you just wanna hide away in your covers

- Well, I mean, thinking back to my childhood, I feel like a lot of it is just, it's sort of with little things

I was thinking about this earlier, actually

My parents are divorced, they divorced when I was a really young age, and I didn't see my dad a lot

And I remember when I was really young on his weekends to come see us, which was maybe once every couple of months, there were some times when he didn't show up and me and my sister would be waiting at the screen door for him to show up for hours on end sometimes and he wouldn't come

And I think that that's actually sort of what really instilled in me that I have to worry about things, that things may not got the way that you want

And I think that then once I got more into school, as the years went on and I got older, it started to morph into other forms of anxiety

(gentle music) - My life was going very, very poorly in early 2003

The anxiety was really an anchor holding me down, with just me having my nose and mouth above water, barely, and sometimes popping underneath and then trying to pop back up

It was a very dark and scary time in my life

- For me

It gets so bad, the smallest little things will trigger you

Like just driving, you become really tense

My dog, if she just pulls a little the wrong day, I get overtly anxious about it and it makes me upset

The things that most people would not get upset about now have become 10 times worse for me

But then when there's the things like my PTSD triggers, then that actually makes everything just tenfold

So I feel like it's more so, it just depends on if I'm being triggered by something, but I usually am always super tense now and everything makes me a little bit edgy

- It was when I started college that I first noticed the dehabilitating effects that anxiety could have

All of a sudden I was having trouble getting out of bed

I was having trouble concentrating on studies

I was having trouble going to work

I would get really anxious in social situations

It seemed the older I got, the harder it was

(somber music) - We spoke with four young adults who have been battling anxiety and depression

- I found ways to cope

- The therapy aspect of it is huge

- I'm on antidepressants

- I decided that I would try my best

- I sought out counseling in my early 20s, actually, because I have some other medical issues that were actually induced by my anxiety, so I kinda had to go and get a full thing done with a couple different doctors

- I was 22 when I came out here in 2001, and I was 24 when I sought treatment, it was when I was diagnosed

Six weeks

It was night and day and it seemed so fast

I look at my journal entries, 'cause I kept an online journal, like one does when you're an arty kid in your early 20s in the early 2000s

Your LiveJournal and your DiaryLand, whatever

I look back at my online journal entries and during the depths of anxiety there would be words and pages and expression, I'm talking graft design in these diary entries that are just showing just

It was showing myself in what bad shape I was

And within about six weeks, my entries became much more matter of fact and positive and dwelt less on how I was feeling and the negativity of that and just more on what I was doing

With occasional flashes of, "I can't believe I've come this far," but most of the time I was just living my life again and not really dwelling on how bad it had been

Which I think is the goal of any successful treatment, causing the body and the mind and the soul to forget how bad things were

Especially for anxiety, when the disease itself is always there, promising to remind you of how bad things were before and how bad they could be in the future

(gentle music) - Anxiety makes it to where I have trouble performing even the simplest task

I will put off going to the grocery store because I don't wanna drive

I'm honestly scared to death to drive

I won't take unprotected lefts

Like if a pull out onto a main street and you have to go left, I won't take it

(gentle music) - I was an easygoing person, pretty bubbly, pretty happy all the time

I just went with the flow and never really had set plans for things, I kind of would just go on a whim

And now I have to have a schedule with what's going to happen or I get super high stressed

It's just really changed my life overall and it's cost my body to have body aches and everything where I had to get physical therapy for it, and it's caused other health issues

I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy

- I always knew I wasn't normal, but that word is so loaded with connotations, especially in the mid-to-late 90s

No one wanted to be normal

I just figured I was sensitive and had other things on my mind

It was never something that held me back or presented a major problem until my senior year of college

I lived by myself in the dorm

I had the entire room to myself, I had it decorated the way I liked, I didn't have to share a schedule with anyone or share any living space with anyone

It was just kind of me and I could do what I wanted, research what I wanted

I was able to run the student television station from that room, and it was nice, because I didn't have to kind of show myself or face problems

