“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” (Jodi Picoult)
For me, anxiety is the worst of my mental health symptoms. Just by the simple fact that it is the hardest to briefly abandon. Again, only speaking for myself. On bad days, when I’m depressed and feeling sad, my kids singing a silly song is enough to make me temporarily forget. When I’m unmotivated, I can usually at least do one small tiny thing that sets the pace for a better mindset.
But anxiety? It’s insidious. It nags at your brain constantly, and never gives you a moment’s rest.
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I wrote a post about it a few months ago that really spoke to people- all about the lesser known symptoms of anxiety. Many people think anxiety is just looking or acting nervous but it is so much more than that.
That’s why I decided to do this series. More people suffer in silence than you might realize, with millions going untreated each year. If you are one of those people, I dedicate this series to you, and hope it gives you comfort.
Facts about anxiety
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States each year, which equals 18.1% of the population. How many people is that, really? If you go to a company party with 100 people, 18 of them suffer from some form of anxiety.
- Anxiety disorders can be treated, but only 36.9% of people get treatment. So, of the 18 people out of your group of 100 at a party, only 6 or 7 get help for their anxiety.
They also say that:
People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events. It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.Anxiety and Depression Association of America
What is anxiety
So, what is it, exactly? You hear a lot about anxiety, but you might not even know what it actually is. I really like Healthline’s summary of anxiety:
“Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. The first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause most people to feel fearful and nervous. But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder…It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new place, starting a new job, or taking a test. This type of anxiety is unpleasant, but it may motivate you to work harder and to do a better job. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life. In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating.”Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety
So, basically, anxiety and nervousness are natural emotions. There is nothing wrong with you if you experience them. You’re not “doing something wrong.” We all feel nervous, and even anxious from time to time. It’s when it makes it hard to function that it’s a problem.
That’s important to remember. While it’s not your fault if you feel nervous or anxious sometimes, it is not normal to have debilitating anxiety. That doesn’t mean it’s your fault, but it is not normal, and is a medical condition that requires professional assistance.
If you would go to the doctor for blood sugar issues or chronic headaches, you should go if you have anxiety.
What are the symptoms
How can you tell if you have anxiety? There are a lot of very common symptoms that most people with anxiety (including myself!) can relate to. For example:
- Increased heart rate. You feel your heart beating faster with little to no provocation. It’s not like you just ran a marathon. Still, your heart feels liable to leap out of its chest.
- Rapid breathing. Often with the increased heart rate, you feel shortness of breath. It’s that marathon running feeling again, even when all you did was think about things that made you anxious.
- Restlessness. I definitely get this feeling. Your mind is going a million miles a minute, and it won’t let you sit and relax. Are you a constant doer? You might be living with anxiety.
- Trouble concentrating. Anxiety is all consuming. It strands you on an island of misery, and you can’t swim to the shores of productivity. Things are not as enjoyable as they used to be because you can’t focus on them long enough to enjoy them.
- Difficulty falling asleep. Do you have trouble falling asleep at night? It’s normal to be nervous or anxious about certain situations but if it keeps you from sleeping, you might be living with an anxiety disorder.
What to expect in this series
Those are some of the most common symptoms. Or, I should say, the ones people are most aware of. They are the ones that are most glaringly anxious. Most people can identify someone having a debilitating panic attack, or can at least tell they are in a medical crisis.
But this series of posts is different. I want to use it to showcase some of the lesser known symptoms. The symptoms that mean you are living with anxiety, and you might not even know it.
I highly recommend these books if you are looking to ease symptoms of anxiety and achieve better day to day functioning.
Here is what you can expect from this series. As these posts go live, I’ll update this post with the links!
2/12/20: Anxiety makes you lonely
2/18/20: Anxiety affects sleep
2/19/20: Anxiety makes you irritable
2/25/20: Anxiety gives you stomach aches
2/26/20: Anxiety can start in childhood
3/3/20: Anxiety can affect your job
3/4/20: Anxiety can last a lifetime
3/9/20: There is hope
There is hope
Anxiety is awful, make no mistake, but keep the following in mind:
- If you have anxiety, it is not your fault.
- It is not because of something you did.
- There is no cure for it, but you can live a meaningful life.
I live with anxiety, but I am also happily married. (Or, you know, as happy as anyone can be sharing space with another human.) I have two amazing kids, and most days, I’m a pretty good mom. I care for my home. It doesn’t look perfect, but it’s just fine. I have friends. I’m by no means extroverted- in fact, the opposite- but my anxiety doesn’t keep me from having meaningful relationships.
Enjoy the series. I hope it goes to show you that although anxiety is not medically normal, there is nothing wrong with you as a person. You are amazing.
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- 19 fun things to do with kids (And how to not lose your mind when you’re trapped at home!)
- Tips for Anxiety: 9 Simple Ways to Find Hope in a Mental Health Crisis
- The Grief Process: Why I Believe There Are 6 Stages, Not 5
- What is OCD and how does it disrupt your life?
- Is there a cure for anxiety?: Part 8 of anxiety series