Anxiety, by definition, is "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." Everybody has moments where they feel anxious. However, as of 2015, roughly 40 million people in the United States population suffers from some form of anxiety disorders, not just anxious feelings. These are defined as nervous disorders characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. This is when worry and fear become so constant and overwhelming that they interfere with your ability to function normally.
Mental health can be a difficult thing to talk about, whether you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or not. It can be confusing trying to understand how mental illnesses manifest themselves if you have no personal experience with them. As a person who has always felt a little off and has recently been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I am here to shed a little light on the situation.
There are some common symptoms of anxiety disorders. I asked some of my friends who also suffer from an anxiety disorder to share their experience with me, from when they are having a panic attack, or just from their bad days with anxiety.
Here is a list of 10 things they all had in common:
1. Difficulty breathing
It can be hard to catch a breath, which is terrifying and makes you want to panic even more. It may also be difficult to take deep enough breaths to calm yourself.
Uncontrollable shaking. It can be a slight shake, or it can be so bad that you can't stand or sit still.
Fidgeting with your hair, sleeves, anything you can get your hands on. When I fidget, I mess with the bottom of my shirt or repeatedly rub a soft surface, which could be soft skin, fabric, anything.
4. Feeling extremely worried about the simplest things
A lot of the time, anxiety builds because a lot of things are piling up in your brain, so when the pile gets too high, the smallest addition can make it topple over and cause a panic attack.
From feeling overwhelmed, upset, angry, or just scared.
6. Getting flustered
Stuttering, words not coming out, face heating up from embarrassment, and the inability to do something how you want to do it because your brain feels like it is shutting down.
So many thoughts fly around your head, usually much too fast for you to be able to linger on them. Or maybe your mind picks out one of those thoughts and twists it around, making you think about everything that could go wrong in that situation.
8. Feeling like you are going to (or already have) messed everything up
This usually leads to not wanting to do the thing at all. Maybe it is an assignment that you have been working on and trying to make it look how you want it to look, but it isn't happening, so you get so worked up about it that you give up.
Maybe you are in charge of doing something (anything from cleaning your room or doing homework to a task at work or a major task like ensuring that something important gets done). The more pressure is on the situation, the more anxious you are likely to feel about tackling it.
9. Rapid heart rate
It feels like your heart is going to explode out of your chest. It is painful and scary. This is probably the most common symptom of anxiety.
10. Feeling nauseous
When someone is having a panic attack, their stomach does flips and makes them feel like they are going to throw up and/or makes them feel dizzy.
These are just a few of the common symptoms, and there are many different ways anxiety manifests itself. Some of these may not apply to some people. This is just a general idea of what an anxiety disorder may look like. Some other symptoms may include obsessions and compulsions, sleep problems, body tension, and feeling like you are losing control.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been told, in the middle of a panic attack, that I need to "get over it" or that I'll be fine and it's all in my head. Yes, as a matter of fact, it is in my head. That alone makes it scarier than you can possibly imagine. My own brain is against me, and that thought alone makes me feel anxious and feel like something is wrong with me. Having a mental disability is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of an imbalance in the neurotransmitters that control your mood and behavior, which makes your brain chemistry look a lot different than the brain of someone without a mental disorder, specifically anxiety.
If you know someone with anxiety, the best thing you can do is be there for them. It helps so much to have someone to talk to, or even just somebody to hug. If you have anxiety, you are not alone. You can get through it. You are strong, and I believe in you.