Understanding Anxiety Disorders
What's In This Article?
Anxiety disorders are something that’s beyond what you might normally experience in your daily life. Typically, people will have occasional or situationally-driven anxiety. What is it about an anxiety disorder that makes it different from a normal experience?
Anxiety disorders can include feelings of intense distress, panic, fear or terror. These feelings can interfere with daily life, they are uncontrollable, and they aren’t related to any real danger.
Anxiety disorder is a broad term, and there are specific types of anxiety disorders a person may struggle with.
For example, some of the commonly experienced anxiety disorders can include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Specific phobias
- Separation anxiety disorder
It’s possible to have only one type of anxiety disorder or several.
For people who struggle with anxiety, it can be difficult not only because of the symptoms of the disorder itself but also because of the misunderstandings people may have about it. If you have a friend or loved one who struggles with anxiety, the following are eight things they might want you to know.
People with Anxiety Aren’t Weak
There can be a misconception that if you have anxiety somehow it’s your fault or it’s a personal failing. There’s the sense that you need to just “toughen up” that can come from people who don’t understand anxiety disorders. This can come even from well-intentioned people who simply don’t understand what it’s really like to struggle with an anxiety disorder.
Don’t Say “It Could Be Worse”
Often friends and loved ones of people with an anxiety disorder will try to make them feel better, but it can actually do more harm than good.
One example is saying “it could be worse” to someone who’s experiencing symptoms of their disorder.
This makes the very real symptoms a person is feeling seem minimized or silly when that’s not the case.
It’s Not About You
When you care about someone who has anxiety, it can be difficult for you because the person may not want to be around you, or may become upset or even angry with you. These can be symptoms of the anxiety disorder, and it’s not personally about you.
It’s not your fault, just like it’s not the fault of the person struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety is a disorder rooted in the brain, and just as someone who struggles with it may have to remind themselves of this over and over, as a friend or loved one, you may have to do the same.
As a friend or loved one of someone with anxiety, it’s worth knowing that it doesn’t always appear as just worrying. Anxiety disorders are complex, and the symptoms can be as well. For example, symptoms of anxiety can also include anger and irritation.
Someone With Anxiety Understands Their Fears Are Irrational
More often than not, someone with anxiety, at least at some level, realizes their fears are irrational and unfounded. However, trying to explain this or talk someone out of their anxiety doesn’t and can be frustrating.
One of the biggest issues for people with anxiety is the fact that they do realize the irrationality of their fears, and that makes the situation all the more frustrating. Try not to ridicule someone with anxiety, or talk about their fears behind their back, especially in a mocking way.
Anxiety Is An Invisible Illness—But a Very Real One
When people have invisible illnesses, whether that be anxiety, other mental health disorders or chronic pain, they may isolate themselves because they feel like people don’t take it seriously.
Just because you can’t see anxiety, doesn’t mean it’s not an illness. Anxiety is not only an illness, but it’s one that can affect nearly every part of a person’s life when they struggle with it.
When you care about someone with anxiety, it’s natural to become impatient or frustrated with them. They may break plans, or have trouble in certain situations. This isn’t something they want, and they probably want you to understand that they can’t help it.
Patience is something you can work on cultivating if you’d like to help someone with anxiety. For example, if you go to a crowded place and your friend or family member experiences a panic attack, you may be upset.
It’s a process to build patience, but it can be one of the most helpful things you do when you care about someone with anxiety.
Anxiety Affects the Body As Well as the Mind
When you have anxiety it’s something that goes well beyond your thoughts and feelings. Your entire body feels like it’s in fight-or-flight mode nearly all the time in severe cases. When you’re in the grips of anxiety, symptoms can include a rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, sweating, and trembling.
Once those acute symptoms wear off, someone with anxiety is likely going to feel fatigued and worn out.
Anxiety can be a paralyzing disorder for the person who experiences it, and it can have a significant impact on the people who love them.
Do you struggle with anxiety and wish there were things your loved ones knew or even your co-workers or people you meet in daily life? If so, share them with us below.