What Does Anxiety Look Like?
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Health and Wellness

What Does Anxiety Look Like?

Anxiety is like having two different people crammed inside your head.

What Does Anxiety Look Like?
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What does anxiety feel like? This is a question that almost impossible to answer. Even if you have anxiety it is almost impossible to explain to someone who does not have anxiety.

First of all, we should address what anxiety is. Anxiety is not just worrying about a big test from time to time or even getting nervous about speaking in front of a crowd. Anxiety is a very real mental disorder that affects nearly 40 million adults between the ages of 18 and 54 in the United States alone. That is 18.1% of the adult population in the US. That means that one out of every five friends you have suffers from anxiety. You may be thinking “that’s impossible. All of my friends are normal.” Do you know what anxiety looks like?

The problem with anxiety is that unless someone tells you that they have anxiety you would probably never know. When you think of someone who has debilitating anxiety you probably don’t think of the person who is heavily involved in campus activities or the person who has no problem making new friends or the person who is known for being well-liked and incredibly sociable, but the truth of the matter is that is it completely plausible for any of these people I have mentioned to have severe anxiety.

So now that we know what anxiety can look like from the outside, what does it feel like from the inside? This is probably the hardest question to address but I am going to try.

Anxiety is like having two different people crammed inside your head. One who is logical and calm and the other who is paranoid and psycho. Some days the logical voice in your head is louder than the paranoid one, but some days the paranoid voice is just overwhelming. This voice is loud and it overpowers your regular thoughts. It’s a bully and once it is going it is almost impossible to stop.

You are wearing that?

You look stupid.

Why would you say that?

Everyone is watching you.

Everyone is looking at you.

Everyone is judging you.

Everyone is studying every inch of you.

Everyone will judge you for saying that.

Everyone will think you are weird if you do that.

You are not good enough.

Now it is perfectly normal for someone with anxiety to be able to keep it at bay. Most people with anxiety do not experience its full effects 24/7. Some people do but not everyone. For most, anxiety is triggered by what it going on in their lives. Lack of sleep, new relationships, stress and other factors can lead to a spike in anxiety. This can all come to a peak with an anxiety attack, not to be confused with a panic attack. Panic attacks are sudden and unprovoked while anxiety attacks have triggers and tend to be less severe than panic attacks. It is common for someone to say they feel like they are dying during a panic attack but what does an anxiety attack feel like?

Because anxiety attacks vary from person to person I can truly only speak from my own experiences. When I am having an anxiety attack, the only thing I can think is “I don’t know.” My ability to make any kind of decision shuts down. Every noise sounds about 3x as loud as it normally would. It seems like the walls and everything around me is moving towards me. My personal space bubble gets really big. Everything from someone asking me if I am okay to trying to walk from one room to another is overwhelming. Any kind of unknown in that moment is stressful and overwhelming. Any and all conversation whether I am involved or not is overwhelming. Overall, my ability to function effectively shuts down.

This is my personal experience but you probably have at least one friend who experiences anxiety attacks and it can be hard to know what to do in that kind of situation. Here is some advice

1. Do not say "calm down."

Saying "calm down" suggests to the person that they are being unreasonable and will stir them up even more.

2. Assume all decision-making ability is gone

To someone having an anxiety attack, the decision between Sprite or water, sit on the bed or sit on the floor can be too much. Do not force them to do anything but do not ask questions. Questions of any kind are overwhelming in that moment.

3. Minimize noise and busniess of the room.

Turn off tv's or other sources of noise. If their phone is rining off the hook, silence it. If there are a lot of people in the room either move to an empty room or kindly ask people to step out.

4. Give the person space

Let me be very clear, this does not mean to leave them alone unless the person specifically asks to be left alone. By this I mean do not have a bunch of people in their space. When someone is having an anxiety attack their personal space bubble gets really big. To them it will feel like someone who is standing 15 feet away is in their space. Try to reduce the number of people to just one maybe even two. Everyone has good intentions and means well but in that moment it is better to have one or two people there than to have 20.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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