I could kind of deal with them from a distance

And that's when I started realizing I was spending a lot of time on the couch, immobile

Just waiting for the ability the get up and do the thing that needed doing, whether it was washing clothes, vacuuming the carpet, writing the paper, editing the documentary, anything

And that's when I first realized, this isn't right

There is something wrong with me

- The anxiety got really bad for me in high school

I was bullied a lot

I came out as gay in junior high so high school wasn't particularly awesome for me

So I had a lot of anxiety then that then sort of morphed into physical problems, like with my stomach

I ended up getting irritable bowel syndrome, and that was because of the anxiety

And so it's frustrating because I often now have anxiety over having IBS symptoms which were brought on from the anxiety

So it's one of those catch-22 things that it's really difficult to manage but you have to stay rational about

- Sometimes just getting out of bed

Yeah, getting out of bed

Sometimes just brushing your hair

Just the smallest little things like taking my dog out, I get anxious about that

Running into somebody, having a conversation, whenever I'm dealing with these things in my head

Even going to sleep at night, I don't sleep very well, because my brain is running 24/7 telling me what I need to get done or what I did wrong today

I don't know, those things you take for granted, because back in the day it was no big deal, and now I feel like I'm just constantly on edge

- When I was lying on the couch, sweating, shaking, avoiding and just trapped in a loop of thought, my thoughts would always come back to this face, this giant face of a house fly with its compound eyes and its antennae and its mandibles, and it would be thinking to me, "You are me, I am you, this is what it will always be

"Buzzing around, not accomplishing anything

" - Anxiety affects every area of my life

I've lost jobs over it, I've lost friends

For example, I'll have a freelance editing job, and I just won't be able to bring myself to work on it

I'll get up and I'll just get anxious about what I'm gonna do, how I'm gonna approach it, how I'm gonna approach the workflow, and I'll just find excuses to not work

I'll busy work, or I'll reorganize the files or stuff like that

With relationships, I really like people and I wanna reach out to people, but I get scared of how they're going to react or how they think about me or how I feel they think about me

I'll make plans to go somewhere and then it'll come time to do it and I'll start getting anxious about going to that place

Where am I gonna park? How much is it gonna cost? Are there gonna be too many people there? I'm not gonna like it anyway, I might just as well stay home, and then nine times out of 10 I just end up staying home

And eventually people will get tired of trying

They won't wanna hang out with you anymore and you'll lose friends, and I've lost many like that over the years

(gentle music) - So, home life

My poor pup, she's a service puppy, so she's very in tune with me, but I feel bad sometimes because I get really high stressed with her whenever she just acts out a little bit

And it's not really her acting out, it's her playing off my emotions

So for me, that makes me feel kind of like a bad dog mom, you know? (laughs) So there is that, and then dealing with my mother and my brother, who live far away, but they're not easy to deal with in general and it makes it even harder to deal with them and can cause me to just break down in tears and I'll have to cut myself off from them at times

- The anxiety at home

So let's say that I have made a very big dinner of food I like, but since that's a little messy to make and I don't have time to clean it up, I'm too tired to clean it up for whatever reason, I leave it in the sink

The next day, I wake up late because I've been staying up late, even though I was really tired, I didn't have the energy to wash dishes but I had the energy to lay in bed and sweat and worry how I'm going to make the deadline for the project I'm working on at work and worry about what happens if my car tires blow out on the freeway, things like that

(typewriter clacking) The anxiety was comorbid with kind of an obsessive-compulsive disorder

And I'm told this is often the case

Anxiety is comorbid with other serotonin-related diseases, as it's thought of currently

So with depression, you'll find anxiety

With obsessive-compulsive disorder, you'll find anxiety

Anxiety just kind of, I don't know whether it's an effect of the major disease or the thing that kind of causes the major disease

(funky music) (man yelling) - [Narrator] Work is one place where you have to be able to concentrate, take in information, and decide the best course of action with a clear mind

Anxiety at work can be a big obstacle for all these things

72% of people who have daily stress and anxiety say it interferes with their work dramatically

