What is anxiety?
Anxiety as defined by The Oxford Dictionary:
A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
There are some things that even a dictionary cannot define… love and God to name just two. Another word that I believe cannot be dictionary defined is anxiety. I’m no expert, I’m not a doctor or psychologist and all I can do is explain what anxiety means to me and what I have learnt over the years.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, and that is perfectly normal. Anxiety becomes a mental illness when these feelings escalate and begin to affect day to day life. Anxiety as a mental disorder can be hereditary or it can be developed as a result of a certain situation such as trauma in childhood.
For a very long time, I had no idea what anxiety was. I hadn’t heard of it and, to be honest with you, I didn’t know anything about mental illness. I believe my anxiety developed during my childhood but I only self-diagnosed when I was about 16 and the doctor diagnosed me when I was 17.
For years, I thought that everybody over-analysed situations. I thought that everyone’s heart rates went up when buying a magazine and a freddo at the newsagents. I thought that everyone felt insecure, paranoid, panicked… Okay, looking back I really should’ve realised that it wasn’t normal. The thing is, I didn’t know or remember being any different and I was too ignorant to think that other people wouldn’t feel the same as me. Maybe I didn’t want to be different.
Anxiety affects people both emotionally and physically. The physical side effects include panic attacks, sweating, shaking, increased heart rate, nausea, headaches, chest paints, loss of appetite, feeling faint, insomnia, claustrophobia… to name a few. The mental effects of anxiety are much more complex and much more unique.
Anxiety manipulates the way that I think. Anxiety manipulates my thoughts and feelings. Anxiety is like a bully has set up camp in your head and is constantly counteracting every positive thought that you have. Anxiety makes me think up potential horrible outcomes of menial situations that place me in a state of fear, not wanting to go out, try anything or even move for fear of knocking down a domino that will hit a hundred others and essentially create huge problems from nothing.
Anxiety makes me paranoid about what others might be thinking about me or saying about me. A complete stranger will pass by me and I will be convinced that they are thinking something negative about the way that I look. Anxiety is a darkness that clouds the light within me and it affects me every day.
I could go on and on about anxiety and how I feel but I don’t want this post to go on forever and I don’t want to sound like a crazy person! The thing to remember is that you aren’t crazy and no matter how awful anxiety is, it’s part of who we are and I guarantee that it makes us stronger. When we learn to deal with our anxieties, we will be incredible people with a wealth of experience and knowledge.
Google has thousands of articles and YouTube has thousands of videos surrounding the topic of mental illness and, more specifically, anxiety. It’s important to take these with a pinch of salt. There is only so much that an article can tell you about you; ultimately, only you know what’s going on in your head and how you feel about it.
I would suggest trying to define aspects of your anxiety, even if it’s just putting pen to paper and noting down a few words of how it makes you feel. Just writing this post has lessened the weight on my shoulders and the hope that others might relate to me is oddly comforting.
A piece of my mind for your peace of mind.
Image: I took this last summer of a beach in Cornwall.