Anxiety and India


Anxiety is a broad umbrella term which includes different disorders : panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias disorders and generalized anxiety disorder.  When people say that they feel anxious, they mean the normal amount of nervousness they feel when they are in uncertain situations. People tend to not understand what anxiety actually means  or the amount of problems, that people suffering from anxiety have to go through. Neurotic disorders are basically related to stress, reaction to stress (usually maladaptive) and individual proneness to anxiety. In moderation, anxiety stimulates an anticipatory and adaptive response to challenging or stressful events. In excess, anxiety destabilizes the individual.  Anxiety is considered excessive or pathological when it arises in the absence of challenge or stress, when it is out of proportion to the challenge or stress in duration or severity, when it results in significant distress, and when it results in psychological, social, occupational, biological, and other impairment.

Anxiety is debilitating. It is difficult to go through daily life if you suffer through anxiety. It might not leave physical scars, but battling anxiety takes a toll and leaves mental scars that take years to get over.

Anxious people find it difficult to stay calm. They find it difficult to interact with other people. Its difficult to breathe sometimes, you feel like you are choking. The plate for you is always full with the work you keep postponing with a huge dollop of self-depreciation and the feeling that you are not good enough ,on the side.

When you get up every day with your heart beating a mile per second, you know you need to get professional help. The problem is  the stigma that mental disorders bring with them. It’s sad that in this day and age, mental health  issues are still considered a thing that “ is in your head” or you can “ work it out if you don’t think about it”. This is wrong and it needs to change .

If you have fever or stomach ache or you fall and break your limb , you go to the doctor , but if you have depression or anxiety disorders,  its not considered worth a doctor’s visit . Why because it cannot be quantified?  The need for mental health awareness is real and very important. This is where government’s role becomes indispensible.  This is where the ministry of health can help generate awareness among the people. The ministry can do social awareness drives to promote the issue of mental health.

India has a population of 1.2 billion people and atleast  5 crore  live with a mental illness and yet we have less than 4000 psychiatrists to address the issue. This gives us 1 psychiatrist for 13,000  patients. One of the big reasons for this lack is the fact that undergraduate  medical education doesn’t focus on psychiatry . And the post graduate colleges doesn’t have enough seats.  One another reason cited by professionals is brain drain. Brain drain implies Indian professionals ( brains) leaving the country for greener soils. These factors lead to a genuine lack of medical professionals in the county , which makes the struggle to treat anxiety very difficult.

The need of the hour today is for people to talk about mental health issues. Talk about how it affects people. Talk about how its crippling. Talk about how getting help is the logical step and how there is absolutely nothing wrong in it.  Just like you treat a cut by getting stitches , you treat anxiety by getting help. People need to listen when people with anxiety disorders come and talk to them. This begins at the grassroots level. With family and friends  being the first forum you go to , parents need to understand that mental health problems are real and not something your kid is making up . Mental health is fully treatable and nothing to be ashamed of. If as a parent you don’t have enough knowledge about anxiety or depression and how it affects your kid, its your moral duty to learn about it , to read what words to use to boost your kid, what words to never utter in front of them. To hide behind a screen of ignorance is shameful .

The dynamics are changing, with many celebrities and public figures taking the spotlight to talk about the mental illnesses they have suffered through. They are creating the dialogue that is needed for people to start talking about mental health.  It normalizes the issue of anxiety and depression. It makes people suffering from anxiety, feel that they are not alone , that there are people out there who have achieved great things even suffering from social anxiety disorders. If they can do it , so can you.

We need to communicate and ask for help . Our elders need to learn about anxiety and the correct way of addressing it. It is our duty to provide our successive generation to have avenues for communications regarding mental illness. It falls on us to get them to talk about issues that bother them and to right the wrong our elders committed by treating our illnesses casually . Its about time we addressed the issues that our important to us and give us sleepless nights. Because the truth is, if we don’t, no one else will.



Source – Indian Journal of Psychiatry .

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