The Difference Between Having Anxiety & Having An Anxiety Disorder

The Difference Between Having Anxiety & Having An Anxiety Disorder

Yes, everyone does suffer from anxiety. No, that is not the point.

A while ago I came across this brilliant Odyssey article, which was underlining some very crucial points about how ‘healthy’ people view anxiety. It argues that while everybody gets anxious, not everyone has anxiety. Now, this is a concept on which I am wholeheartedly on board, but I feel like it needs to be framed in a different way.

Mental illness is something that has only started becoming widely-accepted recently. Keywords like ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression' are regularly thrown around, without any real understanding behind the meaning. These misunderstandings cause arguments and friction between those with different viewpoints and this only inspires more prejudice.

In reality, anxiety is a relatively straightforward concept that, yes, everyone does experience. Those who go through the sort of anxiety so wonderfully described in Felicia's post, are actually suffering from a fault--or disorder--in the brain system that controls this emotional response.

What Is Anxiety?

In its simplest terms, anxiety is your fight/flight reflex. It’s a prehistoric alarm system that was built to afford you superhuman qualities when danger is around. Anxiety is what gives mothers the ability to lift cars off their babies, what takes away your need to sleep, eat, relax until the noted problem resolves.

I'm not a Doctor Who fan, but the show once had the most amazing quote, which I noted down for later.

“Fear gives your superpowers. You can do anything when you’re afraid.”

And it's true! It's clear that early man developed this intense reflex to escape from wild animals, fight warring tribes, and protect their family. Unfortunately, as time moved on, society changed and our brains developed around our Limbic System – the prehistoric part – significantly complexifying our emotional responses.

Anxiety & Modern Life

The modern world doesn’t easily tessellate with our anxiety response. Now, immediate survival is not such an imminent concept. Ensuring our safety has become more about long-term success and less about escaping from danger and fighting for our lives. Where stress was once instant and quickly resolved, it now spans over years of employment, mortgage payments, social pressures and much, much more.

While some people – we’ll call them normal people, for want of a better word – can actively shut off these stresses, others cannot. One man may come home from a stressful workday, have dinner with his family and relax for the evening; another could do the same job but worry away a sleepless night agonizing over deadlines, potential mistakes, and growing workload.

Here lies your difference.

You may be anxious about your upcoming job interview, but if that anxiety stops you from eating, sleeping and connecting with you loved ones, then this is a problem. It is the result of a brain whose fight/flight response is firing off relentlessly until the perceived problem goes away. A brain that cannot compartmentalize stresses; can't properly employ the more recently developed neuro-structures that rationalize worry.

This is what it is to have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Mental illness is just what is says on the tin – an illness. By claiming anxiety as solely existent as part of that, it makes it easier for stigma against sufferers to be justified. ‘Normal’ people do suffer from anxiety, so if we simplify our problems to just that, then you can understand why we get responses like ‘just calm down' or ‘cheer up.' To someone with a functioning brain, it is possible to quell anxiety with a change in thinking.

An anxiety disorder, however, is a significantly different kettle of fish. It’s a normal brain function that’s gone severely awry. It shoots off when we get something wrong or make a mistake; it takes our deepest darkest insecurities and relentlessly highlights them in everything we do; we get scared leaving the house, seeing friends or even opening the curtains. It’s a disease that needs to be taken seriously and accepted for what it is.

The mental landscape is an eternally complex thing. Even this explanation is grossly simplified. It's obvious that understanding mental illness will never be black and white, but this is why it's so important to clarify terms and establish a concrete understanding where we can.

There are so many excellent posts out there about life with mental illness; now is the time to have these conversations and share our experiences. If you're an anxiety sufferer, please, please, please leave a comment below and let us know how you relate to this! The more we talk, the more we can help each other!

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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13 Songs That Help Me Through My Panic Attacks

It's easy to become paralyzed by panic attacks, but I've found music to be the best tool to help me cope.


Anyone who struggles with panic attacks knows just how draining and overwhelming they are. It's easy to become paralyzed by them, and once I noticed this, I made a playlist of songs that calm me down. I find that music keeps me grounded, no matter how bad the panic attack may be. Maybe the songs I have listed aren't for you. but I hope that in sharing my main songs that help me, it can spark your brain into finding songs that fit your needs during panic attacks.

In case you don't know some of the songs I have listed, I put a link to each song from YouTube. I hope you enjoy my interesting variety of music!

