We all feel anxious before an exam, meeting with the boss, or when we have to ask our parents for a Goa trip. But is this the same as anxiety? No, it is not.
Most think anxiety is just a normal feeling that will go away easily and that is true if one is anxious. If one is suffering from anxiety, only they know the difficult bridges they have to cross.
In this article, we will discuss what anxiety is and hear from a patient who has been suffering from this disorder.
Before we start discussing what anxiety is, I would like to ask you a question. Have you ever had a friend who experienced anxiety but you brushed it off by saying that you too are anxious and that it is not a big issue?
Let me tell you a small snippet from my life. My friend was around 17 when she started experiencing anxiety. We were out for a day, roaming around the mall, trying to discover new places when she started feeling anxious. At the time, I wasn’t aware of anxiety being a disorder. When she confided in me, I brushed it off as a general feeling and said that there is no need to pay heed to such feelings.
On a later occasion, I happened to read about anxiety and I haven’t stopped apologizing to my friend for that evening, since. I was a bad friend and it only hit me after reading about the disorder.
So if your answer is affirmative to the previous question, then please continue reading so that henceforth, you are a kind person who understands that feeling anxious and experiencing anxiety aren’t the same thing.
Let us start by understanding what anxiety is.
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. Intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired may occur.
Feeling anxious before a big event is normal. Wouldn’t you think of yourself as weird if you didn’t have butterflies in your stomach before a big interview? This is normal anxiety.
But if this uncomfortable feeling turns into an everyday occurrence that disturbs your daily activities, then you might want to visit a psychologist to review it further.
For eg, being anxious before a review meeting with your boss is normal.
But if you feel extremely anxious before performing minute activities such as calling a friend, going to the supermarket, or just talking to your boss regularly, then you might be suffering from something that you can’t put a finger on. In such cases, it is always best to visit a psychologist for further assistance.
In extreme cases, your anxiety may prevent you from enjoying what you previously liked. It may cause you to stop doing daily activities such as going to a shop and you may isolate yourself from others.
So far, we have understood the difference between anxiousness and anxiety.
How do I know if what I’m experiencing is anxiousness or anxiety?
Usually, the symptoms of anxiety differ from person to person. Sometimes they could be just a feeling of butterflies in your stomach and sometimes one might experience more severe symptoms such as palpitations.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Lack of concentration
It is important to remember that these are the most common symptoms. Your symptoms might be completely different from someone else’s. Therefore, it is crucial to not self-diagnose but visit a professional.
What does an anxiety attack look like?
An anxiety attack is a feeling of impending doom. It causes overwhelming apprehension, fear, or worry. Usually, anxiety attacks slowly build up instead of rapid action.
Every anxiety attack is different. One cannot compare their symptoms to their friend’s as these symptoms vary greatly and can change with time.
(It is important to remember not to brush off someone’s anxiety because you think it is not severe. They may be experiencing light to severe symptoms and any level of anxiety is not to be brushed off.)
Common symptoms of an anxiety attack look like this:
- Feeling dizzy
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Apprehension or worry
- Numbness or tingling
With this, you have a basic knowledge of the disorder. You are now capable of helping yourself identify if you need help or help others realize if they need professional help.
So far we have been theoretical. All the information mentioned above is present in all psychology textbooks. But what you won’t find is a survivor’s story. I interviewed someone who has been going through a difficult phase with anxiety and learning to battle it every day( identity will be kept hidden). The interview will be in a question-answer format.
- To begin with, how old are you?
I’m 20 years old
- How old were you when you were diagnosed?
I was 19
- When was the first time you experienced anxiety?
I was 14 years old, I was at a friend’s house away from home when I first felt that fear and worry. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and the feeling wouldn’t go away.
- Were you able to immediately identify it as abnormal?
I immediately recognized it as abnormal. It felt foreign and I had a sense of doom.
- When did you discover that you needed professional help?
I understood that I needed help at the raw age of 14. but I didn’t know how to ask for it until recently. I wish I could have spoken up sooner.
- Did you discuss it with your friends or parents? Were they understanding?
I did. They understood my problem but not completely. I don’t blame them because their knowledge about this was zero and so was mine. Today, after acquiring knowledge, they are much more accommodating.
- Can you tell us how you feel when an anxiety attack builds?
It is very hard to put the feeling into words. It starts with fear and tension building up in the chest. Everything feels blurred and there is sudden shortness of breath. I keep gasping for air, trying to calm myself down. My whole body goes numb and I feel dizzy.
- What treatments did you have to take to feel better?
I was asked to take MCBT (Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves a combination of cognitive therapy, meditation, and the cultivation of a present-oriented, nonjudgmental attitude called mindfulness) and medications.
- How are you feeling now?
I feel much lighter as if a suitcase has been lifted off my chest. I finally feel like everything is coming together and I’m able to enjoy my life. I only feel as anxious as everyone around me now. A big interview, and you’ll see me sweating but again it’s just regular anxiousness!
We have now seen anxiety from the perspective of a sufferer. Through this article, I hope I was able to educate at least one person so that somewhere a person suffering from anxiety is understood.
An important question that you might have to answer in your life when the time comes is- Is anxiety a serious disorder? I hope the article has helped you answer that question.
Image credits- stylist
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