What it is *actually* like to have anxiety
Mental illness isn't pretty
Let's get real about anxiety disorders...
The mental health disorder anxiety is much more complex than the stereotypes portray. That’s the case for most mental illnesses. Having an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean you are just a worrier or are oversensitive. An anxiety disorder often manifests itself in physical ways, not just thoughts. Although the thoughts can be horrible and intrusive.
While we have all experienced anxiety, we haven’t all experienced an anxiety disorder. We all get nervous before a job interview; we don’t all fixate on the intrusive thought that everyone in the room hates us. Here are some of the ways an anxiety disorder can manifest itself that are not as regularly talked about.
Excessive talking and silence
The idea of someone with anxiety going on and on about stuff may not surprise you but it is a genuine symptom of anxiety. It’s like a compulsion to talk to anyone who will listen (or at least pretend to). On the other hand, some people will find it hard to say anything at all. They will feel so fixated on their anxiety and panicked about the possible outcomes they can’t get out of their head that it’s impossible for them to have meaningful interactions. Anxiety can make it really hard to verbalise your feelings especially as you worry that other people won’t understand or just tell you to ‘stop worrying’ which never helps.
A lot of the time people with anxiety are stereotyped as weak. This is completely untrue as it takes such strength to live life with anxiety. This misconception doesn’t really align with the symptom of anger when dealing with anxiety. I have always found my relationship with anger to be confusing. Sometimes the fear and frustration created by intrusive thoughts can manifest into anger, unintentionally.
This symptom can be really hard to deal with as anger can very easily push people away and cause us to treat those we love in a way they don’t deserve. This is where an understanding of mental illness is so important. If you can inform those around you that anxiety can cause you to lash out, it will make your relationship easier. I’m not creating excuses for people to be mean to each other. Understanding that someone may be acting out because they’re anxious not because they are actually mad at you can make things much easier to deal with.
When talking to my friends about anxiety, we have all reported experiencing some kind of disconnection from our surroundings in times of intense anxiety. For some, this can be focused around sight and having foggy vision. For others, this could involve struggling to concentrate or zoning out. I personally feel like this is because it’s really hard to function normally when you are experiencing extreme intrusive thoughts and feelings of fear. This probably links to our prehistoric fight or flight response because most symptoms of anxiety do. Such intense emotion is really hard to ignore and it doesn’t let you do anything else except think about the fear.
This is not a comprehensive list of anxiety disorder symptoms. I don’t believe any list can fully convey what it is like to experience anxiety, especially as it is so personal. I’m writing this to tell you that anxiety is too complex to put in a box, not create a new box. If you don’t experience these symptoms, you can still have an anxiety disorder. If you do experience these symptoms, then I hope this helped you feel less weird. There is no right way to have anxiety. Sometimes it can be nasty for other people to deal with. We’re not all damsels in distress. Some of us are anxiety monsters – raging, not making any sense and disconnected from this world. But mental illness isn’t pretty.