Some of the main culprits of workplace anxiety are deadlines, interpersonal relationships, staff management, and troubleshooting

To reduce the role of worry in our working lives, we need to become more tolerant of uncertainty

We cannot avoid it

And the time we use trying to counter it can be very counterproductive

- In the work life, it gets really overwhelming

Like, if I mess up on something, I punish myself now

I punish myself so hard

I could be working on a project and I just make one little mistake and everyone's like, "Oh no, it's fine

" For me, I will keep apologizing the rest of the day for it because it's on my mind

- It was definitely interfering with my job

My superiors had noticed and had said, "I don't know what's going on, Rick, "but you need to do something about it, and soon

" - If affects my work the most, because what I do takes a lot of guts

I have to present myself to a lot of people

I'm judged by a lot of people

I have to be able to manage important situations under really stressful conditions

So I would say that if I was to give into the anxiety, it would be completely crippling

There's times too when I do have to give into it because it's so overwhelming and I end up missing out on certain things in life

But when it comes to my work, because my career's so important to me, I kinda make that the challenge I have to overcome every time

So while it's really, really difficult for me sometimes to do certain things in my career, it ends up being that much more rewarding when I can get through it

- My anxiety at work would have me planning for things that I didn't need to plan for, and not focusing on the job at hand and focusing on things kind of down the road, and not in a very productive sense but, again, in the sense that it's something I don't really need to worry about

And that would impact my present work that I should be focusing on

So my work performance was not the best for the first two years of my career

And it all comes in snowballs, you know? If your work performance isn't the best, you don't get a raise

You don't get a raise, the rent goes up, then you have to worry about how you're gonna make that extra money

You don't get to go out with friends as much and you don't get to network and meet people

So it is kind of a vicious cycle, to use that old cliche

In American capitalism, you don't really have to have a reason or a real reason to lose a job

I have been laid off before and I'm positive that my anxiety contributed to that, somehow

I definitely have lost relationships because I have been worried about them and my anxiety would prod me to either avoid the source of my worry, my friendship, or latch on like a cheap suit and be all over them and kind of chase them away

It goes both ways

But I've definitely lost relationships over anxiety

- I was actually supposed to work with a pretty big band

They were gonna have me working their merch table and it was gonna require me to travel out of state

And at the time, I was living back in the Midwest, and I actually used to have some travel phobia, that was part of the anxiety

And I ended up last minute backing out of the gig and it really upset them and I told them that it was because I was sick, but obviously it was because of the anxiety

But the thing about anxiety I think as an adult is it's a lot of adults feel embarrassed to talk about it, you feel kind of, I don't know, like a dork, being like, "Oh my anxiety

" So you end up usually making up another excuse, and I think that that's what's really important about this documentary, it's that people need to understand that that's really how it works

- So I have noticed in some of my interns and entry-level coworkers the same signs of having an untreated anxiety-related disorder

And, in general, when an adult leaves college and goes out into the workforce, that is when things start going into overdrive for that kind of disease

They're away from home, perhaps for the first time, they're away from their usual support structures, they're in an unusual environment

A high-pressure, fast-paced environment where they have a lot of worry about whether they'll excel and whether they'll make it out here

Whether they'll make it in Hollywood

- I think that you get extra perceptive to other people 'cause they have sort of the same mannerisms that they have about themselves, the way they carry themselves, and maybe the way they're wording something or being a little bit more mousey

And I tend to gravitate towards people like that in life, actually, I feel because I can relate to them and I want them to feel comfortable in the situations they're in

So I have an FX girl I know that suffers a lot from anxiety and I make a point to always involve her because I know that it's difficult typically for her to get work because of it, and I want her to know that there's a place for her in the world, and I think that it's important for all of us to sort of help each other with that, and that's a good way to really get over it

- Just being able to see someone being habitually late, or being a little scattered in their thought processes and tasks, even though they have a list of tasks they're given at the beginning of each day

Sometimes interns will have kind of outlandish, risky behavior that I'll hear about or that they'll display