1. "Weightless" by Marconi Union

Go here to listen.

This song is my go-to song for panic attacks, especially if it's a bad one. For me personally, my heart rate spikes during panic attacks (I'll go from a resting heart rate of around 70bpm to anywhere between 180-200bpm). Evidence suggests this song can slow your heart rate and reduce anxiety and let me tell you... it works 100% for me and I highly recommend it.

2. "Somebody to Love" by Queen

Go here to listen.

I've just always loved this song. There's something about Freddie Mercury's voice that just calms me down and makes me feel like I'm not alone at that moment.

3. "Let it Be" by The Beatles

Go here to listen.

I grew up listening to The Beatles since my mom is from Liverpool, and "Let it Be" is a song that I always associate peace and good memories with. Also, I love the lyric, "When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary calls to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be." It reminds me that there are things about me and this world that I simply cannot change, but I can find peace by letting it be.

4. "Lost in a Sea of Pillows and Blankets" by .anxious.

Go here to listen.

Go here for the full album.

I find this song, and really the whole album, to be extremely soothing. It literally feels like the comfort of pillows and blankets but in the form of music.

5. "1-800-273-8255" by Logic ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid

Go here to listen.

I love this song for many reasons during a panic attack. One, it reminds me that there are other people that have felt or are feeling what I am currently. Two, it reminds me that I have a purpose on this earth, and I am not a waste of space. Three, I just love the awareness it brings to mental illnesses.

6. "Up and Up" cover by Lennon & Maisy (originally by Coldplay)

Go here to listen to the cover.

Go here to listen to the original.

"We're gonna get it, get it together somehow." This main lyric reminds me that I can conquer this moment, and the only direction from this moment is up. Also, Lennon and Maisy's voices are mesmerizing. The Coldplay original is amazing too, I put both for you to check out!

7. "In My Blood" by Shawn Mendes

Go here to listen.

I remember the first time I listened to this; I was actually on the brink of a panic attack. I heard the first lyric, "Help me, it feels like the walls are caving in. Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I just can't. It isn't in my blood." Every lyric in here, which was beautifully written by the way, describes how it feels having a panic attack and having anxiety in general. It reminds me that no matter what, I can make my way out of it. I can win the fight.

8. "Free Spirit" by Khalid

Go here to listen.

Khalid's new album "Free Spirit" came out on April 5, 2019, and I am actually obsessed with it. I find myself immediately playing this album when I open my Spotify. When it comes to the song "Free Spirit," the music is enchanting to me; something about it just immediately calms me down. Not to mention that Khalid's voice is absolutely beautiful. Also, I just love the concept of being a free spirit. Not being tied down by mental illnesses or fear, and having this sort of euphoric peace.

9. "Intro" by Khalid

Go here to listen.

Once again, absolutely mesmerizing. I honestly feel like I'm taken to another world with this song. Something about the music just makes my brain feel so happy, peaceful, and calm. As for the lyrics, they remind me that I need to find my worth and put me first. Sometimes, I put so much of my emotional energy into other people that I have none left for me. I need to keep some of it for me though, because I know that I have worth, but I can never see it, so I need this emotional energy to be able to put myself first and love myself.

10. "Spiegel im Spiegel" by Arvo Part, Angele Dubeau, La Pieta

Go here to listen.

Not gonna lie, I'm a sucker for classical music. There's something about this song in particular that I feel like really captures the feelings of depression and detachment that I experience during a panic attack. It's just another reminder that I'm not alone in this.

11. "Raindrop Prelude: Op. 28 No. 15" by Frederic Chopin

Go here to listen.

Sorry, another classical piece... I just really love it. I feel like it shows the feelings before, during, and after a panic attack. Once again, it's a reminder that I'm not alone.

12. "Cello Suite No.1 in G-Major, Prelude" cover by Yo-Yo Ma (originally by Bach)

Go here to listen.

Last one, I swear! There's just something about this piece that makes me feel so calm and at peace... I don't know how to describe it. It's beautiful, and it makes me feel like there's hope of conquering my panic attack.

13. "Rescue" by Lauren Daigle

Go here to listen.

First, Lauren Daigle is simply amazing. This song in particular, though, reminds me that Jesus is always by my side, and he will never give up on me. He sees me in my trials, and he's fighting this fight with me. It gives me a lot of hope that someday I might not have to deal with these struggles.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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