Anxiety; it’s a funny thing. For some it’s a major part of their life every single day, for others, it can lurk in the dark and rear its ugly head when you least expect it. And for some, anxiety just appears in times of stress, or worry, or before that scary job interview.
And anxiety is A LOT more common than you think… Here are 10 things I really wish people understood about anxiety sufferers:
1. Anxiety doesn’t just affect our minds, it affects our bodies too
It took me a few weeks into my cognitive-behavioural therapy sessions to understand the physical impact anxiety was having on my body. When you have anxiety, your body often adopts a ‘flight or fight response.’ This means you can experience a number of physical sensations whether that be heart palpitations, deep breathing, trembling, sweating, stomach aches or twitching.
2. Confident, outgoing people can have anxiety too
When admitting to the people that I loved that I was suffering, many were surprised that ‘someone like me’ could suffer with mental health problems. I’m very confident and outgoing, I’m not afraid to walk into a room of people I don’t know, or talk in front of a crowd of hundreds. But it’s behind-the-scenes when things can go a bit pear shaped.
Just because someone isn’t a ‘stereotyped anxious person’ (whatever that is), it doesn’t mean they can’t be struggling too.
3. We can’t just ‘snap out of it.’
One of the most infuriating things to hear is someone telling us to ‘just stop being anxious.’ Don’t you think if it was that easy then there wouldn’t be millions of people in the UK suffering with some sort of mental health condition right now?
4. But we also hugely appreciate many people’s empathy and support
When I opened up to two of my manager’s at work, both of them were extremely supportive and understanding of how I’d been feeling. They subsequently put provisions in place to ensure that I felt supported at work – including allowing me to work flexible hours to accommodate my CBT sessions.
For me this was a huge moment, and I finally felt like I wasn’t alone in this absolute shitshow time I was having.
5. Anxiety is NOT a sign of weakness
In fact, those suffering with a mental health disorder have a lot more on their plate than your regular joe.
For a long time I was embarrassed by my anxiety and kept it a closely guarded secret in fear of people thinking that I was weak. Speaking about it has only made me feel stronger and more confident.
6. Anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed about
I used to be so frightened about admitting I was struggling. I didn’t want people to judge me, or look down on me, and I was also worried that speaking openly about mental health would look bad when it came to getting a job.
But the moment I stopped having that mindset, I began feeling confident in myself. It is after all nothing to be embarrassed about. You wouldn’t feel sheepish about telling someone you have a broken leg… so why is it different for a broken mind?
7. Anxiety is not always constant, we sometimes have good days and bad days
For me personally, anxiety tends to be worse when I’m particularly stressed about something, and I’ve experienced 99% of my panic attacks at night, when I’m alone with my mind in bed.
The best days are when I don’t feel anxious at all, the good days are when I’ll have an episode that I can control almost instantly. And the bad days are when anxiety has completely encompassed my entire thoughts – but fortunately that’s rare now.
8. We know, it is frustrating for you…
I know anxiety can come across as selfish. I can imagine how agonising it is for loved ones of anxiety-sufferers who feel at loss with how they can help us.
But please understand that if it’s frustrating for you, it’s ten times worse for us. Do you really think we want to feel the way we do?
9. We’ll speak to our GPs or therapists if we want professional advice
And I don’t mean to say this to sound horrible… but unless you have some experience with mental health, or some sort of medical background relating to psychotherapy, I don’t need your opinion.
I get it, you’re only trying to help, but sometimes the biggest help you can give us is to just listen instead.
10. Depression and anxiety are actually linked
It’s important to remember that not all anxiety sufferers have depression, and not all those with depression have anxiety. However the two can be mutually linked.
I would NOT describe myself as someone with depression at all, however during my CBT sessions I was diagnosed with mild depression. And it didn’t surprise me really. It’s safe to say I’m out of that depressive episode now, and as an outsider, I can completely see the state I had got myself into.
It’s actually really hard to see that you’re suffering with depression of some sort when you’re fully immersed in the situation. I thought my low moods and feeling of not wanting to go out was utterly normal, but now that I feel mentally healthier, I can actually see the problems that I was facing.
For more information about anxiety, visit the Mind website.