Anxiety: The demon that gently nudges you to be social while simultaneously whispering in your ear every single possibility of how the conversation will go wrong. It is the invisible beast that brings every shade of red to your face, spreading like wildfire across your cheeks and showcasing your unease. It suffocates you before you have the chance to speak, and it twists and bends your insides, making you feel nauseous. Anxiety is the emotional vampire that feeds on your desire to just be normal.
Feeling anxiety and having anxiety are two different things. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, anxiety can be defined as:
1. apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over something impended or anticipated ill: a state of being anxious
2. medical: an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it
Almost everyone feels tension or stress in the face of upcoming deadlines, potential health scares, job interviews, and so on. That is normal. Feeling anxious is our body’s way of keeping us alert in unfamiliar situations. However, for people with an anxiety disorder, being on edge isn’t a temporary emotion or reaction. It is a daily struggle.
Anxiety disorder is a medical condition classified as a mental illness that comes in different forms: panic disorders, phobias, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety is accompanied by physical symptoms that include an upset stomach, a racing heart, seating, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, frequent urination or diarrhea, and can be accompanied by other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders.
Anxiety disorders are more than the racing of your heart when you are about to conduct a presentation or the nervousness you feel as you wait in the hospital for your test results. It is the fear, dismay, and dread that surrounds you. It can happen out of nowhere for no reason or for every reason.
Please stop saying you have anxiety if you really don’t. You can feel anxious, but that does not necessarily mean you have anxiety.
With the various misconceptions about mental illnesses, using terms like “anxiety” and “panic attacks” loosely minimizes the people who truly deal with anxiety on a daily basis. It makes it harder to for people who do not have an anxiety disorder to grasp the concept of mental illness and it could make it difficult for those who do have anxiety to come forward and seek help because they feel that they are “worrying over nothing.” Mental illness is not something to be exaggerated.