5 Ways To Explain Anxiety To Someone Who Doesn't Suffer From It

5 Ways To Explain Anxiety To Someone Who Doesn't Suffer From It

Here is what it can feel like, coming from someone who has it.
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If you are asking yourself if you have anxiety, then you don't. Not the crippling kind anyway. Millions of people have anxiety before a test, presentation, job interview, or some stressful event in their life. However, some of us have anxiety that cripples us before the simplest tasks. It can be hard to understand, so here are 5 things that can sort of be explained regarding anxiety.

1. It just feels like a cloud of negativity that you can't shake.

Carrying a burden can feel so hard to handle, and anxiety is like one that you can't get rid of. It is always weighing on your shoulders. It doesn't leave after that big test. It doesn't disappear after you finally finished moving somewhere new. It is always there.

You might wake up thinking it's going to be a good day but then you just get this sense of doom. You think if you drive too far you might get in a car accident. You worry that you forgot your homework assignment and now it is too late to finish it. It can keep you laying in bed all day just hoping that nothing bad happens to you or anyone that you know. It doesn't have to be caused by anything. It is unwelcome and very unwanted.

2. Out of nowhere, anxiety causes you to just completely panic.

There can seemingly be no reason for it. Out of nowhere, you can feel lightheaded, have a hard time breathing, your heart beats hard and fast, you feel lost, and you might even get sick or pass out.

These panic attacks come out of nowhere, and they are crippling. I used to have bad panic attacks as a kid and I thought I had outgrown them. Recently, they are back in full swing. It cripples you and there's not a lot that you can do about it. It's like a haze that overcomes you and you drown in it while the world keeps pretending that you are fine.

3. Panic attacks and fear can keep you bedridden.

If someone cancels plans with you because they have anxiety, please be understanding. It makes you afraid of the world sometimes. I have had days where I don't go to class because I feel panicked. I feel like something bad is going to happen and I am only okay in the comfort of my own home.

I have had events that I really look forward to but can't attend because they are triggers for me. I am sensitive to heat and it causes my anxiety to escalate quickly. I also hate big crowds. The event was outdoors in 103-degree heat with a record-setting crowd. I went home and cried in my bed because I felt like I let people down.

4. We don't want to miss out on things, but we do.

We don't choose to miss events. We don't choose to have sudden panic attacks. I once had someone in my life that called me crazy because of this. He had me believing it, which is terrible to do to someone who suffers from anxiety. Never call someone crazy, insane, or unjustified if they have anxiety. We aren't. It is just as debilitating as a physical disease.

We can't think, we can hardly move, and sometimes we can't even breathe. It comes out of nowhere, and it doesn't let go. We want to be just as social as other people, but we just can't. If that is someone's trigger, don't pressure them into it. Don't feel bad about it. I have lost friends because I am too anxiety-ridden to hang out like they want. It sucks. Anxiety has you crying in your bed because you want to do something but your mental health lets you down.

5. Anxiety annoys us just as much as it annoys you.

We aren't always reliable. We back out on things. We have to stay home. We aren't always the life of the party. We get it. We wish that anxiety would go away too. It is our life and we hate it.

Anxiety can't always be explained perfectly well. Maybe that is why the world makes it seem like you are crazy and lying when you try to tell people. I have missed classes because of panic attacks but had to make up some other excuse because I knew that it wouldn't be justified.

Next time someone tells you they have high anxiety, try to understand them. If they need you to leave, don't take it personal. It overwhelming, and questions usually just make it worse. Help them when they are ready to be helped. Understand what they are going through. Most importantly of all, love them no matter what. We need it.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
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It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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No, I'm Not 'Just Shy,' I Have Social Anxiety Disorder

Mental illness is not, and never has been, black and white.
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The other day, my parents and I were talking about mental health, and I was being very honest about my experiences for one of the first times. It's always been hard to talk about, and I know it's hard for my parents to hear, since I isolated myself and wouldn't let them help, despite them being completely willing to. But it really hit me why they hadn't known something was wrong, aside from my willing isolation: "When I was younger, we just didn't talk about anxiety or depression."

As someone who grew up with what I thought was fairly visible social anxiety, it just hit me that parents might not know exactly what social anxiety is in children, and it's one of the few mental disorders that often does show up in early childhood.

However, it's so often dismissed as "oh, they're just shy!" by parents, and that creates a dual problem: parents don't know something is wrong with their child, and their children don't know either, because they believe that the persistent anxiety they experience is just shyness.

This then leads into people also not recognizing it in adolescence, because at that point social phobias are confused with agoraphobia--people assume that if you get out and do things, you don't have social anxiety.

This could not be more wrong.

For me, looking back, I saw the signs even when I was very very young. I had a very hard time with new adults or overstimulating situations, meeting new people was hard, and having friends over was stressful. But it didn't start to get memorably bad until midway through elementary school--that was when my "shyness" turned, unbeknownst to me and everyone around me, into something more.

I remember not wanting to have friends over anymore, because I was scared they'd judge me and because I didn't know how to entertain them. Buying things for myself at stores was very, very difficult, and even seeing people I knew at stores was stressful.

The biggest issue honestly became food. I've grown up with body image issues for just about as long as I can clearly remember, though it probably turned really bad when I started to hit puberty early, in about the fourth or fifth grade. Ordering food was a nightmare when my parents didn't do it for me, and it was especially a problem if it was stereotypically unhealthy. I have a very vivid memory of my mom offering to give me money to buy a snow cone in the height of July and not having the courage to go do it.

Especially in junior high and high school, eating with friends was like calculus. I never ordered based on what I wanted to eat. I ordered based on what I could get while remaining under the radar. If I got something "too healthy." in my mind, that would earn a comment, but if I got something too unhealthy, people would think I was fat. Of course, this was totally ridiculous, my friends probably wouldn't have cared.

It was a huge issue for me because my anxiety amplified everything.

Shopping on my own was awful too - I swore I could feel everyone's eyes on me, I could practically feel total strangers judging me based on what I wore. Again, in reality, honestly, no one likely cared. But it caused me enough distress where I stopped doing things with friends, almost exclusively went shopping with my mother until about the tenth grade when I started to get therapy.

Even then, it was difficult until I started anxiety medication--I remember before my first date with a guy I really really liked (and my first date ever) having at least two full blown panic attacks, crying, almost throwing up, and then going to meet him.

Social anxiety was a huge player in my life for a long time.

However, for many of you who know me and are reading this article, you'll be thinking "That doesn't sound right." You might be thinking, "Rachel, you did speech and debate and did okay." or "But you had friends and did clubs and extracurriculars!"

To those around me, I probably didn't seem like the socially anxious kid. But it's only because I learned to hide it.

Yes, I did speech and debate. I also had panic attacks before every speech and I swear my heart rate didn't dip below 100 beats per minute through a whole tournament. I did it to acclimate myself to the anxiety. I joined clubs--but did I interact with people outside the club? Not really. I did have friends, but when they offered to do something with me, I always had an excuse.

Always.

I was high functioning with my anxiety, but it was awful to live with.

I have never been "just shy."

Social anxiety is more than never leaving the house.

Plenty of people deal with it and likely don't show the signs that we think are obvious, and don't get the help they need. But if we're more aware and help people realize, it can do amazing things. Now that I have therapy and medication, I go out with friends, I can go buy food or things I want on my own, and I have had a healthy romantic relationship, something I never thought I'd be able to do, all because I got the treatment I needed.

So if you're experiencing distress because of social situations, or if someone you love is, they might not be "just shy." Look for more than the obvious--mental illness is not, and has never been, black and white.

Cover Image Credit: @theswirlblog

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