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Truffles of Anxiety: Unwrapping the Facts

When a typical teenager is approached by an adult and is asked the question,

What do you want to do when you are older?, their most likely response will be a
stutter, followed by a sense of panic and an increased heart rate. No one knows the
answer, and not knowing an answer that you may seek is one of the biggest causes of
stress in the world. You do not know what the clique across the room is saying about you
behind your back; nor do you know whether you will end up successful in the future or
dirt poor and living on the streets. This constant worry of things that are beyond our reach
can safely be categorized as one of the biggest deterrents to happiness today. However,
while all human beings have a natural inclination towards stress, some people are born
with heightened anxiety. These genetic heightened anxieties include Social Anxiety
Disorder (SAD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
(OCD), and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Other anxieties are
caused from traumatizing events, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). By
delving into these psychological battlegrounds, my purpose is to discover how each
disorder can directly interfere with a persons levels of happiness. When left untreated,
each anxiety blocks a persons happiness in various specific ways, and this essay will
explain the thoughts and symptoms that come along with all the packages of agitation.
This paper discusses happiness as a higher good that every human being longs
for but that is seldom reached. In this case, I define happiness as feeling peace without
any stress or anguish, or, basically, overall contentment with what is for the long term, as
opposed to momentary bliss. Consequently, when anxiety is mentioned, I am
referencing the various kinds of disorders and -isms that are created as side effects. The

mentioned anxieties are specified as untreated, and must not be confused with treated
anxiety disorders, which are assisted by medications and or therapy. Thirdly, when I refer
to, everyone, I mean society as a whole. This includes all ages, but is mostly centered
on teenagers and adults in the twenties to forties age group, due to them being part of the
more modern generation.
In order to organize this research, I will begin with personal connections,
followed by survey data. This will then be followed by further details about the various
anxiety disorders, based off of secondhand and firsthand research. Thirdly will be the
philosophies that apply to this situation, with a conclusion to draw the essay to a close.
While I have not been diagnosed with any of the aforementioned disorders, I do
admit that I struggle a lot with perfectionism. According to the Merriam-Webster online
dictionary, perfectionism is a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as
unacceptable. (Merriam-Webster). Those words are not only the definition of the word,
perfectionism, but they are also the definition of who I am; especially in regards to
school work and education. On a daily basis, I feel the need to compete with my fellow
students in order to be what my mind tells me is the best in the class. I am never satisfied
with myself unless I get the best scores, all of the correct answers, and the respect of my
peers. While this is not always bad, it is not good to look at things in black and white; in
perfect and in flawed. I tell myself that I am never allowed to make mistakes, which is
basically the same as telling myself that I can not be human. Since it is inevitable for me
to stumble every now and then, I admonish myself each time with critique. However, this
never helps the situation. I have gotten to the point where I know that these tendencies
are not healthy, but they are not something you can break free of so easily. Once

ensnared, it only becomes more and more difficult to escape. Luckily, I have recently
been enlightened to the fact that I have struggles with perfectionism. What I and my other
fellow perfectionists need to learn is the difference between perfectionism and relative
attention to detail.
As claimed by research, ... (perfectionism) often leads to discouragement, selfdoubt and exhaustion, and it is at the core of many mental health issues, including
depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, marital problems,
workaholism, procrastination, insomnia and suicide. (The Wall Street Journal). Although
it is not clear as to where perfectionism comes from, psychologists believe that it can be
hereditary. If this proposal were to be true, then perhaps the sophomore class of Kay
Flewelling and Andrew Lerario has a higher percentage than what is known as the
norm. According to the survey results, roughly 73% of 15 students admitted to having
perfectionistic tendencies towards some academic tasks. A little over half of survey takers
admitted to being very self-critical of themselves when failing to achieve their goals, and
an even more shockingly 46.7% admitted to feeling like a failure as a human being if
they did not complete their work. Furthermore, these results can definitely be linked with
the levels of stress in high school students, due to the fact that 90% of those surveyed had
stress levels skyrocketing to five and above.
While this may not seem like such a big deal, we must keep in mind that simple
stress has the potential to become a full-fledged anxiety disorder. Not only is Generalized
Anxiety Disorder (GAD) sometimes hereditary, but several researchers believe that it can
also be created from a stressful environment. Ava, an interviewee, believes that anxiety is
a byproduct of society today. Society perpetuates the belief that you have to work harder

and be better and that there are no second chances...Theres no way to actually be safe
from things falling apart. This is the mindset of not only me, but of all the other people
with untreated anxiety. As specified by the National Institute of Mental Health, People
with GAD cant seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that
their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They cant relax, startle easily,
and have difficulty concentrating. (NIMH). Quotations from individuals with untreated
GAD have stated that they often have difficulty sleeping and that they feel oppressed by
all of their everyday worries. Even small chores such as reading the newspaper or buying
a present for a friend can create a sense of panic, aided by other physical symptoms.
These symptoms include, but are not limited to, hot flashes, irritability, feeling short of
breath, an increased sweat rate, bodily aches, headache, and fatigue; just to name a few.
Not only do these features affect your personal life, but they can also have an effect on
the people you live with. One anonymous person said that they often snap at their family
members due to heightened stress levels.
Yet, while those human beings with GAD may want to socialize with people and
be free from their stress, many others with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) want to flee at
the very mention of socialization. Social Anxiety Disorder is a disorder that can be
summed up by its very name. Nevertheless, SAD is described as, The extreme fear of
being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations. (Anxiety and
Depression Association of America). When left untreated, this disorder may be the one
that interferes the most in everyday lives. People diagnosed hesitate to go into public
areas because of their fear of humiliation. Statistics from the Anxiety and Depression
Association of America show that SAD most often begins at the age of 13, due to

inherited traits, brain chemistry, brain structure, or negative experiences in school.

