How To Explain Anxiety To Someone Who Doesn’t Get It

Anxiety is such a complicated matter. It seems as if everyone experiences the symptoms differently. However, for every person who suffers from the condition, there is another person who completely doesn’t understand it.

As someone who has lived with this illness for many years, I have found myself explaining the condition time and time again. It isn’t as if these questioning individuals are challenging my mentality, but rather, they simply just don’t understand it.

So, to answer some of the most frequently asked questions, I wanted to explain what anxiety feels like for me.

1. What Is Anxiety?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, anxiety is “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill: a state of being anxious.” Even though this is a literal definition, I’ve found that many of my own anxiety attacks don’t have a trigger. Simply put, it can be an overwhelming feeling of panic that can happen at any moment.

Besides an attack (which is usually a sudden burst), anxiety seems to underlie everything. For me, I feel as if my own anxiety is always a part of my own thoughts. Not so much a fear or nerves, but more as a desire to get through things quickly.


2. What Causes It?

Once again, it’s not usually a specific thing that I’m focusing all of my energy on. It’s more like a collective of bad thoughts that I can’t escape from. For me, this differs from depression, as it leaves me with a sense of rampant energy instead of lack thereof.

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I feel as if I have to gain control over my stressors or else I will be consumed by them. It’s different for everyone, but anxiety tends to be more energy-driven. Excess energy and nervous energy are symptoms.


3. What Does It Feel Like?

Have you ever felt as if you were running a race without ever leaving your seat? Yup, that’s what anxiety feels like. It’s overwhelming, consuming and hard to escape. It takes your breath away with zero effort, and leaves you feeling completely exhausted.


4. What Do You Think Of Yourself During An Attack?

Let’s get one thing straight: No one wants to have anxiety. No one wants to feel like they are not in control of their own body.

When you have an anxiety attack, you are not only focused on your own fears, but also on yourself. You may realize exactly what you are doing, but you have very little control over the matter.


5. What Does It Feel Like Afterwards?

I’m sorry you just had to see me freak out/cry/shake — but honestly, I didn’t want to be there either. For me, I’m aware of my own anxiety, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean I can always control it.


6. “Have You Taken Your Medication?”

Don’t do it. Don’t ever ask someone this question. Not only is it demeaning, but it also makes the person feel small, worthless and crazy. While medication may help the situation, every person is entitled to their own actions, reactions and feelings. Be kind towards others by validating their feelings.

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While I may not be a doctor, I have lived with anxiety most of my life. I’m aware of how it affects me, and how it affects those around me. When it comes to dealing with your loved one who suffers from anxiety, don’t be so quick to judge. You never know what someone else is going through until you ask and then really listen when they respond.