Society these days has been a lot more vocal on the topic of anxiety. Roughly 18 percent of the people living in the United States suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. You can hardly go outside without meeting someone who, to some extent, has this mental illness.
That being said, it is important for everyone to understand anxiety and how it affects a person so that we can all be understanding and supportive to those around us who regularly suffer from anxiety.
Insecurity or Anxiety?
A major complaint that I have heard about people who are anxious is that they ‘worry too much’, or even that they are ‘too insecure’. These complaints seem to come mostly from people who end up dating someone who suffers from anxiety. It can seem to them as though their significant other does not trust them, or that they stress out constantly about how the relationship is going.
For example, have you ever dated someone who just out of the blue asks questions like, “Is everything ok between us?” or “Is something wrong?” Perhaps these people have even asked probing questions regarding your friends of the opposite gender. If you have, was it ever a little hard to understand where they’re coming from? Did you ever wonder why they couldn’t just drop it and trust you?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple for them to do. It’s not just a personality trait. It’s not just that they have a tendency to worry. They have a very real illness that affects the way they think and feel on a daily basis.
What Exactly is Anxiety?
In order to fully understand how to help those around us with anxiety, we need to better understand what it is and how it affects a person. Here is an excerpt of an overview of anxiety disorders taken from the Mayo Clinic website (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/home/ovc-20168121):
“Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks).”
When you have anxiety, you may experience unwarranted and illogical fear about talking to a stranger or meeting a deadline. You might be afraid for no reason that your friends are talking behind your back or that your significant other is cheating on you or losing interest on you.
People with anxiety don’t mean to be afraid of these things. It’s not a conscious decision, and it’s not as simple as deciding not to worry. It’s almost as if you have a voice in your head that insists that your girlfriend or your boyfriend secretly hates you, or that one wrong word would make one of your friends think you’re weird and stop talking to you. These things may not make any logical sense, but because of your anxiety you can’t help but wonder if they’re true.
Having anxiety, for many people, means being afraid about something constantly. Not just plain old worry, either, but it can get to the point of absolute, paralyzing fear. When it gets bad enough, it’s hard to not believe that voice in your head. It’s not like those of us with anxiety want to believe the worst, it just gets more and more difficult to believe anything else.
Imagine constantly having the worst case scenarios play out in your mind against your will. Constantly. So much that you begin to believe it. That’s what we experience every day of our lives.
How to Help
Keep all of this in mind next time you’re feeling frustrated at someone for worrying so much. It’s not as simple as just stopping, and we really need help when we get like that. We’re just too afraid to ask for the help we need.
Being there for someone with anxiety is actually pretty straightforward. Basically, we need to be encouraged. We need to be reassured. We need to hear from someone else that we’re doing alright and that someone cares. Just tell us that it’s all gonna be ok, and don’t run away from being with us or around us because of something we can’t control. I promise, we’re trying.
It can require a lot of energy to be friends with or in a relationship with someone with anxiety, but it can make a big difference in someone’s life. So next time your anxious friend or significant other asks (for the hundredth time this week) if everything is alright between you, or if something bothers you, just put your arm around them and reassure them. Make sure they know where you stand and where they stand in your life. It may seem silly for someone to need so many reminders, but it’s a very real need.
Please like and share to get the word out on anxiety disorders. This is something we all can be working on to improve the world in which we live. Thank you for reading!