Another startling statistic is that about 15 million American adults are diagnosed with
SAD today. Their lack of confidence in social situations often brings about a sense of
shame and loneliness, which can consequently stem into a feeling of self-hatred. Severe
cases can even lead to the sequestering of oneself from the outside world. Perhaps some
cases could be prevented if all bullying or abusive relationships could be stopped.
Negative experiences can not only lead to SAD, but also to Posttraumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). (PTSD) a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur
in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist
incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, violent personal assault such as rape, or other
life-threatening events. (ADAA). Although most people are able to make a full recovery
from any or all of the above, those with this disorder continue to be depressed and
anxious for extended periods of time afterwards. Without treatment, emotional trauma
created from PTSD has the potential to ruin relationships, and with 7.7 million American
adults diagnosed, the severed connections only seem to add up more and more (ADAA).
People with PTSD have nightmares, terrifying flashbacks, and avoid certain places that
are reminiscent of the negative experience that originally caused the disorder. Therapy is
known to help PTSD to go away over time.
Other disorders are not quite as easy to get rid of, even with medication;
especially when they are so easily dismissed by society. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
(OCD) is often joked about when a girl is being particular about how an event must go, or
if a guy wants his hair to fall a certain way. However, most people do not realize the full
meaning of their words. Children and adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

suffer from unwanted and intrusive thoughts that they can't seem to get out of their heads
(obsessions), often compelling them to repeatedly perform ritualistic behaviors and
routines (compulsions) to try and ease their anxiety. (ADAA). Contrary to popular
belief, OCD is caused from intense anxiety and is not easily discovered in the public eye.
Symptoms include ritualistic behaviors to create a facade of security, and unhealthy
intrusive thoughts. Today, the cause is unknown.
A similarly named disorder is Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
(OCPD), yet it is not to be mixed up with OCD. OCPD a mental health condition in
which a person is preoccupied with rules, orderliness, and control. (Medline Plus).
Those with OCPD have high aspirations and become very upset if people interfere with
their rigid standards. However, this disorder is the lone shark that is often dwelling just
below the surface. This is because the main symptom is intense perfectionism. Since this
quality is often present in at least one area of an individual, this makes it very difficult to
filter out the people who actually have this diagnosis. If there is a lack of treatment, some
long lasting effects can include a withdrawal of emotion, as well as a decrease in their
ability to solve problems and to form close relationships.
In the end, what all of these disorders have in common is the resistance of life and
of how it should be lived. SAD prevents people from building connections, GAD entraps
people in stress over trivial tasks, OCD makes people repeat habitual processes to gain a
sense of security, OCPD gifts people with perfectionism and rigidity, and PTSD puts a
persons worst nightmares on repeat.
According to Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher from the age of 400 BCE, happiness
is going where the flow of life takes you. Imagine if life were a river. Swimming

upstream would only tire out your muscles and get you nowhere. In fact, you would just
remain in the same place; desperately struggling to keep your head above the water.
Consequently, Lao Tzu says to swim downstream and with the current. Why cause
yourself more anxiety when you could Simplify your problems. and Be at one with
the dust of the earth. (Tao Te Ching)?
Much like Lao Tzu, another ancient philosopher by the name of Epictetus also
believes in not resisting what is. Furthermore, he supports learning to accept things for
how they are. Don't demand that things happen as you wish, but wish that they happen
as they do happen, and you will go on well. (The Enchiridion). All people with disorders
want to be delivered from humiliation, stress, or all around awkwardness in public
situations, and yet Epictetus refutes this yearning. Instead, he suggests that you embrace
the anxiety and additional feelings that come with it, and then pray that you will be able
to go on well from it. Although a distinct mistake may make the world feel as if it is
crashing down around you, Epictetus reminds us that life will go on. The world will be
there for you til the end.
In closing, anxiety is the main deterrent to happiness. Where there is worry, there
is darkness, and where there is darkness, there is no light to be found. However, there will
always be a light at the end of the tunnel for those who have stress in the form of
medications and in the form of willing ears and hearts.
Happiness is not easily reached, as can be proven by all the information in the
pages before. Various forms of anxiety and physical symptoms that are part of the deal
are often what stops a person from becoming one with the world; some anxieties being
more obvious than others. However, this does not necessarily mean that people with

anxiety cannot be happy; it only means that they may attain happiness through different
means. The next step is overcoming anxiety and striving for success with a contented
mind; with or without the aid of medication and therapy. Judging by the survey, however,
we still have a long way to go. Stress is as much a part of our lives as eating three meals a
day is. In spite of that, we must learn to purge our daily dosage of stress and replace it
with pleasures and aspirations for the long-term. After all, life is like a box of
chocolates; you never know what youre gonna get.

Works Cited
Ava. Personal interview. 6 May 2014.
Forrest Gump. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Perf. Tom Hanks. Paramount Pictures, 1994. DVD.
"Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)." NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
"Inside the Minds of the Perfectionists." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones &
Company, 29 Oct. 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
"Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S
National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 25
Apr. 2014.
"Perfectionism." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.
"Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) | Anxiety and Depression Association of
America, ADAA." Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) | Anxiety and
Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
"Social Anxiety Disorder | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA."
Social Anxiety Disorder | Anxiety and Depression Association of America,
ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
"Symptoms | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA." Symptoms |
Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr.