One Young Woman’s Story of Struggling with Anxiety May Sound Familiar
“Many people are afraid that, if they were to try to explain their anxiety, they would be looked at as being overly dramatic. Despite thoughts that anxiety is all in someone’s head, anxiety is a real issue that many people have to deal with.”
These are the words of one quiet, withdrawn 18 year old who bravely put her experience with anxiety down on paper for a college course. Her words echo the feelings of so many people who silently struggle with minds filled with fear, worries, and doubt. She chose to speak out about her experience to educate others and raise awareness for this often misunderstood and stigmatized concern. Excerpts from her paper are included here to help others understand and feel less alone.
Anxiety is a natural feeling that everyone experiences from time to time. Anxiety can be beneficial at times, warning of dangers and improving performance when at optimal levels. However, some people experience anxiety that becomes chronic or “out of control.” They feel worried much of the time about things that are unlikely to happen, or would be fairly manageable if they did happen.
“A person with anxiety overthinks certain situations that otherwise would not be given a second thought by a person that does not have anxiety. Since anxiety causes a person to overthink many normal situations, that person may act differently than anyone else in that given situations. If he or she is not sure about something, they might wait for someone else to perform an action so they know that is the right thing to do. If he or she is nervous in public, they might now want to go places alone and, therefore, try to find someone that is willing to accompany them. Lastly, if someone has social anxiety and needs to speak in front of a group, he or she may stutter or even start to shake because of nervousness.”
Sometimes people with excessive worry report that they become nervous when everything seems to be going well in their lives, as if it is “the calm before the storm.” They also feel physiologically tense or “keyed up” much of the time. Some people may experience discrete episodes of panic attacks, in a state of such intense physiological arousal they may feel like it is a medical crisis. Others have increased anxiety in response to specific triggers or social situations.
The following are some signs of excessive anxiety:
- Excessive worry occurring more days than not
- Difficulty controlling the worry
- Anticipatory anxiety, worrying hours, days or weeks ahead of a stressful event
- Avoidance of situations that trigger worry
- Perfectionism, overly-critical, having unrealistically high expectations
- Feeling restless or “on edge”
- Becoming easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Muscle tension or pain
- Sleep disturbance
- Frequent headaches
“Anxiety can make doing everyday tasks difficult and, at times, could make a person not want to do anything at all due to the fear of messing up or simply not being good enough…Anxiety can play tricks on a person’s mind that could cause them to want to withdraw from society because they think that it would be the best solution for everyone around them.”
When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can interfere with enjoyment of everyday activities, functioning at work or school, and personal relationships. It can lead to withdrawal which is often misunderstood by others, leaving the anxious person feeling more alone. The good news is that anxiety is highly responsive to treatment using evidence-based intervention strategies. Many times a combination of strategies provide the most effective results.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Mindfulness meditation
- Relaxation training
- Medication management
“Anxiety is a real issue for so many people and if more people would understand what it means, those with anxiety might feel more inclined to speak out about how it affects them.”
If you have a friend of family member struggling with anxiety, it is helpful to demonstrate compassion and support. Anxiety can affect people of any age. If you are concerned that anxiety has become out of control and is negatively affecting your life or the life of someone you love, consider seeking help by talking to your doctor or mental health provider.
Written by Suzanne Smith, Ph.D. for the Linden Blog with excerpts from a young woman bravely sharing her experience with anxiety. If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at Linden BP call 440/250-9880.