Globally, the prevalence of depression and anxiety as mental health disorders is relatively small. The World Health Organization has cited that depression is the most globally pervasive mental health disorder, affecting over 300 million people worldwide. Recently, WHO released their Global Health Estimates for Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders. Depression and anxiety, two leading disorders, only account for a small population of people globally. Data used for the study came from 2016, the most recent year available for fully analyzed information. Only 4.4% of the global population were found to have depression. Anxiety, a leading mental health disorder among adults 18 and older in the United States, affects just 3.6% of the global population. Considering that the estimated population of humankind on planet earth is reaching 7.5 billion, these small percentages are still enormous. 330,000,000 people live with depression and 270,000,000 with anxiety.
Unaccounted for in this survey, however, are the potentially hundreds of millions if not many billions of people globally who experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. Without a mental health diagnosis, there are many people who frequently experience symptoms of depression and anxiety- many of which are the same. Feeling insecure, afraid, sad, hopeless, helpless, disconnected, stressed, unsure; having overwhelming emotional experiences, intrusive thoughts, difficulty sleeping, feelings of loneliness, challenges coping with life- all of this is part of the human experience. Limiting the prevalence of anxiety and depression to the experience of fully developed diagnosis in terms of a mental disorder hinders the realistic fact that symptoms of depression and anxiety are normal to the human experience. Unless diagnosed specifically with a psychiatric disorder like psychopathy in which the human experience is significantly altered by an inability to feel emotion, everyone gets depressed and anxious. Problematically, we are largely convinced as a modern society that experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression isn’t normal. As a result, we fear the slightest variation in our normal emotional experiences. Ill-equipped to cope with a broad range of emotions, we struggle to understand how anything other than ‘normal’ could occur emotionally. Depression and anxiety, in their most basic symptomatic forms, are normal. Learning to live with a full spectrum of emotional experiences is learning to live in one’s humanity- the truest global experience.
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