An anxiety disorder is not worrying too much. It is not an excuse to “get out” of doing certain things. It is not an emotion nor is it a person just creating imaginary problems to gain sympathy. Anxiety disorders are a very real thing for many people. We all get anxious from time to time, when this problem becomes excessive, when worry becomes uncontrollable and highly upsetting. When it interrupts everyday activities and morphs into a seemingly unstoppable force – this is when you need see your GP as you may be experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder. You are not alone, along with depression, anxiety disorders are the most common of mental health problems. These disorders are treatable with many highly effective methods. There is no one size fits all instant cure. Recovery takes time, patience and understanding. You may get better only to get worse again. Like myself with Schizophrenia, you may just have to learn to live with it. Reaching out for help leads to putting you on a path towards understanding your anxiety, accepting it and learning how to kick its arse on the daily.
There are quite a few types of Anxiety disorders. Let’s talk about Social anxiety Disorder (SAD) first. We can all get nervous about walking into a room full of people, the fear of doing or saying something that’s pure cringe, making tits of herself in front of others, being self-conscious, feeling like everyone is judging you waiting for you to slip up or just worrying about how others see you. Social anxiety is like this expect it’s there pretty much all the time, consuming your every thought, stopping you from enjoying life and making most social interactions unbearable. This may not be the case for some, Social Anxiety may come and go but for many who are really in desperate need of help, this is their reality. SAD does not necessarily mean the person has zero social skills. The loveliest, friendliest individuals can be a Social Anxiety sufferer, who just wants to make a good impression, wants to be liked the same as most of us but SAD turns this into a genuine fear of being disliked. Which in turn can make the person avoid certain social situations, be extremely self-conscious and hide from the world. What might seem like a standard awkward or embarrassing moment to the person with SAD can seem like the end of the world. People with Social Anxiety have a clear understanding that all of this is complete irrationality. They know their fear is excessive but there is no off switch. It is not their fault they are experiencing these feelings, even the most outgoing of people can be hit with Social Anxiety. Being scared of the world is not a nice place to be. So if you know someone with SAD go easy on them. I can guarantee that they’re trying their best to overcome it.
Panic Disorder is when someone has regular panic attacks. Let me tell you from personal experience these aren’t pretty. I cannot summarise a panic attack in a paragraph so next week’s blog will be all panic attack related where I will discuss them in full. Also a few tips on how to prevent an oncoming attack and how to stop one.
Another anxiety disorder is Agoraphobia. With panic attacks being as terrifying as they are, it’s not surprising to learn that people who have had one of these bad boys tend to be afraid of experiencing one again. Sometimes when a person has had many attacks or suffers from Panic Disorder they believe avoiding the place where they had an attack/s will prevent another one from occurring there. For example, if the person has had a panic attack in the cinema, they will stop going there. If they had one while shopping, they avoid the shops and stick to buying online. If they had one in the park, no more park. While on a plane, no more holidays abroad. In the pub. No more going out. An attack at work so they started calling in sick. They might have had one walking down the street so they start staying inside 24/7. You can see how this escalates. Agoraphobia can start with avoiding certain places, hiding from familiar panic attack inducing situations and hiding away from anything that may cause them to panic. There are varying degrees of the disorder. Agoraphobia is a slippery slope that without the right help can easily manifest into a fear of leaving the house. People with severe Agoraphobia basically hide themselves away from the world and end up locking themselves in a very lonely bubble full time. Treatment for Agoraphobia is gradual, introducing the idea of the place/situation/area, imagining it and eventually over time physically going there. Overcoming their fear takes time, no one with Agoraphobia should ever be forced or pushed. This is a job for a professional who can work with the individual to make sure they are at ease with the process.
One of the most common disorders is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). People with GAD can suffer emotionally and physically from the disorder. It can also effect behaviour and interfere with sleep. Symptoms include excessive worrying, lack of concentration (mind going blank), always thinking the worst in situations, panic over indecisiveness, distress, restlessness, inability to relax or let go of worry. This then causes a range of physical symptoms like stomach sickness, headaches, profuse sweating and muscle aches, to name a few. Feeling constantly anxious over everything will understandable affect a person’s mood and behaviour. They may feel depressed, irritable and constantly on edge. We all get anxious about stuff so I’m sure it is easy to imagine being chronically worried and obsessing over every little thing is exhausting. Generalised Anxiety Disorder is not simply being stressed.
It is more like a person that follows you everywhere and tells you that you’re shit. Tells you that you left the straightener on, the house is going to burn down and it’s all your fault. Everyone hates you. Let us reminisce about every awful thing you have ever done. That top makes you look rotten. State of your hair. State of your life. Think of all the horrific accidents your family members could have. They might be in grave danger right now. If you go to work you are obviously going to make a massive mistake and get in trouble. If you don’t go everyone is going to call you a failure. But everyone will be delighted not to have to put up with your stupid face. And your annoying voice. What’s up with that anyway? You should seriously consider never speaking in front of people again. Why didn’t they text back? Probably fed up of you. Not answering their phone either. Hey what if they died? You have so much to do, best to put it all off, hey nobody better than you to make a mess of everything, am I right? Come on get up your arse and just get on with it, why are you so lazy. You’ve had that headache for a while now, maybe it’s a brain tumour. What if it is and you die and all your family is heartbroken. Or what if nobody cares. Why are you even worrying about this stuff, some people have real problems stop being a dick. Instead why don’t you reflect on that time you said that stupid thing and everyone laughed at you. Why are you crying now? PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER. Chin up. Okay. Now the other one.
The anxiety monster is just a mean little voice that people with anxiety are plagued by. They are not being dramatic or looking for attention, they cannot just get over it nor did they choose to have anxiety in the first place. There are several other types of anxiety disorders and it is quite common to have more than one. It’s also quite common to have depression along with anxiety.
Anxiety is best treated through medications and talk therapies. There are also apps available like Pacifica to help track your anxiety. Many books about anxiety are available and certain support networks. Everyone with anxiety is different and has unique triggers which cause anxious thinking and attacks. If you know someone with anxiety and you want to help, listen to them if they want to talk about their anxiety. Try to make concreate plans to eliminate any uncertainty, be understanding when they need space sometimes and try to appreciate what might seem straight forward and simple to you like making a phone call, might be something more complicated and distressing for someone with anxiety.