Definition of Anxiety and Common Symptoms of Typical and Problematic Anxiety
A simple definition for anxiety is apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or expected event. Experiencing anxiety is a typical part of life and is often considered a positive expression of emotion. Our brain is wired to have an innate fear response to avoid painful or harmful situations, otherwise we would often be in danger. When someone begins to feel disproportionate amounts of anxiety to a specific or general situation, especially if it’s persistent, it can be become dysfunctional in our everyday activities. Common symptoms of anxiety and signs of when it becomes problematic are listed below:
How Common is Anxiety? When Does it Develop?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues. Symptoms may develop in childhood, adolescence, or as an adult and occur on a scale from mild to severe. Depending on what life throws at us, the severity level can vary along that scale at different ages. 19.1% of the U.S. adult population (or 40 million people) struggles with anxiety and symptoms are oftentimes present prior to 21 years of age. Data shows that anxiety rates are typically for higher for females than males (23.4% vs. 14.3%). Broken down by age group, anxiety rates for 18 – 29 years of age are at 22.3%, 30 – 44 years of age are at 22.7%, 45 – 59 years of age are at 20.6%, and 60+ years of age are at 9.0%. Data for children indicate 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) were diagnosed with anxiety. This rate of anxiety has risen significantly from 2007 – 2012, and especially over the last 50 years. Additionally, diagnosis rates of anxiety increased with age.
Challenges to the LGBTQIA+ Community
While belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community can be a source of pride and connection to a community, it can also bring about challenges associated with sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. A person may experience social, family, religious, and internalized stigma; denial of civil protections; discrimination; bullying; shame; and guilt in coming to terms with identifying as LGBTQIA+. Coming out (personally accepting your sexual orientation and/or gender identity) is a process that looks different for each person, however, it’s common to experience struggles with acceptance and the length of time varies. Paired with coping with daily life and/or stressors, an LGBTQIA+ person can experience increased levels of anxiety.
Research on Anxiety in LGBTQIA+ Adults
The research specifically focused on anxiety rates among the LGBTQIA+ population is somewhat limited, but there is information available that gives us an overall picture. The National Association on Mental Health (NAMI) reported LGBTQIA+ individuals are at a significantly higher risk for developing anxiety and are more than twice as likely to have any type of mental health condition. When comparing those who identify as transgender with cis-gender (gender is aligned with sex assigned at birth), the prevalence rate for a diagnosis of any mental health condition is 4x as high. The LGBTQIA+ population consistently shows higher levels of use across all types of substances as well compared with cis-gender ones (biological sex identified at birth matches gender identity).
Research on LGBTQIA+ Teens, Adolescents, and Young Adults
The Trevor Project, an organization focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQIA+ teens, adolescents, and young adults, published the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health in 2021. This survey involved approximately 35,000 youth in the United States ranging from 13 – 24 years old and showed the key role affirming their identity plays in their overall wellbeing. Some important facts and statistics include:
Finding A Therapist and Things to Consider Asking
Given the nature of the information and statistics, finding the proper help is very important. Looking for a mental health professional who is a “good fit” for you makes a huge difference in the outcome of therapy. Some things to consider when seeking a therapist:
I hope that this information has been helpful in giving insight into anxiety among the LGBTQIA+ population. Please be on the lookout for our next blog on anxiety in teens and young adults.
For more information on Small Town Counseling services for children and teens, what to expect, and/or scheduling an appointment check out our counseling services for children and teens and/or adults or call 209-968-1707. FAQs and Parenting Topics are available in our Good Reads! For additional parenting resources visit COVID-19 Specific Parenting Resources or Local Resources.
The Anxiety of It All: How the LGBTQIA+ Population Experiences Anxiety is written by David Cayton, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). David has experience as a mental health professional working with children, teens, and professionals, an academic advisor, education-based research assistant, and student affairs at colleges and universities. At the time of this publishing, David Cayton is Trainer and Research Associate at Small Town Counseling® a group mental health practice located in California that helps individuals, groups, and organizations in promoting mental wellness and education on trauma and anxiety through mental health services and training.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health. Retrieved on March 1, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved on March 1, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (n.d.). Anxiety. Retrieved on March 1, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety
National Alliance on Mental Health. (2017). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved on March 1, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders
National Alliance on Mental Health. (n.d.). LGBTQI. Retrieved on March 1, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/LGBTQI
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Any Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved on March 1, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder
The Trevor Project. (2021). Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021. Retrieved on March 1, 2022, from https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/?section=Introduction