Anxiety is the brain’s standard way of reacting to stress and alerting a person of potential danger. Occasional anxiety is par for the course. However, when anxiousness exceeds the normal bounds and starts to interfere with day to day activities, it becomes an anxiety disorder.
People with anxiety disorder often experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry about seemingly mundane situations. Usually, anxiety disorder involves repeated episodes of a sudden spike of severe anxiety, fear, or terror that peak within minutes.
These anxiety feelings interfere with a person’s daily functioning and are challenging to control. These are also usually out of proportion to the danger causing them and last for a long time.
There are various anxiety disorders, the most common of which are generalized anxiety disorder, clinical anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), agoraphobia, and other individual phobias.
40+ million people over 18 in the United States have an anxiety disorder. While the actual cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, most experts believe that a combination of genetic factors, traumatic or triggering events, and environmental elements are the most likely cause for the development of an anxiety disorder.
With more than 18% of people in the US suffering from an anxiety disorder, it is not hard to imagine that everyone knows someone who has this condition.
Anxiety disorders are not a new phenomenon; it seems a thing that recently has shown up because there weren’t any diagnosis for this condition back in the day. Throughout history, people are living with anxiety disorders, albeit undiagnosed. Not just ordinary people, but politicians, artists, and writers have all suffered from various anxiety disorders.
Today, many celebrities have begun to discuss their experience with anxiety and stress, bringing awareness about the disorders and helping others find ways to deal with the symptoms.
The following are the ten influential figures from the past and present who suffer from anxiety disorder and the impact anxiety disorders have had on their lives.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was a statesman and lawyer who served as President during the most troubled times in American history – The Civil War.
Lincoln seemed to be a serious person from the photographs and descriptions throughout history books and historical accounts. Lincoln suffered many traumatic events throughout his life. He had repeatedly lost those close to him. Lincoln’s mother died when he was just a young child, and at the age of 18, his beloved older sister passed away.
During his life, he has lost ten of his twelve children to death. These losses manifested in deep anxiety throughout his life and his presidency.
Historians and psychiatrists researchers, to a great extent, agree that Lincoln must have had a severe generalized anxiety disorder, based on the letters and journals he has written.
Though he had a severe generalized anxiety disorder, there wasn’t a clinical diagnosis at the time. So, he lived his life undiagnosed and had to find ways to cope with the stress and anxiety he felt. It would have been challenging for him during his presidency. It would have been primarily a concerning problem at the crucial time of the American Civil War.
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet. While little known during her life, she has since been regarded as one of the most influential American poetry figures.
Born in 1830, Emily Dickinson is still one of America’s most beloved literary figures and a world-renowned poet. It’s difficult to diagnose a psychological condition after someone’s death, especially people who have lived before the 20th century.
By analyzing her letters and historical records, researchers and experts have determined that Emily Dickinson started limiting her interactions with people other than her family member after leaving Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.
Though she kept conversing with journalists, other writers, and editors during her entire life, she limited most of her conversations to letter writing, often refusing to meet most of them in person.
Her fear of death also seemed to have contributed to increasing seclusion from social life with her growing age.
Most experts agree that Emily Dickinson suffered from an anxiety disorder, most probably from agoraphobia.
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch artist, has been an exciting case study for psychiatric students worldwide.
You can find numerous theories about the extent of his mental health disorders. However, most experts believe that the famous Dutch artist suffered from various physical and psychiatric diseases.
In addition to epilepsy and bipolar disorder, experts agree that van Gogh also suffered from an anxiety disorder. Experts based their assumption on van Gogh’s stay in an asylum in the late 19th century, during which the professionals there note it as one of his conditions.
Additionally, historians also come across the documentation of his condition in his letters, where he noted that he has fits of anxiety” and “attacks of melancholy.”
Van Gogh also drank excessively, especially absinthe, which might have caused an increase in his mental disorder severity. Researchers are also interested in studying him as a subject in genetic research because of the possible suicide of his younger brother and his sister’s schizophrenic diagnosis.
Suffering from various mental disorders, Van Gogh ultimately committed suicide when he was in his thirties.
Kamila Ann Basinger is an American actress, singer, and former fashion model.
Her struggle with anxiety disorders started when she was just a child. Basinger has social anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. During childhood, her condition was severe enough that her parents thought she had autism.
Her parent took her to professionals who tested her for autism, along with many other psychiatric disorders, but they weren’t able to diagnose her condition correctly.
