The Anxiety Aesthetic

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Everyone has experienced anxiety before. Whether it be before a test, a performance, or talking to someone new, everybody has experienced the rush of fear that anxiety brings. We feel and witness it in our daily lives.

However, not everybody has an anxiety disorder. According to the ADAA, anxiety affects one in eight children, and NIMH states about one in four adolescents age 13-19 are affected, but only 20% of children with diagnosable anxiety are getting the treatment they need. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.9% of 13-18 year olds will have a severe anxiety disorder throughout their life. According to the Child Mind Institute, mid-adolescent girls are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder. The ADAA states that adult women are twice as likely to be affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. Many teens may develop habits based around their anxiety that become hard to break in adulthood, such as setting limitations on activities and expectations. Anxiety disorders are a real problem affecting approximately 44 millions people worldwide, in addition to other mental illnesses such as depression.

According to the NCCP, 20% of adolescents have a diagnosable mental disorder, and 20-30% of teens will have at least one major depressive episode before adulthood. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people ages 15-24 attempt suicide every year. 67-70% of teens in the juvenile justice system have a mental disorder that is diagnosable. According to NIMH, nearly 50% of teens 13-18 years old will have a mental illness that persists throughout their lives. 88% of Latino children and 77% of African American children have unmet mental health needs.According to AACAP, teens with anorexia are ten times more likely to die because of their anorexia.

Mental illnesses change people’s lives, and the lives of those around them, and yet we still continue to romanticize them. We picture anxiety as a girl in oversized sweaters reading a book, and depression as a few tears and a knight in shining armor on the way. We picture schizophrenia as wearing black lipstick and calling themselves a ‘ps*cho’. We picture OCD as cleaning your room a lot, and stressing about how your closet is organized.

But never have we ever pictured anxiety as crying in the bathroom after failing a test, and being unable to sleep for days after. We never picture depression as lacking the ability to even get out of bed, because the energy simply isn’t there. We don’t picture mental illness as an illness, we picture it as an aesthetic.