Mental health: what are anxiety disorders, at the heart of Florence Foresti’s “Disorders” series?

After Stromae’s latest album, in which the singer pours out his depression, it’s Florence Foresti’s turn to publicly address his mental health. And more particularly the ailments she has suffered from since childhood: anxiety disorders. They are the heart of the series Ordersin reference to anxiety disorders, literal translation of “anxiety disorders”.

Like the comedian, in 2022, one in ten French people has an anxiety syndrome (among which are anxiety disorders), according to figures from the Ministry of Health published in June. These disorders can take different forms: phobias, panic disorder and generalized anxiety. October 10 is World Mental Disorder Day.

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“It’s like when you are very afraid of something very dangerous”explains to franceinfo Antoine Pelissolo, psychiatrist and author ofAnxiety and anxiety disorders (Health Planet, 2015). He takes as an example certain situations that generate fear, such as nightmares, accidents, the risk of aggression, “where you lose control of yourself”. “This is exactly what happens in people with severe anxiety disorders, except that it is triggered for no reason or in a totally disproportionate way”, he continues.

While these disorders are common, they are often misunderstood. Because anxiety is an emotion common to all human beings. But in some people, this emotion can trigger seizures, an increased heart rate or even a panic fear of leaving the house. Anxiety is a fundamental response for our survival”, underlines Anna Beyeler, neuroscience researcher at Inserm. “It is a behavior selected by our evolution so that the human being can avoid the dangers.”

This is why we must distinguish between fear and anxiety. “Fear is the physiological (heart rate and breathing, which increase all levels of alertness) and behavioral response to a danger that is present. Anxiety is the anticipation of danger” as in the presence of traces of a predator, although it is not present, continues the researcher. “The anxiety disease is when this anxiety becomes chronic and strong in the absence of danger signs”emphasizes Anna Beyeler.

The most important criterion is the inappropriateness of the emotion to the context.

Nicolas Neveux, psychiatrist

at franceinfo

For example, if you are anxious because you are held hostage in Ukraine by the Russian army, it is normal, anxiety, even intense, is not pathological”, abounds Nicolas Neveux, psychiatrist and author of several popular articles on the subject on the site e-psychiatry. Ditto for people who are anxious before an examination, a surgical operation. “On the other hand, if you have an anxiety attack disproportionate to the triggering factor, in your living room, for no apparent reason, it becomes pathological”, adds the doctor. And that therapeutic or medical support is justified. “I wanted to show what it’s like to live with the fear of dying all the timerelates Florence Foresti on a daily basis 20 minutes. In the series, his anxieties come to life, since they are embodied by an actor, credited with “death” in the credits. “I thought it might be good to show it with a character who sticks to your coattails, who intervenes at any time in your life.”

Anxiety disorders are also difficult to assume, because of the prejudices carried by those around them. “The problem is that these disorders are trivializedexplains Antoine Pelissolo. As we have all experienced moments of anxiety, we tend to say that it is not serious, or when we are not making enough effort, that we are not moving.

However, enjoin a person “to move” and stop being afraid, “It’s like asking a person with Parkinson’s disease to stop shaking. You can do it, it will be impossible for them. There is something wrong with the brain, they cannot stop”abounds Anna Beyeler.

Several studies have found that in anxious patients, two regions of the brain are particularly involved: the amygdala and the insular cortex. “But these are not the only regions that are, because they are embedded in complex circuitsshe says. We don’t yet know how it works, or why. This is the object of my work: to try to identify why these regions are overactivated.”

To overcome these disorders, several solutions exist, medicinal or psychotherapeutic. Recognized scientifically, cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT) allow the patient to confront his anxieties, deconstruct them, while being accompanied by a professional trained in these therapies.

“It’s very difficult to do”specifies Stéphane Rusinek, doctor in psychology at the University of Lille Nord-de-France and former president of the French Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy (AFTCC). “There are a lot of things to deal with, including sometimes very violent thoughts and physiological reactions. If a person has a phobia of dogs, it is important not to take their hand, put it on the dog and say: ‘Here , you see it’s easy’. Because it’s anything but easy.”

Other therapies may also relieve some symptoms. Relaxation, sophrology or even hypnosis are often cited. However, these can “relieve at the time, but not necessarily treat in the background”, nuance Antoine Pelissolo. The “TCC are complex methods that teach you to confront anxieties, but being accompanied by a therapist who must be trainedhe insists. The TCC can integrate meditation, but it is part of a more global therapy”.

In addition to these therapies, professionals also recommend consulting a psychiatrist or general practitioner. “They are the only ones qualified to make a diagnosisrecalls Nicolas Neveux. Anxiety is a symptom identified in many illnesses” and can thus hide a pathology. “When it comes to mental health, people think there is no need for a diagnosis, when it is vital. Even if we are talking about a panic disorder, you have to do things in the right way. the right order”insists the specialist.

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Mental health: what are anxiety disorders, at the heart of Florence Foresti’s “Disorders” series?

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