Living with an anxiety disorder is about more than feeling nervous or stressed on occasion. Those with anxiety are prone to intense feelings of being unwell and constant worry, even when nothing seems to be going wrong. This can lead to problems ranging from trouble sleeping to difficulty interacting with or being around others, even in situations like going to the grocery store. There are also several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and panic disorders. This article will address how anxiety disorders affect the lives of countless individuals.
Feeling Anxious For No Reason
Anxiety is rarely welcomed, but there is something of a silver lining when the cause can be pinpointed, like an upcoming job interview or school exam. For those with anxiety disorders, feelings of unwellness can often seem like a cruel joke. Everything might be going perfectly well in their day to day lives, but they cannot quell the sense something terrible is happening or is going to happen. They realize how irrational their thoughts are, but they still feel restless and afraid. Anxiety is not a mystery that can be easily solved.
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Difficulty Doing Simple Things
No matter what sort of anxiety disorder someone is dealing with, there are bound to be things that are commonly accomplished or easy that are difficult for them because of their anxiety. These include actions like driving a car, interacting with others in a social setting, or riding in an elevator. Patients might develop avoidant tendencies to get away from having to perform such stressful actions. If somebody else asks them about it, they might have trouble admitting why exactly they have troubles. Explaining it can be difficult, as they might not even understand themselves. It is a matter of the mind being weighed down by a constant feeling of being overwhelmed, amongst other strong emotions.
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"Why are you so anxious?" is just one of many questions individuals with anxiety disorders are tired of hearing. Rarely is the person asking the question satisfied with the answer, because they just do not know. However, that is almost always the case for those dealing with anxiety. Their minds are so bogged down by obsessive thoughts they likely realize are irrational, but which swell up so much that they feel intensely real. Trying to relate those feelings in spoken words can be difficult if not nearly impossible. When an individual has an anxiety disorder, they might feel better trying to forget it as much as possible, so asking them why they are anxious is the opposite of helpful.
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Difficult To Find Others Who Understand
At the very least, someone with anxiety hopes they can find another person to talk who will lend a good ear and without judgment over something they cannot control. Too often, anxiety disorder patients find themselves trying to explain their issues to others who are either unwilling or unable to understand. Individuals who have experience with anxiety can relate. However, they cannot always be found, especially when most are reluctant to share their mental health struggles. Everyone's thoughts are unique, and when an individual is dealing with anxiety, it can be incredibly frustrating when others are unable to relate.
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Trouble Focusing On The Good
Everyone has things they enjoy, including anxiety disorder patients. However, their disorder can greatly overshadow the enjoyment of their favorite things, and life in general. When anxiety clouds an individual's mind, they are likely to have extreme difficulty enjoying something like their favorite meal, an exciting movie, or a gorgeous day. They might realize the quality of each of these things individually, but their anxiety prevents them from fully experiencing the things they enjoy. They could also have imposing thoughts about impending problems. While those might not be rational in any way, shape, or form, they can still impose an intensely negative effect on the enjoyment of positive experiences.
No Easy Solutions
Anxiety is a treatable condition, but no method is guaranteed to quell it completely. Plenty of patients have benefitted from psychotherapy, anti-anxiety medication, yoga, mindfulness meditation, and exercise. While those can all help with managing anxiety, it is considerably different from curing it. It can be a real breakthrough for someone to reach the point of looking at their anxiety from a more objective perspective, but that does not mean it will be vanquished from them. Those with anxiety disorders might also feel frustrated when a remedy is marketed as foolproof but fails to work for them. Every person with anxiety is unique, and not every treatment is effective for everyone.
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It Comes And Goes
Just because someone has an anxiety disorder does not mean they are always anxious. Anxiety is a persistent and wearing condition, with moments of exhausting intensity. Sometimes sufferers can find themselves feeling entirely at ease only to be suddenly waylaid by feelings of duress. An individual with anxiety is always an individual with anxiety, even in periods of calm. This relief can be especially frustrating, as it can convince sufferers that they have overcome their anxiety, with its inexplicable return feeling incredibly cruel later on. Even if someone is not having a panic attack or feels relatively calm, there can still be the underlying dread, which is difficult to avoid.
