There are about equally as many people suffering from depression, anxiety and cardiovascular diseases. so why is only one of these a well known and talked about topic?

Depression and Anxiety Awareness

depression-and-anxiety-statistics-prevalenceThis week is anxiety and depression awareness week. It’s very likely you know someone who suffers from one of these conditions. In the Netherlands about 1.000.000 people are on antidepressants. On our small countries inhabitants that is about 1 in 17 people. And those are only the ones actually taking medication for their depression, so there are actually a bit more people out there who suffer from depression but aren’t on any medication. Think about it, that is a lot of people. According to our national website for cardiovascular diseases, there are equally as many cardiovascular patients as there are patients suffering from depression. So why is cardiovascular disease something that is well known and talked about, while lots of people are surprised to hear that equally as many people suffer from depression.

For anxiety disorders it’s kind of the same story. There seem to be about 1.000.000 anxiety sufferers here in the Netherlands. However there is a crossing over between the depression and anxiety sufferers, so they could suffer from both, or from one after the other, or just one of the two. But the estimate is that about 2.000.000 people in the Netherlands suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorder. That is a huge amount! That’s one eighth of my countries entire population.equally-as-many-people-suffering-from-anxiety-depression-cardiovascular-disease

Applying this knowledge on my close relationships this seems about right. I know of at least 7 people who are suffering or have suffered from depression or anxiety, myself not included. But still the subject is a heavy one. Just like any other serious disease is a heavy subject to talk about, only there seems to be more guilt or shame involved when talking about mental disorders. Either because someone (tries to) makes you feel guilty (involuntarily or not) or because the sufferer him/herself feels guilty for having this disease. Like most diseases, mental disorders are caused by nature AND nurture. Just like with a cardiovascular disease there might be something in your genes causing you to be more at risk of suffering heart problems, you can be at higher risk of suffering mental problems. And there is nothing you can do about this. It’s in your genes, in the blueprint of your body. This causes you to be more susceptible to certain triggers, so during your life, some events might lead to the expression of these genes. This expression means your depression or anxiety will show itself. This is not your fault, it’s just a nasty twist of fate. And no one is allowed to tell you otherwise. No one.

I always am very open about my mental health problems. I’m not ashamed and not afraid to speak up about it. But I know that there are people out there who aren’t as open as I am, or who are afraid to share their struggles. I suffer from panic disorder, which is a form of anxiety disorder, and have been suffering from this for about 6 years now. I was only formally diagnosed about a year ago, when I went to my GP to ask if I could go see a psychologist myself. After years of testing physical things, ups and downs I finally realised something else might be going on. The thought of anxiety had never crossed my mind, and apparently neither my GP’s. So eventually it wasn’t even the GP who diagnosed me, but I figured it out on my own. I wonder how different things would have been if we talked about these things more. If the symptoms were more widely known and help was more accessible. I maybe would’ve gotten help years and years earlier. Would I be different then?

But pointing fingers, “maybes” and “what ifs” aren’t going to change the way we look at, think and talk about mental health. We need to spark conversation. This is my way of doing so. I’m asking you to do the same. Share some information (like this post), read some articles, start a conversation, spread the knowledge about mental health and help make the world a brighter place!

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Is there anything you’d like to know about anxiety, depression or mental health in general? Please contact me, or leave a comment down below. Let’s help each other out.

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