What Is And Isn’t An Anxiety Disorder?
There is a clear distinction between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Normal anxiety subsides after a particular event or a situation. It has a cause. It is based on reality. An anxiety disorder interferes with normal life and disturbs the functioning of it. It’s important to realize what is and isn’t normal. Here are a bunch of situations you may come across on a daily basis-
- Being worried before a big test or an interview
- Being nervous when meeting someone important or special
- Fear and restlessness after a traumatic incident
- Being nervous while doing an assignment or a project
- Being anxious before a performance
Such instances often occur and it is not abnormal to be worried or anxious before or after something big/important event. A traumatic incident does make you feel lost and hopeless and may even result in a bit of anxiety. But that’s common. It is normal for nervousness or anxiety to disappear after the meeting or interview is done.
So, what are the symptoms of an anxiety disorder?
- Unreasonable worry, fear and panic attacks out of the blue
- Feeling threatened and afraid of being judged before meeting or interacting with someone who is familiar
- Fearing a situation that poses negligible to zero danger
- Anxiety attacks and fear even after months and years of the occurrence of a traumatic incident
When you have the feeling of fear, worry and restlessness without any reason and it hampers with your daily life, it is abnormal. That’s when you need to see a therapist, explain what is happening and figure out whether you need therapy, medication or both.
Meanwhile, if you are still confused and want to wait and observe more and journal your experiences so that it is easy for you to explain, then take your time. But if it’s getting too much, don’t hesitate to seek help. If you are unaware of the source or not financially stable enough to seek help, find someone to help you with it. It could be your parents, friends, trustworthy well-wishers or relatives.
Anxiety Attacks Can Be Coped With
Always remember that an anxiety attack follows a pattern. It starts slowly, increases rapidly in intensity, lingers for a while and subsequently goes down. It has to go down. Hence tell yourself that whatever you are feeling right now is going to subside soon. That’s how it’s going to work. Learn to function with it. As you follow the techniques and do the exercises given by your therapist, you’ll eventually become better at handling it. After a course of time, therapy and medication the disorder may even disappear. Not every person needs to use medication. It depends on the type and effect of the disorder.
Now, during the attack or the situation where you are unable to control your feelings of worry or fear, find a place to sit down or lie down and focus on your breathing. Try and put everything else outside your focus radar and concentrate on your breathing. Try and breath slowly. Imagine the stress and fear leaving your body every time you exhale.
Observe if there’s a particular situation, person or activity that’s causing the attack. Jot down everything that’s bothering you. Putting everything on the paper makes it easier to deal with. For example, if you see a person enter the room, in which you are present, and start feeling anxious about your interaction with him/her then get yourself out of the place first. Catch your breath. Write down what makes you think so. You’ll actually end up finding no reason to worry about him/her. Tell yourself that you are just imagining and you’ll be fine. This will help you understand the reality and will calm you down. If a paper and a pen are not available, use your phone or simply talk to yourself.
Make a list of things that’ll make you happy. The list need not contain things like travelling to a different city or buying a new dress. Simple things that you can do then and there, like watching a funny video or eating ice cream or going around and finding someone who you can chat with and feel safe with will work.
After catching your breath, getting a look at this list and doing something that either distracts you or makes you feel happy will help deal with the attack. If the anxiety still doesn’t subside, reach out to someone you trust and talk about the attack and fix an appointment with your therapist at the earliest.
Quick note: These are just the tips to handle your attack and will not help you treat the disorder yourself. You will need to see a professional who will guide you more systematically.
It’s Okay And It’s Not Your Fault
It’s okay to not feel like going to work or attending a party your friend is hosting. You won’t feel bad for not being able to run when you hurt your leg. You know you can’t run and you make peace with it. That’s how it should be, even with anxiety or any other mental illness.
It’s okay. It’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling. Praise yourself for acknowledging the problem and working towards making it right.
If you feel like the worry is escalating to distress and suicidal thoughts, make sure you inform someone about it and ask them to sit with you.
Understand that it’s just a matter of a few seconds and you will feel alright in a while and if you don’t, you always have someone who’s willing to help.
Understand that it’s not your fault to feel that way and that there’s always help available. You deserve to be happy. To have an anxiety disorder is not a sign of weakness.