Did you know that anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States for people age 18 and over?

Or that affects 40 million adults (18% of the US population)?

Did you know that only 1/3 of people who struggle with anxiety actually get help?

And that women are 2x as likely to be affected?


Those are some staggering statistics, and just some of the information that I shared with families this last Sunday at Irving Bible Church’s Parenting at IBC.

One of the things that sticks out to me when I look at those statistics is that those are only the people who have actually reached out and gotten help. They have seen a doctor, a counselor, a psychiatrist to help with their anxiety.

But what about all the countless number of people who never reach out for help for whatever reason…fear, shame, stigmas, etc?

As I look at those stats I also wonder¬† why women are 2x as likely to be affected. Much of that I believe is because men are often the last to get help. They are the last to admit to someone that they might be struggling with anxiety. My experience tells me that many men struggle with anxiety, but don’t seek the help they need.

Let’s say then that perhaps you are struggling with anxiety. Maybe you are experiencing muscle tension, fatigue, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, edginess, gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea — just some of the symptoms of anxiety — though hard to sometimes tell apart from symptoms of an average day in parenting, marriage and work at times.

But let’s just say that you feel like anxiety might be something you are experiencing.

What could your anxiety be pointing to? What is your anxiety perhaps a symptom of?

It’s important to not only deal with the experience of anxiety, but to address the root cause. And in my experience and in the research (especially the work of Murray Bowen on nuclear family emotional systems), what we often find is that anxiety can by a symptom of many different things, but here is what I often find:

  • Marital conflict — What is the state of your marriage right now? Are you connected and thriving? Or is their disconnect and conflict? Our anxiety often lets us know that something is not right in our marriage.
  • A struggling child — What is happening in the lives of your kid’s right now? Are any of them struggling at school, socially, or at home? Are there perhaps some learning issues, or peer pressure that they are experiencing? Our anxiety often lets us know that something is going on in the lives of our children.
  • Issues a spouse might be facing — What difficulty is your spouse currently facing? Are they struggling with an addiction? Are they depressed or anxious themselves? Do they have a hard time emotionally connecting? Our anxiety sometimes tells us that our spouse is facing a difficult challenge.
  • Emotional disconnect — How connected are your relationships? Your marriage? your family life? Our anxiety can often be a symptom of disconnected relationships that we have.

There are many other things that our anxiety could help us see are not quite right in our lives (and I will explore some of these next week, like spiritual issues), but these are some of the most common. So let me ask you this.

Is is possible that the anxiety you are experiencing is pointing towards one of the possibilities above?

If not, what other possibilities may your anxiety be pointing at in your life?