Anxiety vs Feeling Anxious

On Twitter I opened up about the fact I'd been affected by anxiety again. Those feelings continued to wreak havoc on me over the next four days.

The ever-looming anxiousness spurred me on to spend much of the week talking to anxiety sufferers on Instagram. My intention was to understand how they deal with it. It's enlightening to realise how open people are once you strike up a conversation with them and being part of a small online community who understand your troubles is incredibly heartwarming.

Much of the conversation consisted of the differences between anxiety and feeling anxious because they are no doubt very different. Those who don't suffer from anxiety tend to find it difficult to understand the difference. It turns out every person I spoke to has experienced a lack of understanding from someone close to them in one way or another.

A week of reflection has allowed me the chance to come to somewhat of a conclusion, to hopefully help the non-sufferers understand the symptoms and the sufferers explain this to their friends.

First of all, everyone will experience anxiety from time to time in their lives. 

Secondly, anxiety is a completely normal reaction to stress - in most cases.

Feeling anxious:
Anxious feelings have the potential to motivate us into a frenzy of productivity at the thought of a looming deadline. It can warn of pending danger. It can, in small doses, help us to make good decisions and get stuff done. I'd refer to this example as 'anxious feelings'.

Anxiety:
Anxiety becomes a problem, however, when it doesn’t just affect you occasionally. It begins to consume your daily thoughts with increasing severity.

All of a sudden your productivity grinds to a halt, your personal life get slammed into the floor and your health becomes a major concern. This then becomes a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Many people flippantly throw out phrases like “you’re triggering my anxiety” or use anxiety as an excuse, but for some individuals, an anxiety disorder can cause real problems.

I was once that person, suffering from anxiety on a daily basis, so when it comes back as it did last weekend, you can understand why I was overcome with worry.

Anxiety disorders usually centre around an excessive and irrational fear. Several common types of anxiety disorders are:

  • Agoraphobia: fear of being in a place from which you can’t escape
  • Panic Disorder: this triggers recurring intense panic attacks
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: constant worrying
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: inability to be the centre of attention or talk to new people

People with anxiety disorders are often anxious all the time. There is no specific stressor that sets off their anxiety, and their fears are often irrational. Even though the person with anxiety knows that, in theory, they should not be so worried, they simply cannot get their body to listen to their brain.

I've noticed many people in my life - some I never suspected of being affected by anxiety - coming out and telling me of their experiences. If a few more people around them understood the differences between the two, we may see more people being open about their anxiety and getting better help as a result of it.

The most important thing to know about anxiety? BE KIND. Be kind to yourself if you suffer from it (or if you’re just stressed about a project), and be kind to your friends if they suffer from anxiety (or if they’re stressed about a project).

Joe Pack