You’re about to read a definition of anxiety. Before you know it, your mind is going to check off the boxes and proclaim, “These are my symptoms; I have anxiety,” as if it’s a virus. As you read, your mind will want to identify with each descriptor and pronounce, “See? There’s something wrong with me! I’m broken and need to be fixed!” It might not say these words exactly, but I’m sure you can identify with a version of it.
Society gives you the impression that feeling anxious (or any other painful feeling) is a medical disease that needs to be cured. The problem with this approach is that it does a disservice to the nature of being a whole human being with a range of emotional responses. We take the approach that it’s okay to not be okay.
SO, WHAT IS ANXIETY?
If you’re reading this, chances are you know what it’s like to feel anxious. You don’t need a panic attack to experience anxiety. Imagine standing in front of a room full of people to give a presentation… and you forgot one of your main topic points…. oh, and you forgot your slides too… and one more thing – if you don’t do well, you’ll lose your job or fail your class.
At what point would you start to notice your stomach churn or knot up? Would your muscles tighten just a little? Would you start to feel a little warmer, or even sweat? Would you breath heavier? In this scenario, you might also imagine what’s going through your mind: racing thoughts, fear of how you might be judged or criticized, worry about losing your job or failing out of school, a sense that you just have to get out of there, and of course, “Oh sh*t!”
That’s anxiety. Well, kind of. Anxiety is different for everyone. For some people, anxiety shows up in predictable ways: going out with friends, meeting new people, attending a work party or presenting. For others, anxiety seems to come out of nowhere and does not have an obvious trigger.
In most cases, anxiety can be broken down into a couple categories.
Anxiety can show up as physical features, including feeling:
- On edge
- Keyed up
There are also a lot of thoughts:
- Worrying all day about many different parts of life
- Anticipated fear of something bad happening in the future
- “People won’t like me, they will think I’m stupid”
- “I’m going to fail,”
- “What if I make too many mistakes?”
- “There’s too much to do, I can’t handle going through with it”
- Difficulties focusing or concentrating
- Difficulties sleeping
- Having a mental block or being bogged down with thoughts of the future
- Ideas that things will go terrible, horribly wrong
Along with some strong feelings:
- An eerie feeling that something bad is going to happen
And unhelpful behaviors:
- Keeping busy even at the cost of leisure and fun
- Staying away from others, even if you really want to be around them
- Snapping at people you care about / saying things you don’t mean
- Binge watching Netflix, mindlessly scrolling on social media or playing endless hours of video games
- Staying in bed, isolating in your room, refusing to leave the house, calling off work or missing school
- Over- or under- eating, sleeping, drinking alcohol, using drugs, etc.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Zack to talk about your struggle with anxiety, click on the button at the bottom of the page to request a consultation.