Sometimes interns will be very reserved and quiet and introverted

I can look back at the times I was introverted

And if I see something that they've done that I used to do, like taking lunch by myself, or taking a long time in the restroom to kind of recharge

Or if I see the risky behavior, like abuse of other prescription drugs, or just drinking to excess or things like that, I can point to that and say, "Hey, can I talk to you for a second? "There's no judgment here, "I've just been through this before

"Can I ask you if you've ever felt like this, "if you worry about things a lot "that you don't need to worry about?" - It overwhelms, everything overwhelms you

It's like the smallest tasks become the biggest tasks ever

Being around friends whenever you're at that full moment of anxiety, it can be a much on them

And my friends though, like I said, they understand what I'm going through, they've been very, very gracious and kind and just patient with me

And I think it's good when you have anxiety to have a good support unit

And I've lost friends over the years from all this, but the people that have been right by my side, they get it and they love me for me, so they are willing to work with me through those moments

- If you find yourself held back for no good reason but that doesn't matter, you're still held back, you're still holding yourself back somehow, your body isn't letting you do something or your brain is not letting you complete a task that your body has already started

And usually when I say, "I felt like that my whole life "until I got treatment," that is when, if they say, "Really?" Or if they say, "You felt like that?" When they say something that indicates to me that they felt the same way their whole lives, that's when I know I can talk very frankly and share some of my experience, and some of my former interns' experiences as well, if they're comfortable with me sharing that

Having said that, I generally do not discuss it with coworkers above my level unless we are friends outside of work

There's not as much stigma with having an anxiety disorder or a little depression or a little OCD

Some firms actually look for people with those traits that those diseases can bring out because it may mean that they're detail-oriented

And if they've been in the business long enough, it generally means they can handle it and manage it and control it and use some of those traits and behaviors to their advantage and then to the firm's advantage

(somber music) - I do consider anxiety to be an illness

- [Narrator] Anxiety is a defense mechanism

However, when it reaches a certain level of intensity and frequency, it stops being useful

Rather than fueling foresight, it becomes a source of suffering and distraction

This kind of relentless anxiety makes it hard to fully enjoy life

It is often a symptom of an anxiety disorder, which is an illness

- My dreams were very anxious

I missed an entire semester of class and I have to take the exam and, oh no, where are my clothes? Lots of falling dreams, lots of drowning dreams, lots of, why am I driving this car not on the road and just falling towards a swamp? Things like that

Very, very strange things

Often, very shocking and violent dreams

I had many dreams where I would wake up and say, "Huh, I feel funny," and see the aftermath of some violent struggle or carnage or gore on the wall

And one particularly bad dream during the worst part of my anxiety, before I sought treatment, I woke up and felt very strange, and I raised my right hand and there was a smoking gun in it

And I looked in my closet mirror door and my brains were on the far wall and there was a hole in my head but I was still moving and thinking and doing

And my thought as I woke up was, "Oh no, even this didn't get rid of it

" That was really, I think, the thing that caused me to seek treatment

Not the job, not being lonely, not the money or anything economic

Just the idea that if I don't get this under control, I might hurt myself

- I actually had a long discussion with one of my very close friends the other day about it

I feel like I'm constantly a burden or letting people down all the time because of it

And I know that that's the anxiety of it and all

It's like it's hard to be around me, is what I feel like, but my friends, they understand

And I'm one of those people now, my anxiety controls my decisions

Usually, when I had to go to something, "Yeah, I'll be there, no big deal

" Now, if my anxiety gets the best of me, I have to cancel, because I know it's gonna overwhelm me getting ready, it's gonna overwhelm me getting there, it's gonna overwhelm me just being around people, and you never how it's gonna, and I don't wanna ever lash out at anyone

And one of my very best friends the other day he asked me to do something when I was already dealing with anxiety and trying to get ready for something else, and it was the smallest thing and I snapped

And then I apologized, and I continually apologized, and he's like, "Stop apologizing

" It's been two days now and I'm still apologizing

- Throughout history, I mean, as a human society, we haven't handled mental issues very well

