Anxiety, grand mal of the century?

Anxiété, grand mal du siècle?

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If there is no evidence that the prevalence of anxiety disorders has increased over the past few decades, treatments have made leaps is remarkable. Cases are increasingly being taken seriously by health professionals.

For many, the feeling is well known : the chest tightens, the breath that comes out, the heart that beats against her temples, sweaty palms, negative thoughts that roll over in a loop. Anxiety has become the great evil of our century ?

Anxiety disorders are mental health disorders the most common. In Québec, one person in four will live an episode of intense anxiety at least once in his life. It is estimated that 7.5% of the population would be struggling with an anxiety disorder, with a higher proportion among women. Are we, as some claim, “the age of anxiety” ?

Anxiety, it is this alarm in our brain that warns us that danger awaits us. “It is an emotion that is entirely normal. It is necessary for our survival, ” says input game Camillo Zacchia, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression. “However, some individuals have an alarm to be more sensitive than others and will more easily see threats,” he adds. The worst enemy of anxiety : uncertainty. The latter, therefore, aim to control everything to eliminate the doubt.

“We live in a society that tends to control everything. When we have control, we have less fear. It is an antidote to anxiety, argues the psychologist. However, we have difficulty letting go. We must learn to tolerate a little bit of doubt. “

Are there more cases of anxiety that are diagnosed ? The work of the researcher Olivia Remes, University of Cambridge, show a very low difference in the number of diagnoses made between 1990 and 2010.

“In fact, our methods of assessment of anxiety disorders will improve over time, so it is difficult to compare and to have a historical perspective,” notes Pascale Roberge, a professor and researcher at the Faculty of medicine and health sciences, Sherbrooke University, who is interested in the primary care granted to patients suffering from depression and with anxiety disorders.

If some are still reluctant to broach the subject for fear of judgment, anxiety disorders are fortunately better understood. “In the past, a person anxious was probably terrified at the idea of being interned in a psychiatric hospital,” notes Dr. Zacchia.

Anxious one day, but not for ever

If there is no evidence that the prevalence of anxiety disorders has increased over the past few decades, treatments have made leaps is remarkable. Cases are increasingly being taken seriously by health professionals.

“We really need to give hope to people living with anxiety because there are effective treatments,” says Pascale Roberge. Psychotherapy (especially cognitive behavioural therapy), medication have been proven to work.

“With psychotherapy, more than 50 % of patients have significant gains, and their anxiety will significantly decrease. We note similar gains for the medication, ” says the researcher.

However, patients who present in the first line, often find themselves with a prescription for antidepressants. Psychotherapy, she is much less accessible and that barriers still exist with regard to access to treatment.

“It has been noticed that sometimes, people with anxiety disorders are not prioritized on the waiting lists for counselling and psychotherapy [in relation to mental disorders considered more serious],” says dr. Roberge.

“There is a tendency to underestimate the consequences that cause anxiety disorders and the psychological distress that people can live,” says the one who is also affiliated with the research Center of the CHUS.

The limited time for the consultations in the first line is also a limit. In addition, some patients put forward their physical symptoms rather than their cognitive symptoms or behavioral. Result : we are left to examine their bodies… rather than their head.

To facilitate access to psychotherapy, the researcher is working on a project of cognitive therapy, behavioral fully available on the Web. “Internationally, there are many teams who have developed Web applications for anxiety disorders and depression and it is very promising, she said. It is seen as a first level intervention for it to be more accessible to the people. “

A daily suffering

The diagnosis of an anxiety disorder is based on two findings : anxiety is a source of distress or pain, and it hurts the operation.

Sometimes, only one of the factors is observable. The distress is not less vivid. In fact, people with anxiety disorders are not all confined to the house. They can live a normal life, concealing the source of their fear.

“Some people are very functional. They are able to overcome their fear, but they suffer from a disproportionately, ” explains Dr. Zacchia. If I am terrified of the dentist, I’m not going to sleep for days. I am going to go to my appointment in a panic. I’m going to make it through… having lived the hell ! “

For others, confront the source of their fear is impossible : “If you fear the dentist, and you cancel the appointment, you are not suffering, but you’re not functional anymore ! “