Kim Basinger has been vocal about her anxiety disorder experiences. She has also appeared in the HBO documentary, “Panic: A Film About Coping,” hoping to raise awareness about these disorders.
Basinger hose psychotherapeutic methods for treating her condition, and though she feels the disorder symptoms have improved, she still seems to have some instances of panic.
Barbra Joan Streisand is a singer, actress, and filmmaker.
She is popular throughout Hollywood and the music industry for being very reclusive. She rarely appears in public. It is surprising that, being a singer, she didn’t perform publicly for almost 30 years of her career. This 30-year seclusion from public appearances, except for some charity events, resulted from an unfortunate event. While performing at a concert in Central Park in New York City, Streisand forgot the song’s lyrics she was supposed to sing. This on-stage mishap led her to develop a fear of performing in public again.
However, after going through treatment, she was able to work through panic attacks and anxiety symptoms to start performing publicly. Streisand said that medication was a significant part of the treatment for her disorder symptoms.
Brian Douglas Wilson is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer who co-founded the Beach Boys.
People often regard Brian as one of the most creative and prolific musicians and songwriters of all time.
Experts agree that his childhood experiences with an alcoholic mother and an abusive father have significantly contributed to his struggle with anxiety and other mental health disorders.
As the Beach Boys founder, Brian is the creative driving force behind the band’s success. However, depression and anxiety have impacted his time with the group, often resulting in refusal to tour or perform with the band.
During the highest points of his career, Wilson self-medicated his mental disorders, often with illegal drugs. Since then, he has found ways to deal with his condition. He had published an autobiography and began to perform publicly. Some reports suggest that his treatment might have included the controversial 24-hour therapy treatment, administered by the now unlicensed clinical psychologist Eugene Landy.
Donald Clark Osmond is an American singer, dancer, actor, television host, and former teen idol.
For people with anxiety disorder, the ever-present stress and other triggers are an almost impossible hurdle to overcome. In the case of Donny Osmond, anxiety resulted in severe panic attacks. His condition was so vile that he would go into the room’s corner, curled up into the fetal position and unable to handle anything.
For Osmond, the stress got triggered by his constant worry of failing in the slow business. This feeling does not only brought him down but also adversely affected his family and their careers.
After struggling with anxiety for too long, Osmond sought help from mental health professionals. His treatment included medications to control and fight anxiety symptoms and panic attacks. After keeping quiet about the anxiety disorder for too long, Osmond finally discussed his struggles in a memoir and the Dr. Phil TV show.
Paula Ann Hiers Deen is an American TV personality and cooking show host.
Some anxiety disorders make a person unable to leave their homes to go about living day-to-day, severely impeding everything from career to personal relationships. It was what happened with Paula Deen, the celebrity Sothern chef. Deen developed an anxiety disorder after the death of her parents. Both her parents passed away when she was in her early 20s, resulting in her growing an intense fear of dying. She suffered from an acute condition of agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia occurs when a person perceives every situation as dangerous or often highly uncomfortable. Paula Deen began to experience panic attacks from her fear of death, and she would often stay in her home for weeks at a time.
Deen relied on religious prayers and other spiritual methods to overcome her anxiety.
Caryn Elaine Johnson, known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, is an American actor, comedian, author, and television personality.
Being in show business, she has to travel a lot. For Goldberg, it was challenging for many years because of her deep-seated fear of flying. This type of specific fear is called aerophobia, which is a form of anxiety disorder.
Usually, people who have phobia undergo cognitive behavior therapy and exposure therapy. Before seeking treatment, Goldberg had to travel via bus, train, or car to get from the East Coast to the West Coast and vice-versa.
Her fear of flying resulted from witnessing a mid-air collision between two planes more than 30 years ago. For her treatment, Goldberg went through an exposure therapy for which she enrolled in a “flying without fear” program.
Howie Mandel is a Canadian comedian and television personality.
In 2009, Howie Mandel informed the world that he has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – a type of anxiety disorder. His condition was in the form of a deep fear of germs. Due to his constant traveling, Mandel carries a black light and a magnifying glass with him to inspect his hotel rooms for germs and bedbugs that might be lurking in the bed or around the room.
Because of his fears of germs on commercial flights, he only travels on private planes. Individuals like Mandel with OCD often become obsessed with rituals and cannot overcome their fears. It happens despite knowing the irrationality of their worries.
Mandel claims to manage his condition with medication and psychotherapy.