I have spent most of my entire life suffering with generalized anxiety/panic disorder. If you have never suffered from an anxiety disorder, it can be difficult to understand just how debilitating it can be. I am an introverted extrovert. Most everyone along the way of my life would likely never know how badly I have suffered from anxiety.
There are 5 different types of major anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social phobia.
We all have feelings of anxiety, worry and fear sometimes. It is a normal response in stressful situations. Anxiety can be good as it give us awareness of potentially harmful or difficult situations. This is the “fight or flight” reaction most people have. For most people, once the threat you are facing is over, your body then returns to it’s normal state.
For someone with a generalized anxiety disorder, feelings of fear, worry and danger can be ongoing even when a stressful situation is long over or if the stressful situation has never even happened.
Anxiety can strike at any moment of your day. Seemingly out of nowhere panic can consume you.
Mental Symptoms of Anxiety
- Racing thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of dread or impending doom
- Heightened alertness
- Problems sleeping
- Change in appetite
- Wanting to escape from your current situation
Physical symptoms of anxiety
- Rapid breathing
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
- Rapid heart beat
- Stomach ache and nausea
Anxiety disorder feels like….you are watching your beautiful children play. They are laughing and running so free from the world’s worries. They make you feel so much joy and love that could never be expressed in words. Most parents watch their children and they do worry about them getting hurt. Skinned knees are not so uncommon for kids. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, your mind will shift from joy to your only focus being that your sweet child will get hurt. Not just a skinned knee or bump on his head. Your mind takes you to the absolute worst places. You visualize your child falling and breaking all of his bones and being paralyzed for life. You experience physical symptoms of anxiety. Your chest hurts and it’s hard to breath. You sweat and shake from being so nervous. You try to smile and pretend to love every minute of their play but your mind wants you to pull them from play, lock them inside the house and wrap them in bubble wrap.
Anxiety disorder feels like watching your child run down the sidewalk with friends. They are racing and so fast. They are pretending to be the flash or sonic and the fastest runner in all the world. You appreciate their imagination and it makes you smile because your child is so happy. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, your mind will shift. All you can visualize is your carefree child tripping and hitting their head on the concrete causing a brain injury that will cause eventual death. You start to feel irritable. Sweaty, shaky, short of breath. Begging for this moment to end. Maybe you can encourage the kids to run in the grass instead is what you think. Will this race ever end on this long sidewalk of doom??
Anxiety disorder is being invited to attend a party or dinner with friends. You are looking forward to that time to enjoy away from every day life. Talking with other adults and laughing all evening sounds amazing. The day comes for the event and suddenly anxiety decides to visit. If you go to this event and leave your home, your house will catch on fire and your home will be destroyed. If you go to this event, your child will certainly have to go to the hospital while you are gone, with an injury so severe that you will not make it to the hospital before they die. If you go to this event, you will get into a car accident on the way and die leaving your family and friends without even saying goodbye. If you make it to the event, you will say something to offend someone. You will say something that will make all of your friends want to abandon you for life. Before you even leave to go to the event, you have decided the worst possible outcomes if you do go. The mental and physical torment is so severe. You don’t go.
Anxiety disorder makes going to public places difficult sometimes. All of the people, sounds, smells, lights and movements can be unbearable. There have been times I have had to walk out of a grocery store because I became too overwhelmed by the chaos. It feels like you are suffocating.
Anxiety disorder is broken relationships. Romantic and platonic. Anxiety causes you to self sabotage. The over thinking fear of messing up the relationship ends it before you even begin. You consider every possible negative outcome that you will create to push people away. So you find a reason to just end the relationship so you don’t end up looking like a fool when you screw it all up.
Anxiety disorder makes you worry about the way that you look. Not in the average insecure way. Anxiety makes you think the way that you look will create a bad situation. As a woman, if your pants are too tight or your shirt is too low cut, you will be attacked, raped and killed. If your clothes aren’t modest enough, people will think you are trying to get attention. If your clothes aren’t fresh and neat, people will think you are frumpy and lazy so they won’t like you. If your hair is too messy, people will think you are dirty and not want to be near you.
Anxiety disorder makes it difficult to rest and relax. You lay in bed at night and consider every situation that happened throughout the day and how wrong you reacted. “Why did I say that? I bet that person I said it to, is thinking I am a fool”. You relive all of the past situations that you feel like you made a fool of yourself. You consider being faced with the same situation in the future and how next time, you will do things differently if anyone will even talk to you again. Maybe you should just not talk anymore. That sounds like a safe solution. You can spend all night going through everything that you believe has gone wrong or will certainly go wrong in the future.
Anxiety disorder makes you laugh at the wrong time. Say the wrong thing. Do the total opposite of what you know you should do.
Anxiety is a prison inside of your mind that you cannot escape. It is constant fear of the worst possible outcomes. It is a feeling of being out of control. You are in constant “fight or flight” mode. You lack concentration as you cannot focus on the present moment.
Some people will tell you to “just relax” or “stop freaking out”. This only amplifies the symptoms because then irritability and anger enter the equation. What the fuck is wrong with this person? How can they tell you to “just relax”? Don’t they understand that this is a real fucking crisis situation? Don’t they know that if you could “just relax” you would? No one even tries to understand! This is all anxiety talking.
There are many reasons someone may suffer from an anxiety disorder. Trauma, stress due to an illness, other mental health disorders such as depression (I wrote my experience here, Depression), substance abuse and also anxiety disorders can be hereditary.
There is hope. Truly. There is. I cannot begin to know what will help every person suffering from anxiety. I can only share my experience. I do believe this might be a lifelong struggle that I must keep in check. Prevention is the best chance for keeping anxiety disorders under control.
Here are some treatment options. This is not an exhaustive list.
- Medication – There are some benefits to pharmaceuticals. They can help with treatment of your symptoms so you can get to the root cause of your anxiety. (I have used medication in the past and it literally saved my life)
- Therapy – a licensed trained therapist may be able to help work through the root cause of your anxiety. Many times anxiety disorders stem from childhood trauma. (My experience)
- Meditation – Helps you focus on the here and now instead of focusing on the past or the future.
- Exercise – Releases feel good endorphins and can enhance your sense of well-being.
- Diet – Processed foods, sugar, caffeine and high fat dairy foods can increase anxiety. Try eating a balanced healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables for better overall physical and mental health.
A combination of all of these things might be necessary to control an anxiety disorder.
There may come a time when I will need more help. For now I manage anxiety and depression by waking at 5am and completing an amazing morning routine. (You can read about it here, Wake up at 5am! and here, My 5am Morning Routine ). This has been life changing for me. Consistency is the key. It takes hard work to manage mental health disorders.
Be safe and Stay well. ❤