There’s been a lot about anxiety in the press recently, especially around the effects that the coronavirus and the enforced lockdown. it’s great that people are talking about it because it helps people who are suffering from anxiety to open it about and seek help. It’s often something people try to hide because they are embarrassed about it or feel like it’s a failing of some kind.
However there is also some confusion about what anxiety is. This confusion doesn’t just affect people who have anxiety, but it also affects those around them. Clients often tell me that their family and friends use don’t understand what they are going through. Often they are met with comments like ‘Why don’t you just snap out of it?’
This kind of misunderstanding isn’t helpful and generally only serves to make the person suffering feel even worse about themselves.
So to try and clear up some of the misunderstanding here’s an explanation of what anxiety is, and isn’t.
What Anxiety Is
- A constant feeling of unease, worry or dread. This can be very specific, for instance worry about becoming ill, or something more generalised. Sometimes people know what the cause of their anxiety is, but It’s often the case that someone with anxiety will have no idea of what caused these feelings to start.
- More than just a mental feeling. Things like shortness of breath, a sick feeling in the stomach, shaking and a racing heartbeat are common physical symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms can be very frightening and in extreme cases, for instance during a full blown panic attack, it can really feel like you are going to die.
- Perfectly natural. Anxiety is our subconscious mind’s way of keeping us safe, and it’s something we all have. However, when the feeling of unease or worry is constant, or the feeling is stronger than it should be for the situation, then it becomes a disorder.
- Different for everyone. Every single one of us is unique and we see and experience things in different ways. For instance you and I can both spend a few minutes looking at a painting, and then when asked to describe it would come up with entirely different answers. So everyone who has anxiety will have their own experience and symptoms.
- A serious issue. Anxiety can seriously affect a person’s life in many ways.It can stop them from being able to work, it can interfere with a person’s social life and it can make even simple things like going food shopping virtually impossible. In severe cases anxiety can also lead to depression.
What Anxiety Isn't
- Your Fault. Anxiety is generally caused by what’s happening around us or something that’s happened to us in the past. It’s not something we willingly create. Consciously people that suffer anxiety know that their fears are unrealistic or unfounded, but subconsciously the fear and worries persist
- Something to be ashamed or embarrassed about. If you’re suffering from anxiety you are not alone. Around 14% of adults in the UK suffer from anxiety disorder, and that number is rising, especially in the current situation. The other thing to remember is that you are dealing with it. Everyday is a struggle and yet you push through and do the things you need to do. You are a fighting it, which takes strength, and that’s something you can be proud of!
- All in the mind. Many people, unfortunately including some GPs, don’t understand anxiety. They will say things like ‘it’s all in the mind, get over it’. Can you imagine how it feels to be told that by someone when the anxiety is real and affects you every single day? In fact, anxiety IS created by the subconscious mind, but rather than being something imagined, it’s a very real and horrible experience.
- Something you have to live with. Often people with anxiety assume that there is nothing that can be done. They think that it is a life sentence. This is really not the case. You weren’t born with anxiety disorder. It’s result of something your subconscious mind has hooked into, whether real or imagined. With the right help your subconscious mind can be helped to let go of the thing(s) that are causing it to create the anxiety. There are a variety of therapies, including hypnotherapy, that can help people overcome anxiety permanently.