It is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 American adults experience mental illness each year. A topic that many avoid addressing, the reality of mental illness in the United States today is that you likely know at least one person that is currently battling – whether it’s a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor (or, obviously, yourself).
Once thought of as a ‘taboo’ topic, in recent years this stigma has started to shift, opening the door for further discussion, discovery and an increased interest in the research and study of these diseases, their causes and their recovery. By focusing our attention on these diseases, we have made some incredible discoveries, allowing us to better understand what may be causing the alarming rate at which Americans are being diagnosed in today’s society.
One such study completed by a team of researchers at Stanford University specifically set out to better understand the symptoms and experiences of those who are suffering, an incredibly large task. The symptoms associated with these two disorders can vary massively from person to person. On one hand, someone suffering from depression or anxiety may appear highly emotional, crying a lot or experiencing mood swings. Meanwhile, another sufferer may numb out entirely. Those with ‘high functioning’ depression or anxiety may even be able to carry on with their regular daytime routine hiding their struggles from the people in their lives.
In order to narrow down the symptoms, assisting medical health professionals in their diagnosis and treatment of both anxiety and depression, Leanne Williams, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and her team collected data from 420 participants, including healthy participants, as well as multiple different anxiety and depression diagnoses. A series of tests were conducted including psychiatric diagnostic testing and brain mapping. From here, they analyzed the data and identified 5 different categories of diagnosis and anxiety, each with a specific set of symptoms.
“Currently, the treatments would be the same for anyone in these broad categories,” Williams explained. “By refining the diagnosis, better treatment options could be prescribed, specifically for that type of anxiety or depression.”
The 5 Categories:
Those who fall into this category can often be identified by their high levels of irritability, they go through life feeling extremely touchy. When confronted either by a person or a challenging situation, they feel sensitive and overwhelmed, unable to wrap their mind around the facts while putting aside their fear and emotions.
Anxious Arousal is categorized by an inability to function in an optimal cognitive state. Feeling highly stressed, those who fit into this category will often experience nervous sweating or shaking and a racing heartbeat. They struggle to concentrate, and their memory is impaired meaning that they often can’t remember from one moment to the next.
If a sufferer fits into the melancholia category, their biggest struggles in terms of their mental illness fit into the category of social functioning. Even the idea of having to function in a social setting may cause anxiety, however, so too does the idea of restricted social interactions.
Often the most overlooked category, those who fit into the category of anhedonia are often high functioning, however, they experience an inability to feel pleasure. Instead of feeling worried, anxious or sad, these are the people who become numb, struggling to feel anything at all.
The most commonly recognized type of anxiety, these are the individuals who experience the stress categorized by those in the anxious arousal category coupled with an incredibly high level of worry. This is a highly physical manifestation of stress.