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That little voice in your head, that heavy weight on your chest, and that cold feeling that spreads through your entire body? Your mind going off at a tangent unexpectedly and without permission? Just a small hint of what having anxiety is really like.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but these are a few of my experiences…
- It’s not easy to talk about. Despite the social media campaigns and the general rise in awareness, anxiety is still seen as ‘not a real problem’, even though stats show around 4.7 in every 100 adults suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in the UK.
- Sometimes huddling under a pile of pillows and blankets with your favourite TV show on for background noise is the only thing you want to do, because it makes you feel secure.
- Nail biting, skin picking, and hair pulling/twirling are all very common in people who have anxiety. We know we do it, we just can’t help it. Please don’t point it out.
- The smallest thing can and will set it off. Anything from a small mistake at work to the cashier looking at you funny in the supermarket can send you into a heart-racing panic.
- Pets just get it. They always seem to want a cuddle just when you need it the most.
- It can be paralysing. Sitting staring into space and not moving for a period of time is not uncommon.
- Temperature control is an issue. Hot flashes, chills, cold hands and feet but racing heart? Sounds very familiar.
- The simple act of waking up is hard work sometimes. Waking up to a racing heart, halfway through a sentence and immediately thinking you’re an hour late for work is a common occurrence for me, and I know friends have had similar experiences. It doesn’t set the morning off to the best start.
- We don’t mean to be clingy. Or distant. And we don’t mean to fret so much about being clingy or distant. We just worry we aren’t good friends, and it sometimes comes out a bit funny.
- We also don’t mean to doubt or ignore you when you compliment us or tell us things are OK. Our brains are wired to question and fear everyday things – I really mean it when I say it’s not you, it’s me. Needing constant reassurance is common for anxiety sufferers.
- Making small talk at parties can be akin to climbing Everest. It doesn’t mean we’re antisocial, or hate people, it just means that the voice in our heads makes small talk incredibly stressful, and a lot of the time people with social anxiety can be found clinging to the person they came with or lingering on the outside of the room as being in the thick of it can be intensely pressuring.
- Guilt is a familiar emotion. Guilt for cancelling a date, rearranging lunch with friends, calling in sick to work, and then guilt for feeling like you’re burdening people by talking about it. It’s a neverending vicious cycle sometimes.
- It’s exhausting. Intense anxiety saps your energy, and it feels like you’re fighting a constant battle against yourself. It affects everything from energy levels to appetite.