Each year, over 6 million people in the U.S. suffer from an anxiety disorder, impacting how they are able to interact with the rest of the world. Let’s take a closer look inside the mind of someone who suffers from it, and understand how you can help.
Anxiety is something all humans feel at some point in their lives, and for some people, that can develop into something more. For some, it can feel like an extension of that terrifying dream where they find themselves naked in front of a room full of people.
Anxiety itself isn’t hard to explain, but for someone with an anxiety disorder like myself, it is difficult to help others who don’t have it understand what it feels like.
They may not function as a complete nervous wreck all the time or for even months at a time. More often than not, it’s simply a lingering feeling in the background that follows their day-to-day thoughts. It’s just enough to remind you that it’s there, but still at a manageable level. It can push you to feel uncomfortable in normal situations, or creates unnecessary urgency to move through life quickly.
Other days it feels more like that naked dream.
When a situation elicits a full-blown anxiety or panic attack, the anxiety tightens in their throat and chest as if there isn’t enough air to fill your lungs, and it feels impossible to get enough. Suddenly, the thought of not getting enough air causes a new wave of panic.
There is a genuine fear that they may not be able to handle one more bump in the road. The fear is real, and the thought of not coming back to their senses are intense and irrational.
If you find yourself with someone who is experiencing an anxiety attack, here is what they want you to know:
They can’t turn it off.
No one chooses to want to feel this way, just as you don’t choose to have an eating disorder or cancer. It can be a combination of hereditary and environmental risk factors that are out of their control.
They can’t ignore it.
Brushing anxiety under a rug will only allow it to fester and become worse. It is always best to try and identify the source of anxiety and cope with it.
It can’t be simply “fixed” or “changed”.
In moments of an anxiety attack, advice will not be well received. Instead, it will feels as if their fear is being undermined or dismissed. They just want to feel safe, cared for, and unjudged.
It can be managed.
A support system needs to exist, such as working with a therapist who can help process emotions and work through underlying causes of anxiety or a doctor who can prescribe a medication regimen if necessary. Close friends or family members who are great listeners are also critical.
And remember, there is no need to try and fix everything…
They just need to you to be there for them.
Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Pittsburgh, PA inspiring others to have a healthy relationship with food. Specializing in disordered eating, intuitive eating, and GI disorders, Haley’s mission is to show that healthy doesn’t have to be restrictive or defined by how you compare to others. To stay inspired to be your healthiest you, visit Haley at INSPIRD Nutrition.