A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. This is anxiety – sounds like something we’ve all experienced multiple times in our lives? Anxiety is completely normal; it touches on many of our emotions which characterize us as human. However, when you have too much anxiety it’s known as an anxiety disorder, and it’s a lot more common than you would imagine. Roughly 18% of US citizens over the age of 18 have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, in the big picture 1 out of 13 people worldwide have anxiety.

Here are 5 things people with anxiety want you to know.

1. Have some patience

Having someone close to you with anxiety can really be confusing. You may ask, “why do we have to avoid certain places, situations, and deal with irrational logic?” It Isn’t their fault. Anxiety doesn’t have set criteria, it uses to choose the target it preys on, anyone can develop this disorder at anytime in their lives. Trust me when I say they didn’t choose to live with the extra burden of impending doom lurking around every corner.

Emotionally, anxiety takes a lot out of you, as the victim or someone close to them. Anyone with anxiety will be first to tell you how much they appreciate you sticking through the bad times and the good. It means a lot to have the emotional support of friends and family, especially for times that are worse than others. As they say,” You’ll find out who your friends really are”  – this is such a good example of the saying. Anyone who sticks it out through it all, really is a true friend, and they really appreciate it more than they admit.

2. Don’t try to fix them

Anxiety Isn’t something you can fix, pushing someone too hard will make things worse. The last thing someone suffering with anxiety needs is someone close to them trying to solve their disorder with brute force and persistence. Let them use coping skills and work through the problem at their own pace, make them feel comfortable, without being overbearing.

Most importantly, never make a big deal about a panic attack or irrational behavior. The more you talk about or bring up an episode of anxiety and try to diagnose the issue, the more frustrated they will become and ultimately lead to further episodes. Lastly, don’t talk about their anxiety with other people, it can be embarrassing, and make them feel more uncomfortable than they already are. Let them disclose their personal issues for themselves.

3. Know that anxiety is often misunderstood

There are so many social misconceptions on anxiety, I’ll cover the most common, which are also the most frustrating. People are lead to believe that anxiety always stems from a poor childhood, fear, or trauma. This isn’t always the case, more common than not it’s genetic, and your family has a history of anxiety, some cases more severe than others. Another big one is that people seem to believe you can just fix “it”. Anxiety disorders don’t evaporate with the morning mist, although that would be nice, it isn’t a that easy.

For many people anxiety will be with them for their entire life. With proper coping skills and conditioning you can still achieve a more than decent way of life with time. The capital offender of misconceptions is thinking you can tell someone to “just relax.” Sadly, there isn’t a switch you can use to turn off someone else’s anxiety, you’re going to have to sideline yourself and wait for them to cope with it on their own.

4. Understand that anxiety doesn’t make you “weak”

Anxiety has plagued mankind for our entire existence, overcoming adversity is one of humanity’s most valuable skills. Some of the most iconic people in our history have had anxiety disorders, even without modern medicine they didn’t give up. In modern days we have social figures with these disorders and they overcome and succeed on a world stage. Assuming someone with anxiety are weak, broken, or wortrless is ignorant. Here are a few familiar faces you wouldn’t have guessed cope or coped with anxiety.

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Leann Rimes
  • Johnny Depp
  • Kate Moss
  • Emma Stone
  • Joey Votto
  • Kim Basinger
  • Charlie Beljan
  • Scarlett Johansson
  • Adele

These are some of the public figures that aren’t shy about their condition and openly talk about coping skills and how they overcame anxiety and achieved their dreams. Many people are affected by anxiety, and achieve great things. I doubt you would consider any of the listed people above as “weak.”

5. Learn how to relate to an anxiety you don’t have

Plain and simple: you don’t have it, so how could you understand something that someone with the condition has a hard time making sense of for themselves? Anxiety can make those affected be irrational, and hard to reason with. Especially when they know they are being irrational and still can’t cope with anxiety.

When you experience something like a panic attack it triggers the famed “fight or flight” response, which releases chemicals in your brain such as adrenaline and cortisol. When these chemicals are released it slows digestion, increases heart rate and pushes blood into your major muscle groups. Leaving you feeling faint while your limbs go numb due to an influx in blood flow, and autonomic nervous functions, when this occurs you can push your muscles to the absolute maximum and achieve a great burst of strength and energy you normally wouldn’t be able to achieve maximizing survivability, hence the “flight or fight response”.

If you’ve ever experienced this before you can get a glimpse into what many people live through everyday. Don’t lose hope, many have dealt with this in the past and many more will deal with anxiety in the future. Try to understand them.

Featured photo credit: Womans hands connected With Tangled String/ Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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