- [Narrator] A common misconception about anxiety is that most people believe anxiety is a sign of personal weakness

- It's seen as a mental sort of malady

- Oh, she has anxiety and depression

And it's like, no, I have anxiety and depression the same way a person has hyperglycemia or diabetes or anything else

- [Narrator] For people actually experiencing anxiety, the perception that most people will have a negative attitude towards their condition reduces the changes that they'll even seek support, both formally and informally

- People expect children and teenagers to have anxiety 'cause they have so many things to be anxious about growing up, but I think that society expects you to sort of grow out of it

I think that for most people that work a nine-to-five job and are married and have kids and all of that, they have a such a routine life that they often don't face the types of anxiety maybe someone like I do face, and so it can be hard for me to talk about it to other people 'cause they may not be able to relate

They're like, "Well, it's not stressful for me "to go to work, why is it stressful for you?" And so I think that it's different for different people, for sure

- Honestly, it's usually like, "Oh, that makes more sense now

" (laughs) Because before people would be like, "Oh, is this person crazy, what's wrong with them?" But now, whenever you tell them, yeah, this is why I'm this way, and they're like, "Okay, this makes more sense, "and I'm so sorry you're going through this

"But how can I help?" And so it opens a door of communication and understanding

But yeah, no, usually it's a better response than I think it's gonna be

In your head it feels like no one's gonna wanna be around you, you're just gonna be this black sheep in the group or something, and it's never that case

It's usually, "How can I help? "How can I be there for you?" And it's been very rewarding in that effect

- [Narrator] A paper published recently online in the journal Brain and Behavior suggests that women are almost twice as likely as men to experience anxiety

That said, there's a growing recognition among psychologists that men are more likely to suffer in silence

Instead of saying they're anxious, they complain of headaches and muscle aches and pains

They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety, so what looks like a drinking problem may actually be an anxiety disorder

Also, anxiety in men often manifests as anger and irritability

The social stigmas surrounding anxiety can make it harder for a man to come forward with their issues

- That's what's interesting, is I think a lot of men actually suffer from anxiety 'cause they're expected to not have anxiety, and so it's really difficult for people to talk about it as a whole

- Anxiety, it's gender-neutral

It literally attacks everyone

Some get it from different things but it will come the same way, I feel like, and it attacks the same way, and it plagues you in a way, in your mind

So I feel like it takes all surrender, it just takes all victims and all kinds

One of my friends, one of my good friends, he actually has some severe anxiety as well, and the little task that he's put forth, and we've worked together a lot, and the little task that he'll get overwhelm him sometimes

- [Narrator] Overcoming stigma for anxiety is one of the biggest barriers to people seeking help

It's what mental health professionals call social stigma

Essentially, social stigma is the negative view that others can project onto people who reveal particular imperfections or problems

One of the largest factors that make stigma so powerful is it can lead people to reject or exclude others

It is common for someone with anxiety or other psychological problems to think that if they reveal their struggles, they will suffer serious social or professional problems

Since being thought of as crazy or insane carries a significant stigma in the American culture, think about how often it is that we use those words to insult someone

Any possibility that one could be misunderstood and seen as crazy is significantly threatening

- I do openly discuss my anxiety now, but for years I just lived with it

As a man in today's society, I think I was always taught that to show anxiety or depression was a sign of weakness, so I would just suffer silently, put on a good face, pretend everything was okay, and move forward

And over the years, as I get older and older, it feels like the anxiety compounds and things that were once very doable for me now become harder and harder

I find one of the hardest things to do now is to go get in my car and drive to an unfamiliar grocery store or movie theater or restaurant

(chuckles) I mean, I'll spend all kinds of money on DoorDash or Ubering places just because I'm too anxious to drive

Which begs the question, why am I paying a car payment? - So, I will openly discuss anxiety with friends and coworkers at or below my level, especially entry-level employees or interns who I think could benefit from some of my experience

I am pretty good at telling when someone has anxiety because I've been through it and I know the signs and I've heard some of the same thoughts in my head coming out of some of my interns' mouths, and immediately I say to them, "Hey, let's talk about this

