1. Being hyper-aware of your surroundings, to the point of paranoia.
Anxiety is triggered by a whole host of things, but one of its biggest instigators is insecurity. And a really anxious person is visited daily by a certain brand of insecurity, one that’s characterized by paranoia and makes it hard to step out of the house calmly/lackadaisically. It’s unwarranted insecurity, premature fear of unsubstantiated things like worrying that the dude who lives in the building across from you just saw you picking your nose. Without anyone there to confirm or (more importantly) deny it, it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of self-doubt.
2. Suffering from comically horrifying dreams.
Inspired by Hudspeth, I wrote an article “The 19 Most Irrational Things That Make Me Anxious,” and something in the comments section particularly struck a chord with me. A “Winnie” wrote, “Can’t we just stop with the ‘I’m so anxious and therefore quirky’ thing.” Normally I read all my comments with a grain of salt, but this one got nine upvotes, and is therefore worthy of our attention.
What Winnie fails to understand is that, one, she’s a pooh, and two, truly anxious people are not anxious for show. In fact, I’d venture to say they’d risk a whole lot to rid themselves of the anxiety that’s hindered them since they can remember. I’d venture to say that, when taking their daily dose of Zoloft, they aren’t high-fiving themselves because this legitimizes their “quirkiness.” Like myself, those who suffer from anxiety do just that: they SUFFER. Anxiety is part of who they are and is with them always – not just when it’s convenient. And the best example I can think of for this are dreams. Anxious people know what it’s like to feel trapped, nearly every night, amidst trench warfare, ex-boyfriends, or whatever else constitutes their worst nightmare. And I’m willing to guess this doesn’t fill them with a sense of quirky pride either.
3. Untameable self-lacerating behavior.
Just as anxiety arises in people for various reasons, it remains in our blood and sometimes lingers there for a lifetime for various reasons too. Without realizing it, many people who are afflicted with anxiety do a good job of bringing it on themselves. For instance, a lack of productivity is a huge source of my anxiety, except I attempt to combat this nervousness by avoiding the things I need to do altogether. Practicing this kind of out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality may provide me temporary solace, but it will only end up further decreasing my productivity and thus provoking more anxiety in me in the long run.
Those who have anxiety usually consider over-sensitivity to be a curse. They typically yearn for a conscience that’s more hardened and less likely to start weeping at the sight of a baby deer sipping fresh water out of a creek. It would make our lives a whole lot easier if our hearts weren’t so weak and if we could confidently attend a bar mitzvah service without fearing it’ll bring us to tears. If we could just walk by ONE dog tied to a lamp post as his owner is god-know-where and not stop to imagine all the horrific scenarios this could lead to, we would all sleep easier at night.
5. Anxiety-induced lying and the subsequent guilt.
Despite Winnie’s persuasive argument, anxiety doesn’t feel good. The racing of the heart, the wide-eyed paranoia, the sweating – “good” is a term I’d use to describe the feeling after taking a Xanax, not during a panic attack. Which is why, when faced with anxiety, we sometimes resort to bad behavior like procrastination or lying. It’s easy to see lying as an anxiety quick-fix; it’s a way to momentarily avoid confronting a harsh reality by bending the truth in your favor. But like procrastination, it might feel good temporarily, but will just worsen your anxiety in the long run. It inevitably multiplies your anxiety – now you’re not just anxious about the initial thing, but about lying about it as well.
Classified as an “anxiety disorder,” hypochondriasis therefore requires an inherently anxious human. If you suffer from this particular ilk of anxiety, you’ll know it. And no — it’s not the same as worrying that you have an oncoming cold. To get an idea of what goes on in the mind of a hypochondriac, think big; think: cancer. To paint a picture for you: it’s a 19-year-old girl, unable to sleep at night because she’s CERTAIN that the lump in her throat isn’t nervousness or her adam’s apple but cancer, and with no proof whatsoever. It’s believing you have an acute sense of your body, when in reality you have no grasp on it at all.
7. The club-seizure feeling.
“Look at me and tell me the truth. Am I having a seizure right now?” my friend asked me the other night after we made the ill-conceived decision to go to a club. Fortunately, she wasn’t having a seizure, but she did touch on the pervasive mood common to anxious people in a club. Like the rush of agitation or restlessness an easily-anxious person gets from merely observing someone in a pitiable rush, techno music penetrates the bloodstream, pounds at the pulse, and generally just makes you feel like you’re having a seizure. Why seizure music is encouraged and applauded I’lll never know. But my best guess is that they’re tyring to depopulate the overcrowded clubs.
8. A swelling sense of lame-ness.
Hyper-aware, insecure, paranoid…these feelings adorn the anxiety-ridden path to the land of losers. Of course this path and land is fabricated, devised in the anxious person’s head because she is just that: anxious. Yet despite the fact that your swelling sense of uncoolness has been contrived entirely in your head, the feeling still feels curiously real. It comes from a disparity between what you have to offer and what you think others want from you. Anxious people tend to make bigger deals out of minor situations and so instead of simply saying “no” when asked if they’ve heard the new Falling Treeslopes’ song “Crystallized Metamorphosis,” they’ll view this as a test, a crucial make-it-or-break-it question that will ultimately save them or throw them into the depths of irrelevancy. And so they’ll lie and say “yes,” because the swelling sense of lame-ness is strong.
Most anxious people WISH they could just not care, or at least care a little less. About what? Nothing in particular – or, put differently: everything. Perhaps if they cared a little less then they’d be more willing to put themselves and all of their worn-out clothes out there to be judged, ridiculed and rejected by thrift shop employees. Or they could sit on the subway and not have a self-destructive inner battle every time you see a panhandler.
10. The compulsion to clean.
As a sub-set of anxiety, OCD inevitably creeps its way into the consciences and egos of anxious people everywhere. And it’s very different from being a “quirky” neat freak. OCD is when you can’t NOT color-coordinate your socks; it’s when you interrupt sex to change the sheets; and it’s when you’re late for your birthday dinner because you desperately needed to vacuum the surface of your nightstand.
11. The feeling of having minuscule game.
Anxiety isn’t tangible or visible, but it’s nonetheless a very real sensation with very real consequences. Anxious people are prone to do an abundance of things, and leading the pack of anxiety-induced oddities is probably word vomit, or the impulse to speak when you shouldn’t. Oftentimes an anxious situation – such as being around a dude you want to ask out but don’t know how – provokes one to talk about superfluous, truly irrelevant things and then, after realizing what he or she is doing, transitioning into a low mumble.
12. The rising fury when people tell you to “chill.”
Again, if most anxious people could chill, they would. But it’s past that – the attempting-to-be-chill phase has long since died after we soon discovered its futility. Most of the time, “chilling,” just isn’t in the cards for us. But it’s CERTAINLY not a possibility when you bark it at us — all that’ll do is make us hyper-aware of our own discomfort, therefore arousing more anxiety. Yelping “chill” at us is the imperative version of waiting at the Apple Store. You make your appointment at 3pm, get there at 3pm, but are forced to wait for 45 minutes and should you even ASK the status of your appointment, you’ll be reprimanded by an even-tempered, bespectacled 22-year-old.