Can you imagine living with a feeling of apprehension or fear that could descend on you at any moment without notice? The sense of danger or panic can be momentary or lingering. This sense of powerlessness can even create physical symptoms in the body.
What about walking out of the door and all of a sudden you start feeling overwhelmed or stressed out? Your heart starts beating out of your chest, you start sweating and you fall into a debilitating state of emotional instability.
The worst part of this scenario is that it can happen anytime day or night with on warning at all.
Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.
This is the world of someone suffering from anxiety. Many people do not understand that this is what is happening in the mind and body of someone with anxiety.
When you have a friend that is dealing with an anxiety disorder, symptoms of the disease can prevent her from being able to connect with you in the way she wants to.
In this article, I want to describe anxiety and then share some things that people living with anxiety want their friends to know. I hope it provides insight to help you be a more compassionate friend for them.
The symptoms of anxiety are not just internal — they’re physical, too. Anxiety can wreak physical havoc on your life in the form of headaches, insomnia, muscle pain, panic attacks, and more.
…but internal symptoms are just as debilitating. Anxiety is an invisible illness that may not be seen but is certainly felt. When you deal with anxiety, there’s no separating yourself from the symptoms. You carry the misery in your thoughts, your choices, your relationships, yourself. And sometimes, that weight is so heavy that it feels physical.
There are several different types of anxiety — and even those can manifest in different ways. The most common disorders are the generalized anxiety disorder, which involves chronic, irrational worry about day-to-day things, and social anxiety disorder, which involves a fear of social situations and other people, whether interacting with them or fearing judgment from them, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. There’s also panic disorder, which involves sudden and repeated attacks of irrational fear (aka panic attacks), plus intense worry between those episodes. All that said, even people with the same anxiety disorders experience symptoms differently — so don’t presume to know what someone is going through. Anxiety is not one size fits all.
We cancel plans last minute not because we’re jerks, but because some days we wake up and can’t imagine leaving the house. Taking time away from work/friends/obligations doesn’t mean we don’t like being social…it just means sometimes we need a break.
Anxiety isn’t always explicable. Sometimes, even we don’t know why we are feeling anxious.
Requests we make that might make us seem uptight are actually things that make us feel safe. Like if we ask who’s going to be at the party you invited us to or if we want to make an exact plan rather than ~winging~ it. Uncertainty and open-endedness can exacerbate anxiety, so details that seem insignificant are the actually huge help.
Anxiety can make you question relationships completely irrationally, so please don’t take it personally if we express doubts sometimes. Having anxiety can mean anything from questioning if your friend actually wants you to go to the movies, to wondering if you’re really loved. So reminding us that we’re important to you might seem like it’s obvious…but it’s super important.
Never try to talk us out of our emotions. Trying to relieve us of our fear or sadness might seem like a good idea. And sometimes, it is. In fact, we might even ask you if we have any reason to be worried so that we can try to combat that irrational part of us that is constantly afraid.
But there’s a fine line between trying to help us and trying to talk us out of it. Never tell us that our worries don’t exist, or that we can get over it if we just stop thinking about it. All that does is make us feel like we’re broken—that there’s something wrong with us that even our closest loved ones don’t understand.
Anxiety doesn’t need a reason. Anxiety and panic attacks can have a pinpointed cause (like a job interview, exam, or breakup) or they can occur essentially out of thin air. Having anxiety means you might not always be able to understand why you feel the way you do.
We are grateful for what we have—and for you. Often, anxious people are labeled as pessimists. And that’s actually quite understandable. We’re pretty talented at coming to the worst possible conclusion almost instantaneously.
But that’s not always who we are. In fact, many of us are pretty optimistic between anxiety bouts. We do love our life, and we are grateful for what we have, and we are especially grateful for you. We don’t mean to focus on the negative, but sometimes, we can’t help it. Know we always appreciate you. You are the light at the end of our tunnel. You are the one who tries your hardest to understand, who knows us in and out and still is willing to stay.
When we are quiet, it’s not always because we are sad, bored or tired. Rather, there is so much going on in our mind that it is hard to keep up with everything going on around them.
We know you can’t always see things from our perspective, but we appreciate you trying. As someone who doesn’t suffer from anxiety, we know you won’t be able to fully understand. We know that we might sometimes sound crazy, and we’re sure it can be frustrating to have to drop everything and calm us down.
But every time you answer our fearful texts with reassurance and kindness, or pull us into another room to ask us what we’re worrying about, or are simply there, steady, supportive, without questioning the way we operate… we can’t even express how much that means because it’s rare to find.
High stress levels can worsen the symptoms of anxiety – that’s why stress management techniques like meditation are often recommended for people with anxiety.