"The work can wait for a second, we need to focus on you, "because you can't do the work "if you're not working at your best potential

"I'm gonna tell you my story "and I want you to tell me if this seems familiar, "because it is something that can be treated successfully "and that you can manage and work through "and, in some cases, overcome

" - There's such a stigma

I think that people look at it almost as like someone who has anxiety has problems or they're difficult or they're gonna be complaining a lot, and so because I'm in a position where I have to really put myself out there for people and I have to appear to have such confidence, that I just don't let the anxiety show

I'll do whatever I can to not show it

- [Narrator] A key element in reducing stigma related to mental health is for everyone within the community to have a good understanding of anxiety

- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in this country

We can all relate to that tense distress feeling

But what causes so many people to live with fear? - I have not really done therapy on the regular

I have had a couple of consultations

I think that that's something though that I should probably do

- I would seek therapy if I could find the time and the money for it

- [Jason] Many people with anxiety never seek help

Despite the importance of mental health care, many people are afraid of being stigmatized if they admit they need help

Not being able to pay for treatment is another big issue

Although most insurers cover mental health to some degree, not everyone can afford insurance

What's more, young adults, who are less likely to have insurance, are also at higher risk for addiction and other mental health issues

And some lower-income populations face unique pressures that can increase the chances of mental illness

Then there's fear of treatment itself

Someone who has not been treated for a mental health issue might have some pretty strange ideas about how it's done

Some people may simply fear the vulnerability of telling a stranger their problems

In reality, therapy is nothing to be scared of

The setting is quite relaxed and you don't have to discuss anything you're not comfortable with

Treatment often involves some kind of medication, too, which may require some trial and error to get right

However, most people benefit from treatment to some degree, and many notice significant improvements in a relatively short amount of time

- At the moment, I don't have health insurance, so I can't get some of the treatment I want or need

I can get the drugs from online pharmacies, that's not a problem

Having people to talk to and having the time and energy and this interest, or perhaps distance, to be able to look back at my thoughts and actions and look at what could be causing them and work on those causes, that's something I'm doing more

- [Narrator] If you're anxious frequently, you may decide you'd like a drink to calm your nerves

After all, alcohol is a sedative

In a social setting, that may feel just like the answer you need to let your guard down

Ultimately, it may not be the best solution

Some people with anxiety disorders end up abusing alcohol and/or other drugs in an effort to feel better regularly

This can create dependency and addiction

- So, over the years I've coped with anxiety in different ways

When I was a little younger I probably self-medicated with alcohol quite a bit

I don't think it got to the point where I would consider myself an alcoholic, but I was drinking nightly

Two or three drinks, sometimes more

Just to feel okay, to be able to go to sleep

And then I discovered CBD and THC

I never liked smoking it but once it was legalized in California and they started doing the edibles and the sprays and the tinctures, I got into that a little bit more and medicated with that

But more productively, recently I've started into meditation

I've been doing guided meditation for about a year

I do it in the morning when I wake up and at night right before I go to bed, and then depending on how severe my anxiety is during the day I might do a quick session in the middle of the day

I do breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, passive muscle relaxation, and I find those things help

- So, regarding the treatment, my psychiatrist said, "Here, take these pills

"Also, I want you to start therapy

" I did not start therapy, I did not do therapy once, and what I did find was that once I was being treated successfully and effectively with the SSRIs, I was able to look at past behaviors and kind of maybe not give myself therapy but look at the motivations and the patterns of thinking that were in evidence and find ways, very effective ways to get around those

So at least I have that going for myself, which is nice

- Yeah, I openly smoke marijuana now

I actually, and I've never publicly said this, but I smoke an average of about eight times a day

Anybody that's known me in the last 20 years hasn't seen me not under the influence, actually, because it's what got me through college, it's what got me through all of the situations I'm going through now

And there's a popular medical discussion about it, but for me, when I smoke marijuana after I eat, it's my digestives that I have problems with, so if I smoke after I eat, it calms my digestion, which calms my anxiety

