Living with anxiety disorders can be compared to having all the joy in your life stolen away by unseen monsters. It’s even more cruel when you once lived without it. You know your mind is capable of understanding that leaving your house isn’t going to end in a catastrophe, and that the likelihood that strangers are laughing at you is slim. You remember a time when you knew you weren’t making too much noise walking down the hallway, nor were you taking up too much room by simply standing in that corner. All of these things you’re quite capable of both remembering and understanding.
None of this matters, however, because when you’re living with anxiety, fear overpowers all rational thought processes. The overwhelming, irrational fear-drenched thoughts drag you down and make doing even the littlest of things next to impossible. It becomes a growing, constant sense of panic with sudden, unexplainable mood swings and overwhelming explosions of anger or fear for no apparent reason.
A common misconception is that anxiety disorders impact everyone and that they are not serious, crippling disorders if not taken care of. Everyone experiences anxiety in minor forms about various different things: hospital visits, starting a new job, moving and other big changes in life. Anxiety becomes a problem, however, when you’re worrying about everything – even worrying about worrying.
One thing widely unknown by the general public is the true impact such a disorder has on the lives of those experiencing them. Anxiety can cause a person to withdraw from society, practicing isolation. Getting them out of the house – or, in severe cases, to even leave their room – can become a real battle, for both those affected and the friends or family who may be trying to help them.
On top of this, they can also develop a sense of hopelessness accompanied by suicidal thoughts, driving them into a deep depression. It can become quite extreme for those impacted by this disorder who do not get treatment, and will often end in some form of self-inflicted bodily harm. Not in all cases, of course, but anxiety and depression are known for going hand in hand, and self-harm is also known to be a recurring outcome due to this toxic duo, as are substance abuse problems as a negative coping method.
Symptoms You May Have an Anxiety Disorder
Other ways to detect anxiety is to watch out for the following symptoms:
- A sense of irritability.
- Frequent nervousness without an explainable source.
- Lack of concentration
- Repetitive behaviours
- Frequent physical ailments without explanation
- Fatigue or restlessness, often attributed to an inability to sleep
Treatment is Always an Option
Anxiety, no matter the type, can always be treated, and though it may not disappear completely, with some work, it is possible to live a comfortable life. It may feel hopeless and impossible right now, and it may take years to grasp a proper way to treat it, but it is possible. Devoting yourself to dealing with your anxiety will have nothing but positive effects on your life, as if the sun has been restored after years of darkness.
It is often suggested that you start out with changing your lifestyle, but your first and most important step is talking to your guiding physician. They are capable of getting a grasp on what you need, whether it is treatment via therapeutics like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, referral to a psychiatric professional, or just tips to see what they recommend for your case, including the possibilities of medication.
One of the positives about therapy and counselling is that you will always have someone you can talk to, even if it is just during a scheduled appointment. It’s someone who can listen and give you the positive tips you need to help you get through each passing day. It may take a while to find a counsellor you’re comfortable with, but don’t ever be afraid to tell your physician you need to switch to a different counsellor! It happens all the time and finding one you connect with will help you far more than if you are working with one you don’t trust or cannot connect with.
Relapse Will Occur– Just Keep Going
Now, not every day will look brighter even if you are participating in your treatment and working hard towards recovery. There will be relapse, there will be days that drag on that make you feel you cannot recover – but these days are just days you have to push through while exercising practices and coping methods that you’ve been taught.
One of the most common, helpful coping methods often used is the Deep Breathing Method. It consists of five seconds of inhalation through your nasal passages, two seconds of holding your breath followed by exhalations through your mouth. This and Self-Talk are the first methods you’re often taught. Self-Talk is learning to recognize when you’re beginning to think negative thoughts and rewording them to become something more positive.
For example, a negative thought would be ‘I am worthless.’ This thought can be changed to different things such as ‘I am beautiful’ or ‘I have potential, I can do this.’ It also helps to make small notes full of positive thoughts and put them around something you look at, often like the mirror you use when getting ready in the mornings. It may also be helpful to get your friends to participate in writing some of these notes.
Have a Default Safety Plan
Always, however, have a safety plan worked out. A safety plan is often a three-step guideline of what to do should you enter a crisis. It would be a list of what you can and would normally do when you feel a panic attack setting in. It’d be a list of comfort items and coping methods– anything from hugging your teddy bear, to painting or writing, going for a walk, or even just laying down and watching a movie to distract yourself.
The next step would be a list of things you can do should you not be capable of bringing yourself out of the oncoming panic attack. Often it is a list of numbers you can call, people you trust to talk to in situations like a panic attack, and the like. If these do not work, the third step is to always call the number for your local emergency department. These can be created with your guiding physician should they deem it necessary, or upon your request.
Warning Signs of an Oncoming Panic Attack
To aid your safety plan, always have a list of warning signs with you to know when you may be entering a panic attack. For example, common symptoms are:
- Trembling and dizziness
- Rapid heartbeat and palpitations
- Excessive perspiration – aka lots of sweating
- Cold or hot flashes
- Trouble breathing, hyperventilating
- Chest pains
- Numbness in feet or hands
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and your regular coping methods are not helping to calm you down, find a way to the nearest hospital that does not include you driving. Phone a taxi, ask a neighbour, or call emergency dispatch. This way you will be safe and receive the necessary medical attention to aid you during your time of crisis.
Being aware of what type of anxiety you are dealing with is almost mandatory to ensure proper treatment, in or out of crisis. Anxiety covers a broad spectrum of various things from Generalized Anxiety Disorder to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Do not self-diagnose your anxiety– always go with a professional. It will help your treatment in the long run and help if you begin second guessing whether you have anxiety or not.
Other Coping Methods
Other ways to avoid anxiety is regular exercise and having a balanced diet, reducing consumption of teas, coffees, colas and chocolate, as well as sleeping on a regular basis. Avoiding the use of alcohol and other substances is also recommended.
I’ve always found the best way to relieve my anxiety is going on a long, solitary walk with my headphones blaring so loud I could just make out the sounds of cars whizzing by on the streets beside me. The music obliterates most of my thoughts, and those that I couldn’t seem to shake were often weaker, my mind being consumed by the vocals and beats of before the anxiety has the chance to take control.
Anxiety is a serious, life-changing and life-threatening disorder. There is nothing wrong with having any form of it. Treating your anxiety can open up a whole new way of life and make every day a little brighter for you. Even if you just start by going for a five minute walk or venturing out into the front yard, you’ve already managed to take a massive step towards your own recovery.
One day, if you allow yourself, you won’t be worried that you’re taking up too much space.
Life can and will get better.