14 Nov What is anxiety?
Anxiety is “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune” (dictionary.com).
Anxiety involves a feeling of fear because you feel threatened in some capacity. The feelings are real but the threat may not be – the threat could be imagined, but feel very real to you. Like Steve feels it’s the end of the world if he fails his quiz, when we know that a quiz isn’t going to end the world.
Anxiety is a pretty common feeling that most of us experience at different points in our lives. But some people feel anxious more often than others and for some people anxiety can become a disorder and seriously disrupt their lives and overall sense of well-being.
How does anxiety feel? People describe anxiety with the following words:
tension, worry, feeling on guard, hyper alert, hyper vigilant, apprehension, a sense of doom
Physical symptoms might include (but are not limited to):
stomach aches/pains, sweating, pacing, shaking, mind racing, an inability to sit still, nausea, dizziness, chest pains, headaches
Do you ever fear you might miss a big event? Or super stress out over a quiz? Or worry a friend might turn on you for no reason? Or stay inside all day rather than go meet the new neighbors? These concerns can prevent people from enjoying day to day activities. The feeling that people have over these concerns (like the nervousness that Steve felt) is anxiety.
Anxiety is a general state of worry that can be specific (“I am worried that people will hate me”) or just a general sense of doom (“I don’t know why I am anxious, I just know something bad is going to happen”). Anxiety is different from an anxiety disorder, which is a diagnosis provided by a mental health professional.
Here is the basic difference between an anxiety disorder and feeling anxious:
Anxiety disorders feel like part of who you are and restrict you from fully enjoying life because you have a really hard time getting through the anxiety. (You’ll read much more about this shortly.)
Feeling anxious from time to time over a life event like a test, moving to a new town, an intimidating social situation, or having to give a speech in front of the whole school, is NORMAL. You get through it. It is temporary.
For instance, you can feel anxious about spiders when you unexpectedly see one in your bathroom, but as long as your dislike of spiders is not keeping you from going to the bathroom, you can be sure this is just a dislike of spiders, not a disorder.
Anxiety can feel overwhelming and lead to a panic attack, a condition where people are not able to breathe properly (see the Bonus YSS on panic attacks).
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue facing Americans. Thankfully, however, they are also among the most treatable conditions. Check out the Bonus YSS section to read about the most common types of anxiety disorders and read the next sub-post to understand the subtle but important difference between anxiety and stress. If you have anxiety, please make sure you read the “Beating Anxiety” post after you are done with learning about anxiety in general here.
Do you ever feel anxious? If so, what makes you anxious?