And so because of the IBS symptoms I can't eat full meals also, so I have to have something smaller every two hours

So essentially I have to smoke pot every two hours after eat, but that's sort of what keeps me on the same calm level

- I like to go on hikes to combat it, although recently just deciding to go to the park to hike, driving out there or walking out there, sometimes I'll get nervous

- So the new thing I've been trying is transcendental meditation

It's been helping quite a bit

Then there's other times when I just sit in silence

Sitting in silence, focusing on my breathing, on my heart rate, which is part of the meditation part too, but just sometimes doing that and just re-centering

- I do often meditate

I've tried meditation

I've actually been to four different doctors for the IBS symptoms, I've done everything from pills to meditation to marijuana and drinking, and I found that meditation works really well for me, but because of my profession I often don't make enough time for myself to really get in the zone

You really have to be fully committed for meditation to work

So, for me, sometimes it's easier to just load a bowl, smoke, and then go back to work

- My biggest thing now is if I write it out, I started a blog to journal my journey

When I write it down, it seems to relax me more, because I'm releasing whatever is plaguing my mind at that moment

- Yeah, I do exercise, and that does actually help

I notice that physical activity helps a lot 'cause it gets your mind off of what you're thinking about

So walking and hiking has really helped me a lot

- But sometimes you just gotta let the tears come

Sometimes you just gotta set it out and let it come out

My dog, she's the biggest support for me

She knows what to do, and if I didn't have her, then I don't know what I would do

But I think that right there

I think for people who have anxiety, having an animal is key, because they do help

- A lot of it is just constantly reassuring myself because it's like you're self-aware of it, you realize the thoughts that you're thinking don't make any sense, and to you it's so dumb to be worrying about it 'cause you know it's not gonna pan out that way, and I think just doing so much that causes anxiety and pushing myself through, it's sort of like getting on a rollercoaster when you're afraid to get on the rollercoaster

Once you've got off it, it's exhilarating and you're so glad you did it and now you're not as afraid to do it anymore

So I think that with time, although I still have anxiety, it's sort of more and more manageable because I can be rational about it the more I do something and realize, look, you've done this 10,000 times, this is exactly what happened, why are you worried? Stop worrying about it

- I didn't really try meditation because when I was in the deepest throws of my anxiety, staying still, trying to clear my head, which is what meditation, the least partially, involves, it would generally be an opening for the anxiety to say, hey, here's something to worry about, here's something else you haven't thought of

So I didn't make space in my life for meditation

(gentle music) - [Narrator] There are thousands of self-help books on the subject

While it's not recommended to self-treat serious issues, they can be a good jumping off point to a better understanding of anxiety and the possible steps you may need to combat it

- I've never really read any literature about therapy or meditation, and I've never really gone in for self-help stuff

I've always been kind of an autodidact and I learn best by trial and error and experience, so the idea of a self-help book has never appealed to me

A lot of that thought is kind of my upbringing and general being weary of institutions like churches or support groups, and that's probably something I should look at and interrogate, to see what my antipathy is and if there's something about that that is holding back from my potential

- [Narrator] Social media is undoubtedly an outlet that engages most online users

However, according to mental health consultants nationally, social media has become a major anxiety-provoking factor

- I think that we live in a world that social media has sort of catered to fast attention spans and people that want things quickly and often don't take times to fully stop and understand something

And I think that anxiety, because of the world we live in, is a very common thing

And I think that we would get to a better place as humans and coexisting together and understanding each other, especially on social media, if we actually did stop for a minute and understand each other's problems

Whether it's anxiety, whether it's bullying, anything that can sort of affect the soul and the mind I think it's important, especially in today's day and age, for everyone to stop and pay attention to each other a little bit more

I think that there's a way that you can go about presenting yourself to an audience

I think that there's a right way to do it, a right time and a right place

I think that the reason anxiety has sort of the stigma it does is because, chronically, people that suffer are often posting about it and talking about it, and it sort of creates a sort of idea of what people think that it is

