Gallery Gallery of Art

The Faces of Anxiety

“How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see.”[1]

Bob Dylan “Blowin’ in the Wind” 1962

This line from Bob Dylan’s iconic song could have easily been written about society’s attitudes toward mental illness. The Faces of Anxiety was my thesis project at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU). Many people suffering from mental illness do not get the help they need because mental illness is often dismissed and ignored. The project focused on one particular group of mental illnesses, called General Anxiety Disorders, through the creation of three masks.

Generalized anxiety disorders are some of the easiest disorders to dismiss. It should, however, be understood that mental illness is an illness like any other medical condition and should not be feared or ignored but understood, diagnosed, and treated.

The Faces of Anxiety

01 Turmoil

As many as two thirds of people suffering from mental illness do not get the medical help they need, [2] and anxiety disorders are one of the most common forms of mental illness. Anxiety disorders are diverse. They can be rooted in a fear of a specific situation, for example a fear of public speaking is called Glossophobia. Some suffering from an anxiety disorder called Agoraphobia can be completely debilitated by their fear of the outside world and are not able to leave their home at all. These types of anxieties are commonly called General Anxiety Disorders or “GAD”.[3] Health Canada estimates that the cost to the taxpayer is about $4.7 billion annually in direct health care costs for these disorders, making mental illness the third-largest direct budgetary cost to the health care system and it is growing. Health Canada estimates that general anxiety disorders are increasing at a rate of 12.2% per year which is greater than disorders like schizophrenia and eating disorders.[4] General Anxiety Disorders (GAD) can be, and most often are, a constant problem for those who suffer and may go undiagnosed for years before being correctly diagnosed and properly treated. The biggest problem is that most general practitioners are not trained to recognize the presence of GAD in their patients and most often misdiagnose their patient’s symptoms as another medical condition such as irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies or even high blood pressure. This causes a great strain on the medical system with unnecessary tests and the use of medical facilities which cost millions of dollars each year.[5]

The Faces of Anxiety

02 Waves

I chose to represent three stages of anxiety. Those being the beginning “Turmoil” where there is confusion and a lack of understanding by the sufferer. The midpoint “Wave”, where irrational fear set in. Then “Caged” where anxiety is at its height and the suffer feels out of control of their emotions. I stopped there because this is where the journey to recover begins for most people. The faces are meant to enlighten non suffers and suffers alike, and enable them to have common ground upon which to start a dialogue that may lead to a better understanding of the problem they both face. For without knowledge there can be no moving forward and change society’s attitudes toward mental illness.

The Faces of Anxiety

03 Caged

[1] Dylan, Bob. “Blownin’ in the Wind.” The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Columbia Recording Studios, 1962. CD.

[2]“About the Campaign.” Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

[3] Dugas, J. Michel, et al. “The Econmic Burden of Anxiety Disorders in Canada.” Canadian Psychology (Special Section), 45 (2004): 2. Print.

[4] Ibid. p3

[5] Geenberg, P.E., et al. “The Effects of Chornic Medical Condition on Work Loss and Work cutbacks.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 43,(2001): 218-225. Print.

The Making of

The Faces of Anxiety

OCADU Thesis exhibition, featuring interactive video installation.