I’m sure somebody near you has some form of anxiety, if not you yourself. Now that I can identify it in myself, I’m realizing how common it is. Historically, we may have perceived it as a “weakness of character” or something along those lines.
Plot twist: Anxiety is a real disorder that affects millions of people daily.
Okay cool. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can start learning how to approach it. For those of you who do not have anxiety, I write this so you can understand, and relate to your loved ones, and fellow peoples who do.
There are many forms of anxiety, and a wide range of intensities of it. Some people suffer panic attacks, anxiety attacks, excessive sweating, hyperventilation, and a variety of emotional distress. Others may have lesser issues, but are still affected by anxiety’s many struggles.
Now this isn’t a pity paper. Don’t apologize or anything like that. Just understand, so you can help yourself, and others in anxiety-induced episodes.
So what does it feel like? Here’s my perspective:
Anxiety comes and goes in waves usually. When it is bad, for me, I feel an impending sense of doom, regardless of how happy I may or may not be with my current situation. It’s as if I am dreading an upcoming event that won’t go away. This can last for weeks at a time. I feel “on edge,” as if I should be ready for something terrible to happen. I often feel as though I can’t eat, and I end up losing weight like crazy. I also have a constant urge to cry for no reason.
In being my stubborn self, I often resist asking for help from anyone. I also have a tendency to try and cover up my anxiety, especially to strangers. Why would I do this? I have no idea. Anxiety-logic screws with a lot of things.
For myself, I know that at the thought of anxiety during a bad wave, I can actually spark an anxiety attack on myself. So again, I try to avoid telling people. My friends and family can obviously tell something’s up by my trembling body and voice, along with my constant sense of worry and restlessness. If they try and ask what’s wrong, I refuse to say anxiety, because I know that will cause another attack, so I try to work out the words “Nothing,” or “I’m fine.” I really don’t want to burst into tears around other people, so I avoid the subject and I might even revert attention to something else. Please don’t probe an anxious person, it only makes things worse.
Sometimes, this can really suck because people think you’re hiding something from them. What’s worse is when they think they are doing something wrong, and they get hurt from your lack of steadiness.
Anxiety can be a never-ending cycle of positive-feedback, which is why it is so important to be understanding towards people with anxiety.
So that’s my perspective. Now what can you do to help someone suffering from an anxiety attack?
1. STAY. CALM. It’s going to feel strange to force yourself into the opposite emotional state as the people around you, but really, it helps everyone. Speak slowly, speak softly. Relax as much as you can.
2. Listen to them. Ask them what you can do. Everyone is slightly different. Some people may want to be completely alone, some people just want hugs. If they can talk, listen. If they can’t just give them time.
3. Don’t probe them. If they can’t talk, don’t make them. Don’t force them to do something they’re clearly not ready/capable of doing in their emotional state. That’s just mean, and it won’t help.
4.Take them away. You’ve probably witnessed what it feels like to cry in front of people you didn’t want to cry in front of before. It sucks. Even if you’re surrounded by friends, sometimes you just need space. Take the person having the attack away from people. If there’s an empty hallway or private space, escort them that way if you can.
5. Sometimes, you just gotta let it out. Crying is a natural stress reliever. Sometimes, you just have to let it go. Cue Frozen. If they’re in a position that they can step out for a while and just cry, let them. Be a shoulder for them if they need it.
6. Remember that this will blow over. Let them know! Everyone wants to hear “it’s going to be okay.” Especially with anxiety, you know it will be okay. It’s only a matter of time before they’re well again.
Anxiety is a pretty crappy thing to deal with, but it’s manageable with enough help and support. You can really help someone who has anxiety, and maybe even make a new friend. It means a lot to have someone who will sit with you and let you cry without judgement. If you try and cheer them up, you get bonus points. Shoutout to my roommate for telling me puns until I could laugh again when I was having a really bad anxiety attack back in October! Anyone has the ability to help. Just try!