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Learning To Accept Themselves
It is not uncommon for individuals with mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, to feel shame. They compare themselves to others who seem inherently superior due to not having the same affliction. For someone with an anxiety disorder to find peace in their life, they need to come to terms with their anxiety. Anxiety is not something that can be easily sloughed off, as it is like an antagonist that tries to take control. One must try to maintain control over it. Anxiety might always be a part of them, but there is no reason for it to be the only thing that defines them.
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Individuals with anxiety disorders often catastrophize. Catastrophizing is exactly what it sounds like: worrying about catastrophes that can happen. It's common for patients with anxiety disorders to fixate on the worst possible thing that could happen, or to come up with multiple worst-case scenarios. While it's natural to consider the potential consequences of one's actions, individuals with anxiety disorders have two marked differences from the average neurotypical person. First, they tend to have overwhelmingly negative and fearful views of situations. It's extremely difficult for them to see potential positive outcomes as easily as negative ones. Second, the catastrophes they come up with mentally may not be likely or even possible. Patients with anxiety disorders fixate on potentially negative scenarios and experience the same worry and fear as if the scenario had actually happened.
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Often Linked To OCD And Depression
Anxiety disorders are often linked to depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Some studies indicate fifty percent of those with either depression or an anxiety disorder actually have both conditions. In addition, OCD is considered an anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder can even sometimes turn into obsessive-compulsive disorder. With OCD, patients experience intrusive thoughts and obsessive thought spirals they can't control. These obsessions often lead to compulsive behavior to help mitigate the worry and fear. With depression, affected individuals may feel a sense of apathy and listlessness. They may also be unusually fatigued and unhappy. Depressed individuals often lose interest in their hobbies and social relationships. Generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety can lead to depression, especially if they inhibit an individual's day-to-day life.
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Often Back Out Of Social Invitations
Individuals with anxiety disorders often back out of social invitations. Though this isn't a constant for everyone with an anxiety disorder, it is an extremely common behavior. There are a few reasons for this. With social anxiety, patients feel very anxious about performing well in social relationships. They may be worried about saying the wrong thing, making social mistakes, and being perceived as weird or unpleasant. Another component is that public social outings tend to have many elements that can't be controlled. Individuals will never know who they'll see or exactly what the experience will be like. The unknown can increase anxiety, especially if the individual is prone to catastrophizing. It's also possible that social invitations will include other fears the person has. There may be loud and overwhelming places, intimidating travel, and the need to navigate situations they're unsure of. Many therapists recommend their patients with anxiety work to get out of the house more, since facing fears is the best way to overcome them.
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Avoidance Of Specific Situations And Things
It's very common for individuals with anxiety disorders to practice avoidance of specific situations and things. From an evolutionary perspective, this is a survival mechanism. In a neurotypical brain, the brain sends signals that indicate when an individual is in danger or may be in danger in the future. This causes stress levels to rise. The individual may experience fight-or-flight responses along with fear. In patients with anxiety disorders, though, the brain mistakenly flags non-dangerous situations as dangerous. The excess sense of danger leads to higher stress levels and panicked thinking. When individuals experience panic and fear in situations, the evolutionary instinct is to avoid those things to stay safe. Patients with anxiety disorders may avoid situations they can't control, certain social interactions, places, and anything that triggers phobias. Therapists typically help individuals slowly expose themselves to the situations they avoid so they can retrain their brains into recognizing those situations as safe.
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Panic attacks don't happen to everyone with an anxiety disorder, but they are fairly common. If someone is diagnosed with panic disorder, this means their anxiety most often takes the form of panic attacks. Panic attacks can be very scary, especially when individuals don't understand what's happening. Some patients have panic attacks when exposed to their fears or situations that cause anxiety. In others, the panic seems to come out of nowhere. Many of the symptoms of a panic attack mimic those of a heart attack. Individuals will feel a sudden and overwhelming surge of discomfort or fear. This is accompanied by tightness in the chest, a racing heart, and shortness of breath. Panic attacks reach their peak in just a few minutes and don't tend to last longer than ten minutes. Longer and milder attacks are called anxiety attacks.