Guest post by Marcus Clarke
Edit and post design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Kanenori via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
We’ve all had moments of worry or anxiety where our hearts palpitate, we feel sick to our stomachs and either obsess or can’t concentrate on the problem at hand. For most of us, those physiological and emotional symptoms resolve with the problem and we continue on with our lives. People who live every day with chronic anxiety or conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, deal with physiological and emotional symptoms nearly every moment of every day. People with anxiety are clever about masking their symptoms. However, if you could ask them to be honest, you might well hear them whisper one of the following seven secrets of people who live with anxiety.
Telling me “not to worry” doesn’t help…really, it doesn’t
It’s nice to be able to offer a friend in need a supportive platitude to help them through a tough time. “It’ll be all right.” “Don’t worry about it.” While you may mean well, these words are nothing but hollow and empty to an someone with anxiety. If it were as simply as saying “don’t worry,” People with anxiety everywhere would be cured, which brings me to the second secret.
I know I shouldn’t worry about some things…but I still do
The reason why your platitudes won’t work for someone with anxiety is because more often than not, they are self-aware enough to know that the issue they are currently worrying about is either something they can’t change, or not really worth worrying about. But knowing this doesn’t help them to stop worrying any more than your “don’t worry,” and a lot of the time, it’s not simply one issue they are worried about.
I feel like an internet browser…with too many open tabs
A person with anxiety can have a mind jam-packed with worries and anxieties. Some of these worries may have merit such as an overly stressful job or upcoming public speaking event. But a lot of these worries will be about mights; something that might happen, a conflict that might occur. These catastrophizing thoughts (irrationally imagining the very worst that might happen), revolves around the person having a back-up plan to prepare for the worst. Because at the end of the day, the worst is not an option to them.
Failure is more than just a fear to me…it’s a death sentence
While most of us dislike failing, for someone with anxiety, the idea of failure is abhorrent. A particular type of anxiety, atychipobia, addresses “fear of failure,” and describes how the person will go to extreme lengths to avoid being in a situation where he might fail. These lengths can include perfectionism, procrastination, and avoidance. The lengths to which a person with anxiety may go to avoid failure can leave them incapacitated.
My anxiety can cripple me…emotionally and physically
With a head full of “open browser windows" and a modus operandi shifting between procrastination and perfectionism, people with anxiety can quickly become burnt-out and physically broken. Anxiety-sufferers often feel a great deal of frustration and irritation and often these symptoms manifest outwardly. People with anxiety may also be plagued with tense and aching muscles, high blood pressure, headaches, and exhaustion.
I don’t fall asleep…I get so exhausted I pass out at night
We have already established that people with anxiety cannot simply stop worrying or shut off their anxieties; there is no better (or worse) place to dwell and magnify these worries than in bed before falling asleep. Many people with anxiety have extreme difficulty with falling asleep because their minds simply won’t stop playing over their worries. Inevitably, worry and anxiety about falling asleep rears and new worries start to consume them. This can lead to sleepless nights, exhaustion during the day, irritability and poor concentration, and potentially absenteeism.
I tell people I’ve got a stomach flu…I’m really just having a bad anxiety day.
With the stigma attached to mental health illnesses still widespread in society, a lot of people with anxiety feel the need to hide the real reason behind a sick day. It seems so much more socially acceptable to say, “I have gastro,” instead of “I couldn’t sleep all night because of my anxiety and now I feel terrible.” Lying about the real reason behind the sick day, and even the dreaded phone call to the boss, can leave the person even more anxious than before.
So whilst we all have those things we worry about, or dwell on certain upcoming events, at the end of the day, for most people, when the stressor is resolved, so too is the anxiety. People with anxiety do not have this luxury. For them the anxiety goes on and on and inevitably leads them to have anxiety about having anxiety.
About the Author
Marcus Clarke has a degree in psychology, a masters degree in health psychology and has worked within the NHS as well as private organisations. Marcus started psysci a psychology and science blog in order to disseminate research into bitesize, meaningful and helpful resources that are interesting and insightful and often help people on the right track to improving their lives.
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