The dictionary definition of anxiety is ‘a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear that can be mild or severe’. According to the NHS, anxiety disorder is: ‘a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event……People with anxiety disorder feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed……it can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include feeling restless or worried and having trouble concentrating or sleeping’.
Anxiety is not a new human condition. Sigmund Freud wrote a book entitled ‘The Problem of Anxiety’ at the beginning of the 20th century. Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch philosopher wrote about what he described as ‘dread’ in the human condition.
Victorian novelists wrote extensively about characters, particularly women who exhibited many of the symptoms of anxiety disorders, from fainting to hysteria. The novelist Franz Kafka wrote movingly about his own experience of anxiety, describing it as a kind of paralysis, likening it to: ‘the feeling of having in the middle of my body a ball of wool that quickly winds itself up, its innumerable threads pulling from the surface of my body to itself’.
Has the 21st century obsession with social media increased levels of anxiety? Very probably. Have the social and economic effects of the recession made things worse? Anecdotal evidence points to the affirmative.
Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk a charity which works to relieve and support those living with anxiety disorders, reports that there has been a steady increase in calls to its helpline in recent years
Interviewed for the Observer newspaper by Rachel Cooke in 2013, Nicky Lidbetter, the chief executive of Anxiety UK said: ‘What we are finding is that people who might ordinarily have managed their anxiety quite well have been tipped into new territory by being made redundant or having to adapt to new life circumstances.’
Amazon, the online book seller recently released a list of the most widely read passages from its most popular books. The list includes books such as 'The Hunger Games', The 'Harry Potter' Series, 'Pride and Prejudice', and The Bible.
From the Bible, Amazon found that the most commonly highlighted portion is Philippians 4:6-7 where the apostle Paul instructs the fledgling church at Philippi:
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
Commenting on the Apostle Paul’s admonition to these early Christians, American Seminary Professor Eric L. Johnson, interviewed recently by the Christian Post said:
‘I see the verse as an encouragement that God wants them to be free of anxiety and has provided a way of finding freedom from anxiety but that's going to take some practice: learning how to spend some time with God, learning how to surrender our worries and our fears to Him, learning how to let go of some of our pressures, maybe redeveloping certain lifestyle patterns, learning how to meditate and pray’.
As I have grown older, I have learned to take the Apostle Peter’s advice to: ‘Cast all your anxiety on him (Jesus) because he cares for you.’…………..No worries…..honest!!