Am I going to be getting enough sleep tonight? Would I be able to finish all of today’s tasks? How many tasks would I be able to squeeze tomorrow? Will I go through a huge, rough change in my life? Why I’m like this? What if this never happened, what if that were to happen?
Oh god; please, make it stop.
Anxiety comes with many different types which hold different effects that each individual reacts to differently.
But here’s one thing not to say to someone who is mentally diagnosed with anxiety;
What are you worried about? Stop worrying!
What a life-saving piece of advice, save it to yourself.
We know there’s no real reason to worry about; we know it’s all in our heads. We know it’s MENTAL. And this knowledge is not enough to stop it.
But the knowledge you need to be having is; if you know someone who’s suffering from anxiety;
Anxiety types are diverse; I cannot sum up all of it in just one article. But I’ll just speak for myself, as a person who’s diagnosed with general anxiety disorder;
Some people might still wonder what goes on in the brain of someone with anxiety; I mean, it’s an emotion.
It’s a part of our lives just like happiness, sadness, anger, etc.
To some, it’s not just an emotion.
Anxiety is an intense fear and apprehension that puts you on alert;
You have a big interview, an important meeting, a speech to make; it’s a fight-or-flight kind of moment;
Here enter your Neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters (n): Natural chemicals found in the brain that helps facilitate communication between your nerve cells. (e.g: Norepinephrine and Serotonin)
With the occurrence of imbalance in those brain chemicals, anxiety happens. And it’s still not clear to scientists what causes chemical imbalances at first.
What is the line between “feeling anxious” and “suffering from anxiety”?
Where does anxiety come from?
There are a number of psychological theories as to why anxiety exists; there’s neurological (as mentioned above), there is psychoanalytical, which describes anxiety to be a battle between id, ego, and superego.
In this battle, (As explained by psychologist Jeffrey DeGroat, Ph.D. and Roger S. Gil, MAMFT) “Anxiety serves as a danger signal to an individual’s ego or superego that an individual is at an elevated risk to act upon an unacceptable id impulse. In the face of this anxiety, an individual’s ego and/or superego respond by attempting to manage an individual’s id impulses through elevated means.”
Naturally, anxiety is there as a warning sign that you’re about to do something you may not want to.
There’s also the cognitive theory, which suggests that anxiety arises when a person’s cognitive distortions or irrational thought patterns make them see everything as a physical threat, whether if it’s an actual danger, annoying person or a simple daily task.
Further Reading: 7 Things To Remember If You Love Someone With Anxiety
Anxiety in general;
Regardless to which theory a person is subscribed to, it is unhealthy when those instincts are fully turned on constantly.
That tense sensation in your stomach, the heightened sense of awareness you have about everything going on around you, the slight fear or sense of dread—that’s anxiety.
And even before your body can feel it, your brain is already working on it.
It’s so complex to talk about what goes on in the brain of someone who suffers from anxiety; it was found that most people who experience anxiety disorder are generally intelligent, compassionate, creative and determined.
While anxiety disorder can be hard to understand from a non-sufferer’s perspective, it can be even harder to understand as a sufferer.
While a sufferer might look fine from the outside, they often experience an unstoppable raging battle from the inside.
And not only it affects mental health; but also the physical health as well.
Anxiety disorder often impacts many systems, organs, and glands in the body; including the nervous system, respiratory system, digestive system, and so on in addition to the biological sensations and symptoms, which include distressing thoughts and emotions.
The severity of the condition generally determines the degree and frequency of sensations and symptoms. With milder forms of anxiety disorder; sufferers may experience irregular and unpredictable episodes of mild to moderate sensations and symptoms. Those with a more rigorous condition can experience relentless, entrenched, and debilitating sensations and symptoms. Some anxiety sufferers might experience the condition as a fade and flow, while others may experience it as a constant nightmare filled with fear, persistent symptoms, bizarre thinking, and erratic emotions.
So, here are some things to keep in mind when you deal with someone with anxiety:
Anxiety disorder isn’t something you can just “snap out of.”
Because anxiety is caused by behavior and more complex theories as mentioned above; it takes time to get the right information (by a professional) to determine the severity level and come up with the right plan to deal with it. It comes with hard work to overcome issues with mental illness in general and there is NO shortcut to just “cure” it.
Just be more supportive. Anxiety is one of the strongest and most intense responses the body can experience. It creates intense feelings and emotions as well as symptoms which also become physical; this is why in the midst of high anxiety, a person can feel like they’re losing their mind.
But even though anxiety can feel powerful, it alone cannot lead to mental collapse, breakdown or death. Once a person calms down, all of these strong emotions, feelings, symptoms gradually start to diminish and eventually disappear.
So, it really is helpful to reassure that person that they’re going to be okay. It would always help to let them know that you’ve got their back (when you actually act on it); it will make them feel a little safer.
Further Reading: What To Do When You Are Sad?
Anxiety disorder is predicated on fear whether if it’s a rational fear or an irrational one. Fear activates stress response, which can result in a number of physiological and psychological change in the body.
Regardless of whether the fear is rational or irrational, or whether the symptoms and sensations are strong; we can always find ways of calming ourselves so that the body shuts off the stress response.
If your loved one is struggling with an episode of anxiety, encourage them to calm down; which is never going to happen if you aren’t calm by yourself.
Remain to calm yourself as an example for them to calm down (and it usually works). As you make them calm down they’ll feel better in time; it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from an activated stress response.
Encourage them to seek professional help.
Anxiety disorder is caused by unhealthy behavior. A professional anxiety disorder therapist is almost always required to overcome problematic anxiety because many of these behaviors are invisible, and therefore; unknown to the sufferer.
Society has had a dim view of counseling and therapy by tradition. So, be supportive of seeking professional help; encourage your loved one to take the right step towards their anxiety.
Further Reading: 12 Things You Can Do To Feel Better When You are Down
Empathize, don’t sympathize.
Sufferers feel bad enough about what’s going on in their lives; they probably been through a lot to reach such position in which they can be open with you about something with such sensitivity. They don’t want your sympathy; they’re not doing it for attention. But they do appreciate your understanding and compassion.
Let your loved one know they can talk to you anytime under any circumstances without the fear of judgment. Let them know that no matter what happens, you’re not going to change how you think or feel about them just because they’re dealing with anxiety issues. Letting them know they can count on you makes a very positive difference in their recovery.
Further Reading: How To Cope With Depression
You’re going to listen to the same fears and topics over and over again.
During times like these, just listen and reassure patiently; avoid anything that’s similar to “we’ve talked about this before, it’s no big deal.” because it is. It is a big deal. Just be patient, they will get there in time.
Just keep offering hope!
Celebrate small victories; encourage them to do whatever they love, show affection and how much they mean to you. Do not walk away when they push you; let them know they’ll never be alone.
Love and compassion are such powerful yet easy things to give; do not underestimate how they can affect a person.