Searches peaked in April this year, with one expert suggesting that exam stress, a pending Brexit referendum and global events may be contributing factors.
The new analysis by healthcare insurance provider, AXA PPP healthcare, reveals that Google searches for anxiety and its symptoms have seen a significant increase in popularity since 2006 in the UK, suggesting people are turning to the internet and its resources to help deal with this mental health condition in greater numbers.
“The increase in popularity reflects a number of changes over the past decade; in general awareness around the disease, its symptoms, and the detrimental effect it can have on peoples’ lives, as well as in the quality and availability of resources to help patients and sufferers deal with the disease,” says Eugene Farrell, Head of Trauma Support Services for AXA PPP healthcare.
“The latest NHS Psychiatric Morbidity Survey indicates that around 15 per cent of the UK population - some nine million people - suffer from depression or anxiety related disorders and figures show a percentage rise in those experiencing an anxiety-related common mental health disorder from 1993 to 2007. These results from Google suggest this upward trend is increasing over time.”
Anxiety disorders are characterised by longevity of the feeling of dread, or that something bad will happen, fearing the worst, dwelling on negatives, finding it hard to relax, getting flustered or looking out for things that could go wrong. When these feelings become unmanageable, it can cause concern over a person’s well being.
Reflecting on the surge in popularity during April this year, Farrell stated, ““The peak in April is interesting. Although difficult to directly correlate a cause, it is reasonable to suggest that many people were feeling the after effects of the terrorist bombings in Brussels, combined with the looming Referendum decision. Exam season for students was also in full flow.”
Yet, despite the increase, the healthcare provider suggests we shouldn’t be alarmed by the rise.
“The stigma around talking about mental health and anxiety levels is at last beginning to disappear and we are now living in a society where people feel they can talk about these problems or seek help when needed. Although we would never recommend self-diagnosis for mental health disorders, searching for information on the internet can provide a positive step to know where to seek help if you are feeling anxious.”
According to Farrell, there are simple steps which patients can take to help deal with an anxiety disorder, including:
· Lifestyle changes: Consider your diet, exercise and sleep habits. Getting enough sleep and exercise and having a well-balanced diet, will contribute both to your mental and physical wellbeing.
· Adjust your thinking: Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which helps people to think and act differently in relation to their condition, is a well-established treatment for anxiety disorders. Mindfulness can also help by enabling you to focus on the ‘here and now’ as opposed to ‘what could be’.
· Talk to someone: If you are really struggling with your feelings, the best thing to do is tell someone about it. This could be a family member or a friend, a helpline such as those provided by Anxiety UK, Mind and Rethink Mental Health, or a healthcare professional such your GP.
More information about anxiety can be found at AXA PPP healthcare’s Mental Health Centre.