Your heart rate picks up. Your palms are sweating. Your brain has officially kicked into fight-or-flight mode because it believes you need protection from an imminent threat. Thinking clearly becomes challenging, and breathing feels like a struggle because of the inexplicable weight that suddenly pushes down on your chest. Perhaps a sudden spike of emotion is building inside you — anger or annoyance at the thing that’s triggered you. What people with anxiety want you to know is that whether or not you can see it happening, these subtle battles are being fought daily. Explaining anxiety to someone who’s never experienced it is tough, but by taking the time to understand how an anxiety attack feels in the moment, you can provide helpful support to the anxious individual in your life.
Types of Anxiety
Though anxiety is often thrown around as a general term to encompass all kinds of mental distress, there are actually five major types of anxiety disorders. Each has its own unique qualities and triggers, and no two disorders can be treated exactly alike. Depending on the type of anxiety someone’s experiencing, there are different forms of therapies and medications that are most likely to be effective. Anxiety disorders affect 18.1% of the American population over 18 annually.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder is classified as excessive worrying about everyday things that would normally not cause stress. A person with GAD might worry that while they’re walking down the street, they’ll get hit by a truck, even if there are no trucks in sight. People with GAD may also experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts that trigger anxiety, such as worrying about the death of a loved one constantly even if they’re in good health.
Panic disorder should not be confused with GAD. While the symptoms of a panic attack may resemble those of GAD, panic disorder is categorized by the occurrence of acute, frequent panic attacks within the period of a week or month. These feelings of terror, breathing difficulties or the sense that something is very wrong with your body can worsen the feelings of anxiety that triggered the attack.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is the extreme fear of judgment from others to the point that it prevents you from taking part in social interactions. People with social phobia may feel anxious anytime they leave their house, go to the grocery store or even spend time with friends. It can be challenging for these individuals to maintain good relationships and feel confident in the workplace.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD develops after experiencing an out-of-the-ordinary event that induces some level of emotional trauma. This could be military work or an incident of sexual abuse. People with PTSD may continuously relive the traumatic event through nightmares or daymares and can have symptoms of depression or unreasonable bouts of anger.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Individuals with OCD experience unwanted, repetitive thoughts and may perform rituals in their everyday life in an attempt to prevent “bad things” from happening. People with OCD may return home to check if the door is locked or the stove is off several times, even though they know deep down they’ve already checked. OCD can also cause repetitive actions like frequent handwashing in an attempt to control a situation, such as preventing disease or turning a light switch on and off a specific amount of times to ensure they have a good day.
Daily Life With Anxiety
Daily life with anxiety looks different depending on the type of anxiety disorder a person is dealing with. While someone with GAD lives in a perpetual state of anxiety and fear of harm coming to themselves or their loved ones, a person with panic disorder may only experience the anxiety in association with a specific event that triggers them.
Prior to seeking professional help, people with any kind of anxiety disorder often develop their own coping mechanisms that make it possible for them to function while experiencing these feelings and symptoms. Someone with OCD might take photos of the stove being off before leaving the house so they don’t have to go back and check, or a person with social phobia may have specific times of the day to go shopping to avoid the large crowds that trigger them.
There is no one-size-fits-all description for daily life with anxiety — just as there’s no single treatment that will work for everybody. But by taking the time to understand what a person with anxiety is experiencing and how they’re coping, you can figure out ways to support them in their mental health journey.
What People With Anxiety Want You to Know
The truth is, there might be people in your life with anxiety disorders and you may not even realize it because they’re “high-functioning.” People with high-functioning anxiety appear to perform well in the workplace and social settings, but on the inside, they’re experiencing all the symptoms of anxiety and are just able to mask them.
What people with anxiety want you to know is that there’s no rhyme or reason to the triggers that bring on common symptoms, whether they’re mild or severe. Sometimes, your loved one with anxiety may appear to suddenly become angry or annoyed with you when they become triggered, and while it can be hard, it’s best not to take this personally. Their mood change has nothing to do with you but is another symptom of their anxious reaction.
Learning what anxiety looks like for the person in your life dealing with this disorder is the first step in being able to support them through it. Only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety disorders in America receive treatment, which is staggering for such a treatable disorder. Sometimes, asking for help is the hardest part, and having positive support from loved ones can ease that burden.
It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
At FHE Health, we can help manage and treat anxiety disorders through a variety of methods, including counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy and medications. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help by calling us today at (844) 299-0618. Our experienced and compassionate team of counselors is ready to work with you.