By: Erin Rose Hennessy and Emily Eileen Moreshead
When some people hear the word anxiety, they may think “someone who worries” or “oh, you mean like worrying about an upcoming exam? I get anxiety too!” Others nod their head in sympathetic understanding, knowing that anxiety is so much more than “worrying a lot”. Having an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, among others, is much more debilitating than that.
We cannot understand the scope of anxiety unless we have it, despite wanting or trying to get a handle on it. Anxiety is something that is felt more than understood. You feel with every sense in your body how it wreaks havoc on your sense of normalcy.
Anxiety is stomachaches, headaches, trouble sleeping, feeling like you’re going completely crazy. Anxiety is watching everyone else go about life and wondering why you can’t just go along with the crowd and “be normal.” Anxiety can be what keeps you from exploring your goals, taking extra steps to success, or even what keeps you from going to the store or being around other people. Anxiety can be a very scary, lonely thing. Yes, people with anxiety do tend to worry – over and over again. We keep going back to the same things and asking ourselves if we could have handled it better. If we could have chosen to do something different. Having anxiety is, in a word, exhausting.
And sometimes that exhaustion causes more anxious behavior and panic, a disorder that stops you in your tracks and quite literally causes intense stress magnified times ten thousand.
Anxiety affects everyone differently. If you know someone with anxiety in your life – ask them specifically how you can help them. Ask them what their triggers are. Ask them what would make things a little less anxiety producing. And most importantly, listen to them when they are speaking to you. One of the most important things for anxious people is to feel heard and that people are at least trying to understand us.