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Summary: Do you know anyone who suffers from anxiety disorder? It’s likely that you or someone you know is familiar with those feelings of panic, apprehension, or impending danger that are hallmarks of this illness.

And upon the earth distress of nations, with's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. Luke 21:25-26

Do you know anyone who suffers from anxiety disorder? It’s likely that you or someone you know is familiar with those feelings of panic, apprehension, or impending danger that are hallmarks of this illness.

Anxiety, the emotion, is felt by most people from time to time. Students might have anxiety over doing well on a test. A mother might feel fearful and anxious when her child leaves home. A new driver might experience anxiety while driving through a busy section of town. Although anxiety is a normal part of life, anxiety has the capacity to expand into a disorder that can take over your life as well as lead to other mental illnesses such as depression.i

When is anxiety a problem?

There are many different kinds of anxiety disorders which can be trigged by a specific situation or object, such as social anxiety which is associated with large gatherings of people, or phobias like arachnophobia which is triggered by spiders. ii There is also General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is characterized by a disproportionate amount of worries and fears related to daily life. Anxiety is considered a disorder when it persists for over six months. iii

Anxiety disorder can greatly interfere with the ability to live a normal life. It causes physical as well as cognitive symptoms, such as:

● Rapid heart rate

● Rapid breathing

● Difficulty sleeping

● Having a hard time concentrating

● A pervasive, constant fear or feeling of panic

● Muscle tension (tight shoulders, clenching the teeth)

● Constant, anxious thoughts that are irrational and hard to stop

● A predisposition towards negativity and future-telling (“If I go for a drive, I will wreck my car and be killed”)

● Avoiding situations that cause fear or discomfort (school, restaurants, driving)

● Constantly seeking a distraction to avoid dealing with or experiencing the thoughts and symptoms caused by anxiety

● Indulging in compulsive behaviours to try and eliminate the causes of anxiety (constantly washing hands and applying hand sanitizer, checking the stove/appliances many times before leaving the house)

Often anxiety sufferers mistake the symptoms of anxiety for something more serious like a heart attack, which in turn increases the symptoms and anxious feelings.iv It’s not difficult to see how an anxiety disorder can spiral out of control and take over a person’s life.

While someone who suffers from anxiety might be told to just “get over it,” anxiety disorder is a serious problem which can have very negative effects on quality of life and is not something that the sufferer can just “get over.”

A sinner (that’s all of us) can as easily “get over” sin as an anxiety sufferer can “get over” anxiety. To conquer sin in our lives, we must die to self and submit to Christ. This is a difficult process that must be constantly repeated. Paul described it in these words, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Death to self is a constant battle. So is the fight against the devil’s intrusive thoughts for anxiety sufferers. Help from outside may be needed but is often not asked for due to fear of what others may think.

Stigma of mental illnesses

Mental illness carries a stigma which makes many people reluctant to seek help. The stigma can be even greater among Christians. Because mental illnesses such as anxiety disorder, primarily affect the brain/emotional state of a person, it’s difficult for other people to acknowledge that the person who is suffering from a mental illness is indeed in need of help. Most people wouldn’t think twice about admitting they have a broken arm and need to get a cast, but there are many people who suffer silently with mental illness because they’re afraid to seek professional help, or to even open up to a friend or to ask for prayer.

One of the biggest problems that young people who suffer from mental illnesses face is the admission that something is wrong. Glenn Scott, director of an intensive outpatient program at the Behavioural Medicine Centre located in Loma Linda, California, says that admitting you have a problem that you need help for comes with a big stigma. But he also says that that stigma is beginning to decrease, and strongly encourages young people to educate themselves about the symptoms of mental health, and to seek help accordingly.v

Like all illnesses, mental, physical or spiritual, anxiety needs to be treated effectively. Just because you have anxiety, does not mean you are doomed to silently suffer for the rest of your life. You can overcome. With God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

One of the ways that anxiety can be successfully treated is through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that CBT is a “highly effective” treatment which has lasting effects. CBT “focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing thinking and behavior patterns” and requires active effort from the patient, who can take control of their situation and learn to manage their

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaches anxiety patients how to address and challenge the anxious thought process – essentially, how to rephrase their thinking. By changing the way the anxiety patient thinks, they can effectively change how they feel.vii CBT is a key component of Dr. Neil Nedley’s successful depression and anxiety recovery program.

Where is God in all of this?

Anxiety is yet another reminder of the discomfort of life on this less-than-perfect earth, which has been tainted by sin. The followers of Jesus are not exempt from suffering. Jesus said that in this world, we “shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus will never leave us to face our tribulations alone, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus wants us to trust Him with what lies ahead. He counselled,

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:34

Jesus doesn’t want us to have anxiety and He will give us the strength to overcome our problems if we surrender our lives to Him and stay close to Him.

i. Sarah Knapp, “Anxiety Can Lead to Depression, and Depression Repays the Favor,” Huffpost;

ii. “Anxiety Disorders,” Canadian Mental Health Association;

iii. Anxiety Disorders,” Canadian Mental Health Association;

iv. “Anxiety Disorders,” CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health);

v. Larry Becker, “Family Connections Support Teen Mental Health, Says Practitioner,” Adventist World;

vi. “Therapy,” Anxiety and Depression Association of America;

vii. “What is CBT?” Anxiety Canada;

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