Anxiety is one of the body’s natural responses to stress. When a person is met with an important event or perceived danger, anxiety can help them to react to that stressor. But when symptoms of anxiety are ongoing or severe, it’s a sign of an anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders, with each subtype categorized by how anxiety appears in the afflicted person’s life.

This episode’s guest, Jess, has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. It’s the most broad and one of the most common anxiety disorders types. In this episode, Jess shares with us that she didn’t recognize her anxious episodes as symptoms of an anxiety disorder – an occurrence that is all too common. Though detection and diagnosis through self-reported measures has ameliorated over the years, anxiety disorders, like panic disorder, GAD, and social anxiety disorder, are one of a handful of disorders that often go undetected, underreported, and undiagnosed

Jess discusses her struggles with anxiety, alongside her past struggles with an eating disorder. She isn’t alone in her struggles with these two disorders, in fact, anxiety has been shown to be the most common psychiatric comorbidity amongst people who have eating disorders. 

Fast Facts

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in young people. It is estimated that, on a global scale, 3.6% of 10- to 14-year-olds and 4.6% of 15- to 19-year-olds experience an anxiety disorder.In addition to life-interfering fears and worries, symptoms of anxiety in children can include irritability, anger, trouble sleeping, and physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches.According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, the optimal way to manage anxiety in children and youth is through a combination of psychoeducation, psychotherapy, and/ or pharmacotherapy.

Learn More about This Episode’s Cool Research

Eating disorders are commonly associated with other psychiatric illnesses, like anxiety (as mentioned above) and depression. One such illness is Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, a condition where a person perceives a distorted version of their own body and becomes preoccupied with it. BDD as a common comorbidity of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, or simply “anorexia”, has been investigated since at least the early 2000s. Thanks to the research of Dr. Jamie Feusner, who we talked to for this episode, we are gaining a better understanding of the potential mechanisms that contribute to anorexia and BDD, and how they may be linked.

In a first-of-its-kind neuroimaging study, using a technology that measures brain waves called electroencephalography (EEG), Dr. Feusner found that individuals with anorexia may have abnormalities in the way they process and perceive certain types of visual information. For example, holistic, or configural, processing (e.g., seeing the face as a whole) was found to be deficient in people with anorexia while the perception of part-based, or detailed, processing (e.g., seeing the features… two eyes, a nose and a mouth… of a face) was enhanced. Taken together, these results could help explain why people with anorexia tend to fixate on particular body parts while placing less emphasis on the whole body. In people with BDD, results showed that these individuals may be experiencing abnormalities in the way they structurally encode visual information, which could contribute to the perceptual distortions that are a hallmark symptom of the disease. This research from Dr. Feusner provides an exciting avenue for the use of EEG as a biomarker of abnormal visual processing.  


If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone.

If you are in immediate danger of harming yourself or others, call 9-1-1, or head to your nearest emergency room. You can also call or text 9-8-8 to reach the Suicide Crisis Helpline. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Young people can chat anytime with Kids Help Phone by calling 1-800-668-6868. Services are available in English and French.

Wellness Together Canada provides one-on-one counselling, self-guided courses and programs, and peer support and coaching. Youth can contact this service by calling 1-888-668-6810 or texting WELLNESS to 686868. Adults can contact this service by calling 1-866-585-0445 or texting WELLNESS to 741741. You can also find credible articles and information on their website. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association can help you find resources, programs, or support for yourself or others. Find a CMHA branch in your area here

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health provides Mental Health 101 tutorials and online courses on their website. 

The Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatment has a list of resources for those dealing with mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. 

Anxiety Canada has resources available on their website, along with resources specifically for youth

The National Eating Disorders Information Centre provides resources and support to those in Canada affected by an eating disorder.