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Title: Interesting Mental Health Statistics and Facts

It is believed the 66% of all adults in the United States require psychiatric help at some point in their lives. For many of these people, their mental health condition is chronic. That does not mean that they always do and always will suffer psychiatric symptoms and problems. But it is clear that once a person has shown psychiatric difficulties, he/she will be at risk for similar problems in the future. The very good news about that is that, contrary to what many people believe, psychiatric conditions are highly treatable. The prognosis for improvement and return to a healthy life is excellent for many people. Once remission of psychiatric illness has occurred, then it is essential to avoid episodes in the future. This can be accomplished through the development of optimal coping mechanisms, medications when indicated, or both.

What is the most common condition for which people consult mental health professionals? Most people think the answer to that question is depression. Actually, depression is the second most common mental health complaint. The most common mental health complaint is anxiety. What exactly is anxiety? We all know what it's like to be anxious about something. Anxiety, as is true of depression, is a universal part of living. Everyone responds to stress with anxiety at many point in life. But we call it "clinical anxiety," or "clinically significant anxiety" when the anxiety meets certain criteria. That criteria relates to over-stimulation of a part of the nervous system. Specifically, those who are vulnerable to anxiety have a lower threshold than others to experience a "fight of flight" reaction. The fight of flight response is an adaptive response when it is experienced in response to a genuine threat to bodily harm or to life itself.

Let's look at it this way: if you open your door to a guy who is carrying a gun, he points it at you, you know it's loaded, then your heart will speed up, your breathing will increase, your pupils will dilate. Everything will happen physiologically to assure avoidance of harm, and indeed survival itself. This is called the "fight of flight" response. Physiological hyper-arousal is not only normal, but it is essential in situations which call for urgent or emergency responses to danger. However, many people experience the type of reaction I have described in the absence of an environmental trigger or threat. When one experiences the kind of stimulative phenomenon described, but with no discernible reason, we call that a "panic attack." All anxiety disorders have in common that the state of hyper-arousal is experienced as distressing. People who experience clinical anxiety in the thorough absence of a stimulus are diagnosed as having "Panic Disorder." Those who experience it in response to a specific circumstance or situation or object are said to have "Simple Phobia." "Social Anxiety" occurs in response to social interactions and anticipations of such situations. OCD results in anxiety which is related to the intrusive interference of a thought, and/or the need to perform a ritualized set of behaviors to avoid anxiety. There are many other types of anxiety disorders which are too numerous to mention in this short piece
What is the most common anxiety disorder? The answer, surprisingly, is simple phobia.

How prevalent is clinical depression? Approximately 10-14% of adult males will experience a depression at least once in a lifetime. The percentage thereof for adult females is about 20%. In medical practice, if we say 1% of a phenomenon exists, it may not sound like a lot, but indeed such a number reflects a great deal of suffering and debilitation. It should also be kept in mind, as cited above, that depression, as is true of anxiety, is highly treatable. The so-called "bright light" in the dark cloud of depression and anxiety is that once a patient has experienced an episode of either of these problems, then one is in an optimal position to be wary to avoid it in the future. Prophylaxis, or prevention, is accomplished by various combinations, unique and individual to each person, of exercising optimal coping mechanisms in the face of stressful events, seeking optimal emotional support from loved ones and friends, and maintenance medication when indicated.

Article: 9/9/2012
Written By: Dr. Howard Weiss
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