So it's difficult when other people wanna go and talk about it

So I think what's best for understanding is to maybe have someone within a position of power or someone that's respected that can say, "Look, I have anxiety too, "but look at what I was able to do with myself

" So I think that in that sort of situation, it's a really positive thing to talk about

But because of, unfortunately, the way that people are judged on social media, the way that people look at your Facebook page and think of you in that way, that if it's something that you're chronically suffering with, you're probably not gonna find the answers on social media

- [Narrator] Now we get to the most important message

How can we reduce stigma related to social anxiety disorder? It's not gonna be an easy fix, unfortunately, and will require changes in attitudes through education

- I have been very open with using my platform to spread awareness for things such as anxiety, PTSD, domestic violence

I've decided I wanted to not put a facade on anymore

For so long you put on a face to appear like you're happy all the time so people don't ask questions, but now I feel like with social media and everything, everyone's living in this fake life and then it causes other people to have depression and issues because they're not living at the same standard as someone else

- I do enjoy helping people see that they don't have to live the way I did or the way they're living

That there's something they can do about it

Maybe temporarily, maybe not, but any kind of respite or relief that I can give someone, I'm pleased to do it and I'm glad I can do it

- For me, being open about it has been the most healing part about it, because I'm no longer holding a secret, it's more so of I'm letting people in and saying, "I'm not okay," but that is okay

And it's allowing others to reach out to me too and it's created like a support network of people

It also explains why I act certain ways too

Sometimes you don't wanna talk about it when you're going through it, but if people already know that you're dealing with these things and they can accept it

- If I could go back and talk to myself when I was at the worst part of my anxiety, I would tell myself the same thing I tell my interns and entry-level coworkers who I mentor

That this is something you can get through

It helps if you have the support of your family and your friends

You don't have to tell everybody but you do need to tell the people you trust

You don't need to let it get any worse before you get treatment

Get treated as soon as you can

And explore alternative support structures in case the medicines don't work as well as they should or if they stop working after a period of time

- There's still a lot of work to be done

- I don't enjoy feeling negative emotions but I welcome them because I know they are part of life and they're a part of who I am

- So, it's been 16 years since my diagnosis

I'm nowhere near as bad as I was 16 years ago, but I do have a lot of anxiety, and I do

Before, I would pride myself on being calm, cool, and collected when emergencies emerged

And now I kinda go to pieces

My wife has remarked on it

My coworkers have not remarked on it to my face, but I kinda wish they would

Even without the help of drugs, I know it can be done, and I'm gonna give it a shot, as opposed to just laying on the couch and not giving it a shot and saying, "Get up, get up, do it!" And feeling bad about not doing it

That executive disfunction is something that I am keeping at bay for the most part

- I need to just calm down

You can't focus so much of your time worrying about uncertainty 'cause it can really destroy you

And I think that early on in my career it did guide me to some bad places because I let it control me, and I think that maybe I would've gone back now and told me to really look at the big picture and see where I'm going

- Once I went to a psychiatrist and he diagnosed me and began treatment, once the treatment started working, things got much, much better, and my career kind of took of like a rocket and I got a girlfriend, got engaged, got married, all that good stuff

- [Narrator] Worldwide let's work toward breaking the silence about mental health for social anxiety disorder and all mental illnesses

Let's follow in the footsteps of such countries as Australia and the UK that are working towards integrating mental health care and therapy as a routine part of care

- By being more open, I'm just allowing myself to be more real and to help others through my journey

- If there's one thing in general I wanted people with anxiety to know, it's that there's nothing wrong with them

Any person who didn't have an anxiety disorder and was faced with the things that people with anxiety worry about, would worry the same way

They may not react the same way, they may not do the same things because it's new to them and their coping methods are different, they grew up with different coping methods

And people with anxiety can learn those coping methods and they can get treatment, whether it's medication, whether it's meditation

There are things that they can do to reduce the effect that anxiety has on their lives

- One of the biggest things I've learned through my journey with healing and everything that I went through in my last couple years is being open

Someone might need your smile more than you need your tears

- I'm working my way to becoming a less anxious person, and I think you can do it too

(gentle music)

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