Being anxious is a normal and pretty healthy human emotion. It all goes back to when humans first started out. Back in the day we had to be alert for potential dangers such as predators and any other incoming dangers. If a predator was to approach us we would get a rush of adrenaline to our brains which causes us to go into fight/flight response. This prepares us to either confront the danger or runaway from it. Our fight/flight response usually triggers our heartbeats to increase, sweating, raised blood pressure or sensitivity to our surroundings.
We all have a fight/flight response. It’s a natural human instinct and it links to our anxieties. Those who suffer with anxiety are often in fight/flight mode. The only difference is that now our anxieties don’t so much focus on predators but on work, money, social circles, health, the world and so on. So pretty much everyday life…
Our fight/flight response to our surroundings is natural. You can’t change that, but as we have evolved our fight/flight response has taken a bit of a step back as we now don’t have to worry so much about being eaten by apex predators roaming around. Instead we now worry about meeting deadlines, exams, going to social events, changes in our routines, paying the bills, wondering if the world is still going to be habitable in 50 years time and so on. We now worry about a whole load more of crap that we can’t easily escape from. We can’t flee from a mandatory exam that could determine our future (that is however very debatable…). We can’t fight with our bosses about giving a presentation because it could lead to us getting fired, which then leaves us with no income and how can we pay the bills with no income? And then what will happen to us! Our anxieties nowadays are never ending. So even though sometimes it may seem like those with anxiety are being anxious about nothing, I can guarantee there will be a reason behind it. The reason could be something that to you might seem small, pointless or stupid but fuck, it sure as hell doesn’t feel like that.
Anxiety isn’t something that isn’t easily controlled but what helped me was understanding what anxiety is, what sets my anxiety off and then finding ways to manage it. I found it extremely difficult to manage my anxiety before I had any understanding of. How can you manage something that you have no understanding of? You’re gonna struggle and it’s gonna feel like a losing battle.
When I had my mental breakdown, shortly after I began online counselling which was focused on providing me with information about my mental illness’s and changing my point of view on them, myself and my life. Not only did I find this interesting but it helped me out so much. A few weeks into the programme and I had already learned so much about myself and about what goes on in my head.
At the start of my anxiety journey I had suffered with a few different types of anxiety. These were:
– General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This is pretty much your everyday anxiety disorder. This form of anxiety makes you anxious everyday about anything and everything. This is the type of anxiety that makes it hard to pinpoint what it is that is making you anxious. It is probably the most common type of anxiety.
– Panic Disorder. This links to panic attacks. Panic attacks tend to build up but then escalate very rapidly (I’ve written about a couple of my panic attacks which you can read here and here). Panic attacks can leave you terrified of going to certain places, seeing people or doing things again. They can happen with or without a trigger which can make the experience and aftermath confusing and frustrating.
– Agoraphobia. This is often a misunderstood type of anxiety. Agoraphobia is the fear and avoidance of certain places, situations or events and is a anxiety disorder that manifests as a fear, especially where escaping may be difficult. It often develops after having a panic attack. My agoraphobia is linked to public transport, crowded places, public toilets and shopping centres.
– Social Anxiety (or can be known as social phobia). This is the type of anxiety I still really struggle with now. It is a fear of any sort of social situation which could result in negative judgement, humiliation, criticism or embarrassment. It can make meeting new people, public speaking, catching public transport, forming intimacy or going to social events very difficult.
Knowing that there were different types of anxiety and knowing which types I had allowed me to categorise my symptoms, effects and causes (by doing this I also felt more organised and in control of my anxiety). I knew that when I had a panic attack whilst out with friends it was linked more to my social anxiety (the social anxiety flares up which then leads to the panic disorder). I knew that if I began to panic whilst on public transport it was to do with my agoraphobia. Knowing this made me feel better. It helped me feel closer to myself. I understood myself more rather than being confused about why I acted a certain way, avoided certain places/situations or why I panicked so much.
Understanding your anxiety is the best starting point. By understanding it, you allow yourself to see your anxiety in a different light which helps with the process of coping with your anxiety and helps you gain a new sense of control.
You don’t have to go to a doctor to be able to understand anxiety. There are so many books out there and endless amounts of articles available to you for free online.
Don’t be afraid of researching mental illnesses.
Keep going and remain positive,
Sending my love,