The number of people suffering anxiety is growing yet the illness is still clouded with a negative stigma weighted by people who do not understand what it is or how it feels. Many people struggle to accept an illness if they cannot visibly see the symptoms but that does not mean it doesn’t exist.
Why are we finding the number of people suffering at an all time high? Is it due to increased awareness? Are we now more open to help which results in diagnosis? Perhaps life is becoming more and more overwhelming as the media sores and expectations are completely unrealistic or maybe it’s the social media generation, talking and socialising via texts, images and online personas rather than face to face interaction, our communication skills are suffering and our mind cannot adjust to social situations out with our comfort zone.
It’s highly likely you work with someone who suffers anxiety or you may find the illness lurks closer to home in a friend or relative and you are completely unaware. Most people don’t realise anxiety is what they are experiencing, or they know they suffer anxiety and feel embarrassed or unable to openly admit it.
It’s time for change, we need to be aware of people suffering this caging illness and the only way to do this is to better understand what they are going through. We need to lose the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage people to open up and talk about their feelings and emotions. This will not only help the person suffering as opening up is the first step toward taking control, it will encourage others to be more vocal and realise they are not alone, hopefully provoking a chain reaction for people to own their illness the way it has owned them for so long.
It is easy to disbelieve that certain people suffer anxiety because they hide it well or try to control it in many different ways. Oozing confidence, ignorance or extreme kindness and flattery are all coping methods for people who are battling this illness, portraying these characteristics is an attempt to make others like them or at least throw people off what they actually feel inside.
Over the past few months I have been speaking with a multitude of sufferers from across the globe and here is what they had to say to help you better understand their illness:
‘The worrying is constant, it never goes away. You can try to ease me or comfort me but the logic is already there. My mind refuses to listen. I will overcome this in my own time, in the meantime all I need is reassurance’
This comment is something I can relate to. My anxiety has seen me stress and worry about the slightest, irrelevant thing. Saying it allowed sounds ridiculous and I know there is no logic to my feelings but that doesn’t stop me losing sleep analysing decisions, conversations or events that have never happened.
‘I apologise for everything, even when I am not in the wrong’
This is a coping mechanism like we mentioned earlier. Apologising or admitting fault even if you are not in the wrong, is a way of avoiding any form of confrontation. The apology is sincere as a person suffering anxiety struggles heavily with doubt and self-blame.
‘Because I feel anxious and worried, I become very observant of everyone around me’
It is common for someone suffering anxiety to pick up on the emotions of everyone around them, this means they become empathetic to others however; it also means anxiety can be heightened as they analyze the body language, tone and expressions of others.
‘My anxiety makes me very reactive and protective of my loved ones which makes me defensive, sometimes when it is not necessary’
Just because a person suffers anxiety doesn’t mean they won’t stand their ground. As mentioned previously, someone who suffers will do their best to avoid confrontation but don’t be fooled, when it comes to family and loved ones, anxiety causes a person to overthink, this normally results in them concluding a worse case scenario. If they feel a loved one is in the firing line they may become overly protective.
‘I’m soft, I can’t help forgiving people. Being stubborn causes me more stress and worry’
This is super self explanatory. Many people who suffer anxiety forgive and forget very easily in an attempt to avoid drama or prolonging an unwanted situation. Sometimes this can be taken advantage of from people who become aware of this forgiving nature.
‘Previous partners have called me as needy’
A person with anxiety can find themselves clinging to a friend, relative or a partner. They often feel comfortable with this person and the urge to attach stems from a fear of abandonment. You should take this as a compliment, they feel loved, relaxed and comfortable in your presence.
‘I often think people don’t like me’
This is common for anyone who suffers anxiety. Everyone wants to be liked, it’s only natural but the problem with anxiety is, it refuses to accept that not everyone will like everyone all of the time and that is ok because everybody is different. Often a person suffering anxiety does not come across well as they are consumed with worry and don’t know how to engage or they become so focused on being liked they put up a barrier or play the part of a person they assume people will like. As you know, if we sense someone is not being their self (even if it is meant with the warmest intention) we automatically question our feelings toward that person. This forms a vicious circle.
‘People take advantage of me because I can’t say no’
This might sound silly to someone who has never experienced anxiety. Why wouldn’t you say no if you don’t want to do something? Well, this pretty much falls under the statement above. Anxiety makes a person want to be liked so they will go out of their way for anyone who needs them. A person who suffers anxiety cares deeply for others, more so than their self. This results in them putting others first which can cause further health issues as they lack self-care. They will do anything possible to avoid hurting others even at their own expense. They are empathetic to people’s feelings and unfortunately, as the person who made the above statement claims, some will take advantage of this trait.
‘I lose friends because I iscolate myself and cancel plans’
This comment worries me because many people who suffer anxiety will have experienced this at some point, I know I have. This statement is why it’s important for people to start opening up. Raising awareness will encourage people to feel comfortable talking about their feelings so when situations like this arise, everyone around them will have a better understanding of what’s going on. If you find a friend or relative becoming isolated or continuously cancelling plans; Remember this statement. They may have more going on and reaching out to them might help leap this hurdle or you could simply allow some space while remaining there for them from a distance. Patience and understanding will help more than you know.
These are only some of the statements made when speaking with people who suffer anxiety. In time I will cover this topic further but for now I hope you can understand why this illness makes everyday interactions difficult and maybe appreciate the illness for what it is. It is complex and comes in many different forms depending on the person and their situation.
A person suffering anxiety can spend hours over analysing every little aspect of their day. When you go home at night and switch off, they go home and rethink that conversation over and over and over. When you are out socialising and having fun, they are painting on a smile while trying to dissect every comment, facial expression or situation around them. When you take for granted the ability to say no, they are running themselves into the ground trying to please everyone who needs them. This is not an easy illness to live with and unfortunately it consumes some of the kindest, warmest people with the biggest hearts, many of which are still suffering in silence.
The moral of the story…
…Cut people some slack. At work, out shopping, socialising or in your close circle of friends, be kind, you have no idea what others are going through.