What is anxiety?

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Today I thought I would discuss what anxiety actually is, what forms it comes in and how people identify with it. It’s a touchy subject for many people, including myself in some situations, but one of my aims it to make it seem less scary and get people who don’t experience it to understand it a bit better. When I first started having these scary feelings I began to research what was going on – as any millennial would do. Google knows best. So after writing out my symptoms it gave me the usual list: Life threatening disease, pregnant, etc. But then this word ‘anxiety’ popped up. It seemed more plausible than any of the other options so I looked into it, it is far more complicated than we are lead to believe.

So firstly,  it comes in loads of different forms, it isn’t just not being able to leave the house, or being scared of weird things. It rears its ugly head in many ways, such as being extremely talkative and happy all the time to hide how you really feel, or keeping yourself busy constantly so you don’t have to focus on anything for long. I see some of these types of anxiety within my own family, maybe not to the degree I have it, but some show signs of different types and it is nothing to be afraid of.

In reality anxiety comes in 6 forms –

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – this is where you are just anxious constantly, always over thinking and over-analysing situations. This is the most common type of anxiety.
  • Social phobia – this is where you are scared of being called out, criticised, or even spoken to. Be it at work or in any social area, you are afraid of making conversation or even being noticed. Say you need to ask someone on the train to move over so you can get past and you are scared incase they get angry, this is a social phobia.
  • Panic disorder – this is where you have attacks, but not just normal anxiety attacks – panic attacks. These are a lot more severe. A panic attack is a sudden feeling of not being safe, you feel like something is going to hurt you and you may end up dying. I know it sounds far-fetched, and I am sure you think I am exaggerating, but I’m not. It can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, a dizzy feeling and even in some cases, a loss of consciousness.
  • Specific phobias – this is one of the types of anxiety that people recognise more, this could be something as simple as being scared to get on a bus, or have an injection. Some people go to great lengths to avoid these situations.
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – almost everyone knows about OCD, it’s the crazy guy that has to turn on and off the lights 18 times before he leaves a room because he’s a bit loopy, isn’t it? Not always. It is anxiety. A specific way of relieving anxiety, it may seem a bit weird but to some it may work. It can be as simple as ironing your top twice to ensure it won’t be messy enough for someone to comment on, making you feel threatened. Or washing your hands several times because you are scared you are going to get ill and have to go to hospital, which is terrifying.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – this isn’t as common as the other forms. This type of anxiety is brought on by a big scary life event, such as being in the war, or a bad accident. In this type of anxiety the symptoms are more specific – having flashbacks to the event or not being able to go to places that bring back memories.

Although there are several types, none are less scary than the others. Usually when someone suffers from anxiety they have 2 or more of the types listed above. Personally I suffer from the first 3, I get extremely embarrassed when I can’t do things, or go places with friends or family, just because I am so scared of having an attack. But for each type of anxiety there is suggested ways to work through it, not all of them will work but they are worth a try.

NEVER be embarrassed of having anxiety, it’s not something that you can control. It is true that it is perceived as a terrible disease you have brought on yourself, and if you have it you can’t discuss it at all or you will be shamed. Don’t let people get to you, if they don’t understand, then it is them that are in the wrong. Anxiety affects everyone, be it personally or a friend/family member suffering. Not being interested or bothered in something as serious and widely spread as anxiety makes you a complete Neanderthal, in my opinion. This is 2017, 1 in 4 people in the UK suffer with mental health disorders. Learn about them, because you never know, one day it could be you.

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