Anxiety to those who don’t suffer from it can be difficult to define and comprehend by those who do not suffer from it. Often people who don’t suffer from anxiety get irritated, frustrated and angry with anxious people, as if the anxious person is an attention seeker and ‘putting it on’. Often anxious people get told that their problem is trivial and can be remedied by simply ‘pulling oneself together’. This is unhelpful behaviour which can exacerbate anxiety and further isolate an anxious person, who is already feeling lost, lonely and scared.
The reality of why an anxious person is this way is all too different from the theories of ignorant people, and requires sensitivity, kindness, patience and support from those closest to them.
The dictionary definition of anxiety states that anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. This dictionary definition doesn’t provide a full explanation of anxiety, the terrible effects of it on a person and how debilitating it can be. Anxiety is a condition which severely inhibits a person’s life. A person with anxiety cannot lead a normal life.
Typically, a person suffering from anxiety struggles to work and hold down a job, struggles to socialise, struggles to have relationships, has problems having sex, has problems studying and achieving academically, has problems making rational decisions and can even have problems leaving the house. In general anxiety is mental condition that prevents a person from functioning normally and leading a normal life.
So, what does anxiety feel like? Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread. When an anxious person has a panic attack It feels as though somebody is squeezing their heart, a racing pain pulses through their chest, as if they are having a heart attack. Their mouth goes bone dry, they begin to shake and sweat profusely and feel like they are going to pass out. Their kidneys produce more urine and so they go to the toilet often. This is all done totally automatically by the brain and it is totally beyond the control of the person who is experiencing these terrible sensations.
So next time you have somebody telling you to ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘get a grip’ ask them this, “Have you ever suffered from anxiety?” When they say no, say “Ok well basically it feels as though I’m having a heart attack which is triggered randomly, I can’t sleep as my mind is racing with irrational thoughts and my jaw aches from grinding my teeth at night, my body shakes and sweats as if I’m in a sauna. I have to keep going to the toilet, sometimes several times an hour. I feel self-conscious as though everybody is judging me and I struggle in social situations, going red in the face with embarrassment”. If they persist with their ignorance ask them this, “Would you tell a person who has just suffered a compound fracture to get a grip, or pull yourself together?” If they say no then say “Well don’t expect me to either, as not all injuries are physical!”