Anxiety: When do you ride it out and when do you seek help?

Whether it's over family or work, even climate change or national headlines, we've all experienced some degree of anxiety. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, says it's the most common mental health concern in the United States, with 19 percent of adults experiencing an anxiety disorder.

So when is it something you just ride out, and when does it become something for which you should seek help?

Dr. Kaz Nelson, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota, told MPR News host Tom Crann some degree of anxiety is good.

“It's kept us alive over eons and eons,” she said. “Without a mechanism to scan for and avoid danger, we would probably be walking off a cliff or walking up to dangerous animals, and that wouldn't bode well for the survival of our species. But here's the thing, Tom: Sometimes those danger signals that were meant to prepare us for running from a bear are sometimes triggered in a way that doesn't quite match the situation.”

Nelson said individuals should talk to a doctor when anxiety interferes with their day-to-day lives, or when they’re avoiding social scenarios that trigger anxiety.

To hear more, including how anxiety is treated, click play on the audio player above.

This reporting is part of Call To Mind, our MPR initiative to foster new conversations about mental health.

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