What are anxiety disorders exactly?

Credit: Oprah

Credit: Oprah

Even though understanding mental illness has progressed over the years, some people still stigmatize and trivialize some of them.

Anxiety, for example, is generally confused with the feeling of fear or worry that anyone can experience in a stressful situation. But this is not the case. In fact, when fear and worry become so overwhelming and consuming, they turn into anxiety to the point that they interfere in and damage a person’s daily life.

By definition, anxiety is “the fear or nervousness of what might happen.” The difference is that fear is having thoughts about an imminent threat while anxiety is having thoughts about possible future threats, sometimes without any trigger.

Anxiety disorders are a serious mental illness and should not be normalized. They are numerous and include GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobia disorder.

Each disorder is characterized by its own symptoms, but some general symptoms are common for all of them, like feelings of panic and fear, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, not being able to stay still and calm, shortness of breath, sleeping problems, cold and sweaty hands or feet, numbness or tingling in feet and arms, dry mouth, and muscle tension.

The problem with anxiety is how people from the outside try to explain it and normalize it. But anxiety is not just a brief emotion or feeling, it is a constant state of discomfort and panic that can happen at any moment.

People with anxiety disorders are aware of them but they are unable to control or stop them. They are also in a neverending and exhausting race with themselves. Anxiety is like being alone in a desert and suddenly hearing a voice.

Anxiety takes over a person’s life and cripples their ability to perform daily tasks, like going to work on a specific day or being in public with a lot of people, just because they are afraid of what might happen when they do.

Sometimes, people with anxiety are aware of the fact that their anxiety has no apparent reason, but they still cannot stop it.

It’s important for people to respond properly to someone suffering from anxiety. It’s completely brutal and meaningless to tell them to calm down or control the situation, because if they could, they would. The only thing one can do is support them without making them feel different or ‘sick,’ and be confident around them without dramatizing the whole situation.

Cover credit: Psyche Care