A public health body in the United States, the US Preventive Services Task Force, recently recommended that all adults under the age of 65 be screened for anxiety. It’s been described by medical professionals as a “global plague,” and the statistics are pretty stark.
K numbers suggest that generalized anxiety disorder among young women nearly quadrupled in the decade between 2008 and 2018, rising from 8 percent to 30 percent in this demographic. There was also a huge increase in anxiety among the rest of the adults.
If fear is so ubiquitous, is it actually a normal part of human existence? Are we actually pathologizing life?
A good definition of fear is an intolerance to uncertainty. It manifests itself through a range of symptoms, including constant worry, insomnia, irritability, a tendency to panic, and general discomfort. It seems to be generally accepted that anxiety levels have never been higher.
It is true that there has just been a pandemic; massive cost of living problems; a war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. But is that worse than the near-constant wars, oppression, famines, and famines that our ancestors endured? Or could it be more stressful on a domestic level today than it was in our grandmothers’ days when losing your child was a daily occurrence? In the 1960s, women were so often put on benzodiazepines for “their nerves” that they were dubbed “mother’s little helpers.” So I’m not convinced that fear is a modern phenomenon.
Maybe we just recognize it more? Or could it even be that there is now a currency to have “a disorder”? That our well-intentioned attempts to normalize and destigmatize mental health issues have created what we in medicine call “secondary gain”? Does the praise and support that come from going public about fear fuel a fire?
Or is it the dominant societal narrative, pushed by the mainstream and social media, that catastrophizes everything? So we’re reeling from a health crisis to a housing crisis, from the cost of living crisis to the climate crisis. Are we actually talking ourselves into a state of anxiety?
The truth is that at no other time in history have we lived so long or with so much security, comfort, and personal freedom. Maybe we don’t know how to deal with it. In this hygienic, modern world, our under-challenged immune systems are over-capacitated, causing them to over-react to minor triggers, leading to diseases like asthma. Are our underwhelmed nervous systems now being triggered by trifles because the types of hardships we faced in the past are now essentially taken care of?
Culture wars have replaced the real thing wars. We now have health and housing crises, despite the fact that in the past we lived in tenements and our hospitals were places where you basically went to die.
I ask questions, I don’t give answers, but there’s something wrong that makes us feel miserable when the fact is that most people’s lives have never been better. When our fear is really sky high despite our relative comfort and safety, then our perception of how life should be is distorted in a disturbing way. Or maybe now, on some level, we like the idea that something is wrong with us.
A second opinion
I know the term “toxic masculinity” is being circulated like snuff at a wake, but the most recent example of it being cited now borders on the ridiculous. Peta, the animal rights group, has said meat-eating is a sign of toxic masculinity and that to fight it, women should go on a sex strike against meat-eating men to save the planet.
As someone who is very carnivorous, I completely reject the notion that eating meat is a masculine or even a toxic trait. With increasing age, women have an enormous protein requirement that is difficult to meet without meat. It’s food – food isn’t gendered.
Nor is it the women’s responsibility to be the school prefect of the planet and keep the “boys will be boys” at bay. Men should want to save the planet for the planet’s sake and for no other reason.
And likewise, there’s something odd about the idea that women should use sex as a bargaining chip — aside from being transactional and creepy, it overlooks the fact that women like sex, too.
One would think that keen observers of the animal kingdom would know this.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/anxiety-is-ubiquitous-in-todays-world-are-we-recognising-it-more-or-do-we-just-like-having-a-disorder-42039346.html Fear is omnipresent in today’s world. Do we recognize it more – or do we just like to be disturbed?