Just lately there have been a rash of "XX Ways to Find Happiness" and "XX Things Happy People Do (That You Don't)" articles flying around the Internet. It's also the close of a pretty rough year for a lot of folks and that time when we postulate on how to improve things as the Calendaric Page turns. Most obviously shared on Facebook and Twitter, these articles tend to offer up common sense suggestions:
- Stop Worrying About the Opinions of Others
- Stop Making Excuses
- Appreciate Simple Pleasures
- Spend Money on Other People
- Exercise More Often
- Sleep More
- Smile More
All basic stepping stones to finding a sense of progress. I get it.
I also know a LOT of people who are not just unhappy but have legitimate anxiety disorders. I mean, maybe people always had crippling anxiety and they just didn't have the labels to clutch onto before but more often I run into folks who are in therapy and take medication to deal with anxiety and depression. Far more than I can recall at any other time.
According to research, the treatment of anxiety disorders (Generalized Anxiety Disorder being the only one on the rise) is on the downward trend.
"In 1962, 12 million people had been diagnosed with anxiety disorders and just 4 million were labeled depressed—but by 1975, 18 million people were diagnosed as depressed, compared with just 13 million with anxiety disorders. According to Horwitz, by 2000, 10 percent of the American population received antidepressant prescriptions.
Recently, however, there has been somewhat of a backlash. “You are starting to see some reaction against them,” Horwitz said, noting the recent controversy over whether antidepressants are even superior to placebo.
“There’s also the corruption of psychiatrists collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry, the suppression of negative results, the suppression of things like the data on these drugs raising suicidal ideation,” Horowitz said. Consequently, he predicts a shift back to a focus on anxiety, with the panic over tranquilizers largely forgotten.
“This makes physicians sound like idiots,” Shorter said. “But they are very much the prey of drug-company advertising. Whatever diagnosis is being advertised will end up as the diagnosis given clinically. That is the reality.”
Things I believe contribute to the rise in Generalized Anxiety Disorder ( which is defined as extremely worried about many things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them):
- An increase in the advertising of special drugs designed to cure it.
- A constant influx of erroneous data via Facebook and other social media platforms that emphasize an unrealistically happy state of being as the data is skewed by the user to look that way.
- The modern idea that we should all be happy all the fucking time.
GAD is different from Panic Disorders or PTSD in that there are few real world indicators to make sense of, let alone isolate as, causes.
About 4 million adult Americans suffer from GAD during the course of a year. It most often begins in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood. It is more common in women than in men but the exact causes for it are only guessed at (some sources claim it is some combination of genetics, brain chemistry and environment; others claim it is simply a lack of coping mechanisms) and are almost always treated by antidepressants and therapy.
My experience has been, however, that my friends who take the antidepressants are always having the type and dosage fiddled with, always in search of right cocktail (indicating that those prescribing them are throwing chemical darts at a problem they don't understand all that well) and that the therapy just becomes another crutch. I could be completely wrong - maybe without the meds and talking to a stranger they pay would leave them foaming, raving lunatics, but for most of them, I have my doubts.
Further, not too many can afford a regular regimen of prescription drugs and paid yapping.
Here are a few tips, from me to you, on how to handle your anxiety and depression:
Stop Participating in Uneven Relationships
A friend from college was smitten with a football player. She would drive him places, buy him dinners, make sure he got invited to the right parties. She was nicer to him than his girlfriend was but her motivation was ulterior. She was banking on future reciprocation but that shit almost never works. When his girlfriend dumped him, he cried on my friend's shoulder until another girl became his new girlfriend. Completely fair - he made her no promises - but it felt sucky, nonetheless.
This is not to say that one should not be a Giver. But if you aren't getting what you need from a relationship, walk the fuck away. Belief and strong desire are simply not enough and setting yourself up for obvious failure is just dumb.
Stop Bitching About Your Shitty Life
It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The more you talk about how much you hate your job or the fact that you can't get a date or that your clothes are old, etc. the more you spend time in that reality. Quit complaining and either change your circumstances or learn to live with the status quo.
Embrace Your Sadness
There is nothing wrong with being sad from time to time. Chill out and learn from the feeling instead of fighting against it or taking drugs to mask it. And if you find that you are lonely, reframe that shit to simply being alone.
Have a Sense of Humor About...Yourself
We are all dancing monkeys, kids. All of us. We want what we don't have and when we get it, it isn't exactly what we wanted. We are a room full of hypocrites screaming at each other to DO WHAT I WANT! and until you can genuinely see how absurd humanity is and be able to laugh at your own bullshit, you will always be seeking peace in a world not built for it.
Also the exercise and sleeping thing is pretty key, too. And maybe the smile more thing. At least it's more pleasant.