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Everyday all around the world there are people battling hidden illnesses that even those closest to them may not even know they have.
There’s a man walking through the crowded mall with his wife, scanning every face that walks past them with an agitated look upon his face. He has post-traumatic stress disorder, but you wouldn’t know it looking at him.
Or what about the mother that is cleaning up after her family’s dinner, but she can’t just wipe the counter off once. She has to do it ten times before she is able to move on with the rest of her evening. Some of her closest friends don’t know that she suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder.
There are so many illnesses that are not necessarily visible to the human eye. There are secret battles some of us fight day in and day out. Often times we face these illnesses by ourselves or with only a handful of loved ones by our side.
One of the most common psychiatric disorders around the world is anxiety disorder. It’s a debilitating, lonely, and frightening condition to live with. I know this because I am a lifelong sufferer. Anxiety disorder is often misunderstood and misrepresented in media and popular culture. Here are 7 things that you might not realize about having anxiety, from someone that lives with it every day:
1 – It can destroy a friendship or a relationship without remorse.
Anxiety doesn’t care that your best friend invited you to dinner for the third time this month. Nor does it care that you made up an excuse to your friend each time she’s asked you. It doesn’t care that you really do want to go with her, but that you are worried about how it will go, who will be there, or if you will say the right thing.
Your friend doesn’t know this. She just assumes you don’t want to hang out with her. After this happens so many times, you can’t blame her for moving on, can you?
2 – It has cost many people opportunities at bettering themselves.
Oh, you want to move up in your career? Or you want to change the trajectory of your professional life and go back to school? Anxiety doesn’t care about that either! It will creep in and cast self-doubt and make you question why you had the idea to change things up in the first place. It will cause you to wonder what will happen if you fail in your endeavor or who is going to be there to pick up the pieces when it doesn’t work out.
Anxiety is a dream crusher and confidence killer. It can destroy professional opportunities and hinder upward mobility in both your personal and professional worlds.
3 – Some people don’t think anxiety is a real thing.
At some point on their journey, every person that has suffered from anxiety has heard the words, “Can’t you just get over it?” or “What is there to be nervous about?” To some people, anxiety is something that was manifested in the mind of the sufferer and therefore is easily rectified.
“Just put on your brave face and go in there, talk to that person…” the onlooker will say. It is so unbelievably hard to explain to a person that your symptoms are real, intense and not just a figment of your imagination.
4 – It can be passed down from parent to child.
Like so many other disorders, genetics can play a factor in the development of different forms of anxiety disorders. Though, this is not the case with all forms of anxiety, it is one of the main causes of the disorder. Some of it is genetic and some of it can be from exposure to a parent that suffers from anxiety. In particular, social anxiety disorders. Children learn so many of their habits, characteristics and ways of coping from their parents, so it is not surprising that some anxious behaviors/symptoms can be learned as well.
What society doesn’t tell you is just how awful a parent can feel for “passing along” any form of anxiety disorder to their children. It produces feelings of shame and guilt. You want better for your children, but when you suffer from anxiety it is so hard to hide your symptoms at every point of your parenting journey. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break.
5 – Some consumer products can make symptoms worse.
Caffeine consumption and smoking can all make a sufferer’s symptoms more noticeable. Since all three can affect the central nervous system, they can exaggerate already existing behaviors in a person with anxiety disorder. Some of these may include: shaking, sweaty palms, difficulty concentrating and rapid heartbeat.
Some of these symptoms are hard enough to deal with on a daily basis, but not being able to smoke (if you choose) or drink a cup of coffee without having to deal with the amplified symptoms of one’s anxiety just makes being a sufferer all the more worse.
6 – There are people you know that you would never guess have an anxiety disorder diagnosis.
You know that person that is in your circle or at work that is always happy and upbeat? You know the person that always has a smile on their face and an overall positive outlook on life? Their optimism is almost annoying at times? We all know someone like this.
Guess what? Even the happiest of people can be secretly suffering with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety manifests itself in each person differently. For some, it is like a huge weight that is carried around their neck, weighing them down day in and day out. But for some, it is secretly hidden, tucked away in a secret compartment in their brain and only those closest to them have been able to see it.
Anxiety manifests itself in each person differently. For some, it is like a huge weight that is carried around their neck, weighing them down day in and day out. But for some, it is secretly hidden, tucked away in a secret compartment in their brain and only those closest to them have been able to see it.
The way they carry themselves, live their everyday life, and handle stressful situations may never alert you that they suffer from anxiety. Some sufferers handle it better than others and some have found their own ways to cope with stressful situations or triggers of their anxiety. But that doesn’t mean that they suffer any less than others that have an anxiety disorder.
7 – You can develop anxiety at any point during your life.
Although anxiety can be genetic, onset can occur at any time in a person’s life. For some, a traumatic event can trigger an anxiety disorder, or even dealing with a family member that is sick for a long period of time. It can really be the smallest thing that can set it off.
For some sufferers, their anxiety stems from their childhood. An abusive upbringing can have lasting effects on the child as they become an adult. While for others, it can be something as simple as a cross-country move or a bad review at their job that sets off their anxiety.
Anxiety is a disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is still considered one of the ‘hidden illnesses’ because it can’t necessarily be physically seen by those looking at a person.
But the more people learn about anxiety disorders and understand how they impact those that suffer from them, the more understanding and compassionate we can all be to those that have it. The more we can realize that anxiety is a real thing, and that it manifests itself so differently from individual to individual the more knowledgeable the world can become on not just this disorder, but all ‘unseen’ conditions in general.
We owe it to our loved ones (and ourselves) who carry this hidden burden.