10 Things People with Anxiety Want You to Know

Considering that anxiety is the world’s most common mental disorder, you would think everyone would have a good understanding of it. That’s not what people with anxiety say. In fact, individuals with anxiety disorders continue to face many hurtful myths and stigma surrounding the condition.

It’s time to clear up those untruths. With a more informed understanding of others’ experiences with anxiety disorders, you’ll be in a better position to offer the appropriate support. Here are 10 things that people with anxiety wish you knew.

As a legitimate mental health condition, an anxiety disorder extends beyond the everyday worries that we all experience. Click To Tweet

10 TRUTHS ABOUT ANXIETY

  1. Many of us are struggling without help.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), anxiety affected 4% of the population worldwide, or 301 million people, in 2019.

Since the pandemic, the prevalence of mental health concerns like anxiety has only risen, especially in our youth. Among all ages, the WHO reported a 25% increase in anxiety and depression in just the first year of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, the organization’s stats also show that only 1 in 4 people with anxiety receive treatment for it. This means many people are suffering in silence. And, to add to their struggle, their loved ones often hold misconceptions about what they’re going through.

  1. Yes, everyone experiences anxiety, but having an anxiety disorder is different.

While anxiety is part of being human—especially in the face of stressful events or life changes—anxiety disorders involve heightened symptoms that interfere with daily life. For example, people with generalized anxiety disorder can feel excessive worry, nervousness, and fear about everyday responsibilities and events, even ones that aren’t threatening.

In addition, they may have trouble managing their stress. As a result, they can feel overwhelmed and have trouble carrying out daily tasks. They may experience debilitating effects like panic attacks.

As a legitimate mental health condition, an anxiety disorder extends beyond the everyday worries that we all experience.

  1. Our minds hurt, but so do our bodies.

Most people think of anxiety as being solely a psychological problem. But it’s also associated with a host of physical symptoms, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Racing heart
  • Back aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Teeth grinding
  • Digestive distress
  • Trembling hands
  • Pins and needles
  • Lightheadedness

If a friend or family member is often feeling unwell physically, it could be a sign of anxiety.

  1. Listening and validating helps people with anxiety feel less alone.

People who don’t personally struggle with debilitating anxiety may, even without realizing it, minimize others’ symptoms. Dismissive statements like “It’s all in your head” only add to feelings of loneliness and despair.

Instead, practice active listening and patience. Don’t try to convince them to feel differently, say they should “just snap out of it,” or tell them to “look on the bright side.” Instead, validate their experience and express your willingness to listen and provide support.

Many people with mental health conditions like anxiety disorders feel misunderstood, judged, shamed, isolated, fearful, or minimized. Therefore, it’s crucial to make them feel heard, seen, and cared for. This can be as simple as saying, “I’m sorry you’re going through this” and “I’m here if you need to talk.”

  1. Don’t offer unsolicited advice.

While listening and supporting someone with anxiety is always a good idea, it’s best to avoid making assumptions or giving advice when they haven’t asked for it. For example, some people might think they’re being helpful by saying, “Have you tried meditation?” or by sharing the benefits of positive thinking.

Unless the person you’re speaking to has directly asked for advice, offer an ear rather than recommendations. If they do ask for your assistance, you may choose to share helpful resources, but do so without expectation or judgment.

  1. Anxiety has many different manifestations.

Anxiety will look different from person to person. There are different categories of anxiety disorders, such as:

In addition, anxiety is not a single or simple disorder. Through more than 30 years of brain SPECT imaging, Amen Clinics has determined that there are actually 7 brain patterns associated with anxiety and depression. (These 2 conditions occur together 75% of the time.)

Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) measures blood flow and activity in the brain. This advanced technology helps psychiatrists see areas of the brain that have healthy activity levels, too much activity or not enough. According to brain scans, the 7 types of anxiety and depression are:

  • Pure anxiety
  • Pure depression
  • Mixed anxiety/depression
  • Overfocused anxiety/depression
  • Temporal lobe anxiety/depression
  • Cyclic anxiety/depression
  • Unfocused anxiety/depression

Accordingly, each individual will experience different symptoms, with different levels of severity. Some days, a person with anxiety may be relatively high functioning. Other days, simply leaving the house can feel like a challenge.

  1. Anxiety is not the same as stress.

There are multiple causes of anxiety disorders, with both genetic and environmental factors potentially increasing risk. These factors include:

  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Certain parenting styles (such as overprotective or very controlling)
  • Head injury
  • Medication side effects
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Substance abuse
  • Medical illnesses
  • Psychosocial stressors

However, keep in mind that anxiety is not the same as stress. As the American Psychological Association notes, stress and anxiety may produce similar mental and physical symptoms. But anxiety can be present even without any external stressors.

  1. Don’t take our anxiety personally.

Sometimes, people with anxiety can’t follow through on things. They aren’t being flaky, difficult, or cruel; they may simply struggle with tasks that other people might consider routine. For example, social anxiety can make it difficult to face gatherings and events.

It’s common for people with mental health disorders to feel guilty or burdensome to the people they love. If they’re unable to follow through with a commitment, be understanding and tolerant of their situation. And, if they do follow through, be flexible and avoid making unrealistic expectations or demands.

If people with anxiety could simply “stop worrying” to please others, they probably would. But anxiety can make even simple tasks feel like impossible achievements. Their loved ones quizzing or accusing them about what they haven’t been able to accomplish is only likely to fuel their anxiety.

  1. Anxiety can be invisible.

Anxiety is associated with hidden side effects like trouble concentrating, low moods, and suicidal thoughts. Difficulties like racing thoughts and even full-on panic attacks may not be immediately apparent to the people around them.

Moreover, anxiety often breeds more anxiety. And the toll can be both physical and mental, leading to exhaustion.

Some people expect stereotypical warning signs like nail biting or hyperventilating in those who struggle with anxiety, but you may never see these occur. Many symptoms are internal and undetectable.

  1. People with anxiety disorders can flourish with proper treatment.

Without a comprehensive treatment plan, people with anxiety disorders may feel like they need to medicate with substances such as cannabis, alcohol, or prescribed benzodiazepines. But these “solutions” can actually cause more anxiety and other problems, such as addiction and memory issues.

The good news is, although anxiety symptoms can be debilitating, drug-free treatment options can be effective in reducing them. For example, there are various natural ways to cope with anxiety, from diet and exercise to deep breathing and nutritional supplements.

Determining the underlying brain patterns of anxiety is a helpful first step in creating a targeted treatment plan. Anxiety is often associated with overactivity in the basal ganglia, but other brain areas may also show abnormal activity, depending on which of the 7 types of anxiety/depression someone has.

In other words, when it comes to anxiety treatment, what works for one person with anxiety may not work for another—or could even make their symptoms worse. For personalized help managing anxiety, seek out a qualified mental health professional.

OVERCOMING ANXIETY

As a growing issue worldwide, anxiety disorders do not discriminate, affecting people of all demographics. But widespread misconceptions around them only add to the problem.

With more people than ever living with anxiety symptoms, we must all make it a priority to spread greater understanding and awareness, ensuring we’re part of the solution.

Anxiety disorders and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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