Anxiety isn’t like nervousness. Nervousness is an emotion that arises when you are faced with a challenging or intimidating situation. Though it may be all-consuming in the moment, it fades soon after the situation has passed. This is in stark contrast to anxiety, wherein feelings of anxiousness linger even when an intimidating situation is not present.
In my career as an online counselor in Michigan an the rest of the United States, I have worked with multiple individuals as they battle anxiety disorders. Having also personally dealt with silent anxiety, I know firsthand how crippling and debilitating this disorder can be. This week, I want to help raise awareness of this challenging mental condition by revealing a few important aspects of what it’s like to live with chronic anxiety.
What It’s Like To Live With Anxiety
We know we’re being irrational.
This is perhaps the most challenging aspect people living with anxiety face on a daily basis. We know we’re being irrational. Our brains can logically think through the situation we’re facing, and we can tell ourselves that it’s not as big of a deal as we’re making it out to be. Unfortunately, this doesn’t prevent us from feeling anxious.
We can’t turn it off.
We know you’re just trying to be helpful when you say “calm down,” or “try not to worry about it.” We know you mean well, but the fact of the matter is that we can’t simply take a deep breath and move on. That’s the difference between simply feeling anxious about something and living with a chronic anxiety disorder. Even though we know we’re being irrational, we can’t turn our brains off.
We don’t always know why we’re anxious.
Sometimes, we can easily pinpoint the person, event, or situation that triggers our anxiety. At other times, however, the cause is not easily identified. Sometimes, we have no idea why we’re feeling anxious. However, the fact that its cause is not easily recognizable does not make the emotions any less intense or real.
It hits us on a physical level.
Though it originates in the mind, anxiety disorders affect us on physical levels as well as mental ones. It is not uncommon for people with chronic anxiety disorders to suffer from intermittent panic attacks. During these attacks, we may experience heart palpitations, increased muscle tension, breathlessness, and even choking sensations.
We’re dealing with it even when we don’t look like it.
Don’t assume that the only time we’re dealing with anxiety is when we suffer from panic attacks. The truth is that people who suffer from chronic anxiety disorder are always dealing with it. We may appear to be calm and collected on the surface, but underneath this smooth demeanor, our minds are racing. “Are they going to like me?” “Are they going to laugh at me?” “What are they thinking about me?” We can’t turn off the constant barrage of worrisome thoughts that race through our minds.
Compassion is the most helpful thing anyone can give us.
Because most of the time we know we’re being irrational, we’re terrified to talk with other people about our anxiety. It takes a lot of strength and courage for us to open up about our internal struggles. If we are brave enough to discuss it with you, please don’t try to “fix” the situation for us. We know you’re trying to help, but the situation isn’t one that can be fixed by simple logic. The best way you can help us is by simply listening and being supportive, compassionate, and non-judgmental.
Living With Chronic Anxiety? Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Help!
Anxiety disorder affects millions of people in the United States. Despite its prevalence, however, the people affected by it still face a debilitating stigma surrounding their illness. The fear of being judged or misunderstood often prevents people from seeking the help and support they need.
If you are battling chronic anxiety disorder, I hope you’ll find the courage to reach out for assistance. Since I have dealt with silent anxiety firsthand, I know exactly what it’s like to be affected by this mental illness. Through my role as an online mental health therapist, I would be honored to help you find ways to manage your anxiety and, ultimately, to overcome this disorder so you can lead a healthy, happy, balanced life.
Samantha M. Ruth, Transformational Psychologist
Located outside of Michigan? Contact me via Better Help.