three faces, sad, nonchalant, and happy

Anxiety Screenings – Helpful Or Not???

You may have seen in the news earlier this week that a health panel (specifically the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force) recommended that all adults under age 65 get screened by their doctors for anxiety. This comes on the tails of COVID, inflation, and the rise of crime (among other things) that have left many in our country (and the world) feeling a lot more anxious.

The Task Force cited a study which showed that between August 2020 and February 2021, adults with symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders increased to 41.5% from 36.4%.

Initially that doesn’t seem like a huge increase to me (about 5%), but the fact that over 41% of adults may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression does seem concerning in its own right.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to asking (or requiring) doctors to perform anxiety screenings on their patients. So let’s take a quick look at both sides of the issue:

PROS

  • Screenings could help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected and untreated for years
  • Standard screenings help to reduce the stigma of mental health – it would just be another thing to get checked out annually like any other health issue
  • Standard screenings could help “combat the effects of racism, implicit bias, and other systemic issues in the medical field” (you can read more about mental health disparities among people of color in this New York Times article)

CONS

  • Screenings alone will not solve a mental health crisis – patients who get flagged as being “at risk” would need other interventions and could not be forced to get treatment
  • Some worry that screenings may primarily favor doctors and healthcare providers financially if there is an uptick in diagnoses
  • Some doctors expressed concern that adding “one more thing” to their already long checklist for physical exams is not practical or doable – there are also staff shortages to consider

As a mental health advocate, I am in favor of making anxiety screenings (or more broadly, mental health screenings) a standard practice for all adults and children. But I understand the logistical problems with carrying that out, and I also understand the fear that it may allow the medical community to take advantage of people (due to over-diagnosing or over-prescribing medications).

I am also aware that mental health treatments like therapy are expensive, and that unless there’s a more cost-effective way for everyone to have access to that service, it may not be realistic for everyone.

The problems with increasing mental health services are real and something that need to be considered, but my hope is still that more and more people would be proactive in taking charge of their mental health – and standardizing screenings could be one way to help accomplish this.

What are your thoughts on the Task Force’s recommendation? What other pros and cons have you heard about the issue?

cat looking in through slightly open window

The Sneaky Side of Depression

I think one of the most helpful things I’ve done in trying to maintain my mental health is to become aware of my own personal red flags.

There are certain things, when they start happening, that make me suddenly wonder if something is off. Suddenly I’ll realize, “oh, I’m not handling things well anymore.” 

For me, some of those red flags are:

  • Getting overly emotional at everything (more crying than usual)
  • Feeling tired and fatigued all the time (wanting to sleep as a coping mechanism)
  • The stopping of activities I normally enjoy (lack of motivation to do them)
  • Becoming extra critical and annoyed with others
  • Being extremely bothered by clutter (feeling obsessive about needing to have the house clean)

A few weeks ago I was at work reading one of my daily news emails that I subscribe to, and that day it was focused on the war in Ukraine. As I read about numerous innocent people dying, I suddenly felt so overwhelmed. I just wanted to start sobbing about the injustice of it all – literally, I was having trouble keeping it together. Now, I’m not saying that the war in Ukraine isn’t something worth crying about or getting emotional over. Obviously, it’s a very serious situation. But the reaction I was having was more extreme than was normal for me. That was hint #1 to me that maybe I was dealing with some extra anxiety, or even depression, settling in.

I thought over the previous weeks, and realized I had gotten out of some of my normal routines. I wasn’t writing or blogging anymore. I wasn’t taking time to pray or do other spiritually-focused activities. I certainly wasn’t taking time to exercise either. So what was I doing with all my time? I was sleeping a lot more, going to bed early and waking up late, despite setting my alarm for 5:30 each morning in the hopes that I would actually get up and write (which wasn’t happening). No matter how much I slept, I still felt tired. I was wasting a lot more time on Netflix and social media. It felt like I was busy all day, but I wasn’t really doing anything of substance.

And yes, I felt extra annoyed with people, especially the people I lived with. In my mind, the house was a disaster. Why did it feel like I was the only one in our family who pulled their own weight? How could everyone else stand to ignore the mess and clutter and go about their happy little lives? I had blown up a few times at my husband Dean, and had made it loud and clear that I was tired of being the “only one” who took care of things.

Basically, ALL of my red flags were showing. But this didn’t even occur to me until that day in my office when I was struggling to not have an emotional breakdown over the current news about Ukraine. 

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girl peeking out of big sweater

This is What My Social Anxiety Looks Like

I wouldn’t say that I have intense social anxiety, but at times it does pop up and inconvenience me. Normally it’s in large gatherings, or when I’m faced with meeting someone new, that I feel myself morphing into the most awkward version of myself.

On the Myers-Briggs test, I am an ISFJ-T. (Check out 16Personalities to learn more!) When I took the quiz, I scored 58% on the Introvert scale, which surprised me at the time because sometimes I feel much more introverted than that. I like people, and when I get comfortable around people, my fun and crazy side usually starts coming out – but I definitely feel most comfortable at smaller gatherings, and I do need alone time to recharge.

All that to say, even though I’m not an extreme introvert and I do like social gatherings, I do find myself struggling with social anxiety more often than I’d like.

antisocial moth meme

Social anxiety can be an actual diagnosable disorder (SAD), and I do not have that. I am talking about levels of social anxiety that probably everyone feels at one time or another.

My family and I recently began attending a new (to us) church. This is probably where I feel my social anxiety most acutely these days. For example, when I’m sitting in Bible class, but the class hasn’t actually started yet, here are some thoughts that are probably popping into my mind:

Hmm… I’ve never met the people behind me. I should probably introduce myself. They look like they’re in the middle of a conversation though. I shouldn’t interrupt them… I’ll look back again in a minute. Okay they’re still talking, I should just quickly say hi… but Bible class is probably about to start, I don’t want to say something and then get cut off… Maybe next week I can try to meet them.

There’s that person I’ve met before – I have no idea what their name is. I’ve already asked them three times, so I can’t possibly ask them again. I guess I’ll sit on the other side of the room until I get a chance to look up their name…

*after saying hello to someone* Hmm… they didn’t really smile that much when they saw me. They probably hate me. Were they trying to avoid me? Oh no, did I do something to offend them???

Wow, that person seems so popular and cool. They probably have a ton of people who will want to talk to them, so I won’t waste their time by introducing myself. Wait, now they might think I’m avoiding them… I guess I’ll just say hi and then keep walking… but I just remembered I have a huge pimple on my chin – I don’t want that to be their first impression of me – I’ll just keep my head down and pretend I don’t see them.

Can anyone else relate to these thoughts? They sound extreme when I read them, but these are thoughts that I occasionally have to battle. I know they are irrational 99% of the time, but that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes they overwhelm me.

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