A deep-seated darkness pervades your mind, clouds your thoughts, and singes your eyes. A heaviness rests on your shoulders, and despite your best efforts, you can't lift it.Try harder, they tell you. Unable to breathe or see clearly, this is what anxiety feels like.
Everyone has anxiety. Having anxiety doesn't make you abnormal; it would be pathological if you didn't experience anxiety. Every day stresses, especially the demands of college, make us anxious. Anxiety is a normal part of life. While normal anxiety allows for a break and relief, anxiety disorders are relentless.
Normal anxiety is typically brought on by a stressor (an exam, finances, etc.) while an anxiety disorder is pervasive across all domains. Normal anxiety may make you self-conscious in social situations, but an anxiety disorder can lead to the avoidance of social situations altogether. Normal anxiety is rational, short-lived, and does not interfere with your everyday life but an anxiety disorder is irrational, chronic, and interferes with your everyday life.
Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, selective mutism, and specific phobias all operate under the larger title of anxiety disorders. Just because you experience anxiety does not mean you have an anxiety disorder.
If you experience anxiety, that does not give you the right to invalidate anyone's experiences. People are different, and therefore experience and deal with anxiety differently. No one has the right to say "I have anxiety too; just get over it." If you can "just get over" your anxiety, congratulations; you don't have a pathological disorder. You also don't have the right to invalidate someone else's experience because your own experience does not align with his or hers.
When you invalidate the feelings of another by downplaying anxiety, you also invalidate the experience of the 40 million Americans living with an anxiety disorder. It's important to remember that anxiety disorders are often comorbid with depression, PTSD, bipolar, ADHD, eating disorders, and other disorders. Fortunately, anxiety is highly treatable. Whether you are experiencing temporary anxiety due to stressors or you are dealing with chronic anxiety, there is help, and there is hope.
If you are struggling with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, check out these fantastic resources. Note that any tests listed below are only for educational purposes, and you should consult a doctor for a diagnosis. Additionally, self-help strategies may not be sufficient, and you should contact a doctor for treatment if needed. You can see a family physician, who may be able to prescribe you something for anxiety relief or refer you to a psychiatrist. You can also find a therapist near you.