Do you know someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder?
It can be tough for anxious people to open up about their mental health, even to their closest friends and family.
Anxiety symptoms differ between individuals, but there are certain things that a lot of anxiety sufferers wish they could tell those around them.
Here are 9 things they want you to know:
1. “I don’t want to be this way.”
No one chooses to have an anxiety disorder.
Anxious people know full well that a lot of their anxiety and worries are unfounded or even irrational.
They understand that their thought processes might seem odd or melodramatic to others, but they can’t help how they feel.
An anxiety sufferer is not trying to annoy you with their problems.
2. “My anxiety isn’t necessarily the same as your anxiety/your sister’s anxiety/your boyfriend’s anxiety.”
Anxiety disorders take many forms.
For instance, some people worry about anything and everything, whereas others are most often anxious in social situations.
Some have multiple panic attacks every day, whereas others may never experience them.
Remember to treat each person as an individual.
Do not assume you know best, or that you know better than they do how to fix their problems.
3. “I’m tired a lot of the time.”
Anxiety is tiring.
Thinking about worst-case scenarios, ruminating over past mistakes, and trying to conceal your feelings from others takes an emotional and physical toll.
Anxiety sufferers often struggle to fall asleep at night, which impairs their concentration during the day.
This can impair their performance at school or work.
4. “Panic attacks are terrifying.”
Unless you’ve experienced a panic attack, you might not appreciate just how awful they are.
During a panic attack, a person feels extreme terror accompanied by a range of physical symptoms.
These can include nausea, dizziness, shakiness, sweating, and hot flashes.
Try to show sympathy and patience to someone having a panic attack.
5. “I’d love to be more social, but it’s hard for me.”
Not all anxious people are anxious in social situations, but many find parties and gatherings challenging.
For instance, those with social anxiety are preoccupied by what others may be thinking of them, whereas those with claustrophobia may be busy thinking about how they can escape if they start feeling overwhelmed.
If an anxiety sufferer turns down an invitation to a social event, try not to take it personally.
6. “I don’t need special treatment all the time.”
An anxious person will appreciate your empathy and offers of support, but they don’t need you to make special allowances for them all the time.
Strike a balance between showing consideration for their needs, and allowing them the opportunity to use their coping skills.
For example, if you want to invite them for a meal in a restaurant with three of your other friends, it would be kind to pick a quiet place if loud noises make them anxious.
On the other hand, cancelling your plans entirely and holding the meal at home on their account is not constructive.
Sometimes, an anxious person needs to learn how to handle everyday situations.
7. “I can’t get better overnight.”
Therapy, self-help techniques, and medication can all help an anxious person recover.
However, none of these treatments are quick fixes.
It may take weeks or months for them to get better.
8. “Sometimes, my anxiety sneaks up on me.”
A panic attack or wave of anxiety may have an obvious cause, such as a stressful event.
However, many anxiety sufferers report that their anxiety can sneak up on them for no apparent reason.
Do not assume that they can always explain their feelings away.
9. “I am much more than my anxiety!”
This is perhaps the most important point of all.
An anxiety sufferer may have a mental illness, but this doesn’t define them.
Remember that they are a multi-faceted individual with interests, opinions, and feelings.
Don’t make their anxiety the focus of every conversation.
Anxiety disorders are serious, life-changing conditions that affect a person’s personal life, professional life, and general self-image.
If an anxiety sufferer appears somewhat aloof or distant, remember that it probably isn’t the result of anything you’ve done – it’s just that they may need some time and space to process their feelings.
It’s not up to you to fix their problems.
In fact, offering unsolicited advice will just make the situation worse.
Instead, vow to be there for them.
A listening ear can make all the difference to someone having a bad day.