Alone in the Crowd

Did you know that anxiety disorders can make someone feel like they don’t belong?

That’s what I felt and I’ve heard from others who feel the same way.

I struggled for years knowing I had an anxiety disorder which made me feel like I was the only one and I didn’t belong. See, anxiety disorders can make someone feel like they don’t belong because we are different than others. I know I lived everyday wondering why I can’t do what others do with ease. If I can’t, I must not be good enough. I’ve got a defect.

On top of that I don’t look or sound like an anxious person so I didn’t even fit amongst fellow anxiety sufferers. I’m outgoing, social and (seemingly) confident. Doesn’t sound like someone who’s anxious right?

However with education and treatment I’ve come to learn anxiety does not look a certain way. Here’s why.

Anxiety is a healthy response to stress, so if you’ve felt it it’s very normal. The fight or flight response has kept us safe since we were living in caves or roaming the Sahara and continues to keep us are in our relatively safe modern day.

The difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder is marked by the frequency of anxious thoughts and behaviors. Persistent, chronic intrusive thought that last six months or longer and negatively impact daily life constitutes having an anxiety disorder.

Here’s the thing: Anxiety does not look or sound a certain way.

So what are the different types of anxiety disorders? The five major types of anxiety disorders are below in no particular order:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these so-called “rituals,” however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.
  • Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
  • Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder) is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation – such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others – or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.

The reality is that someone can have multiple disorders simultaneously, also called “co-morbidity.” I am no exception since I have both Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder – I really hit the lottery right?!

When I started program in December I was also diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder which I have worked hard on eliminating. I’m not there yet but I have made significant progress.

If you or someone you know seems to live with anxiety that is disrupting their lives please get help. The important thing is not to get the right “label” per se but we have to know what the challenges are to address them.

With a diagnosis you know what you can learn what to do to reduce, eliminate or live with it. It takes work, time and patience. Please get help or help someone you know get help.

Please be kind. Those with anxiety disorders are fighting a battle every day that you may not see. They are strong and courageous and deserve our support.

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