The way the term is tossed around with such ambivalence you’d think that absolutely everyone was afflicted with anxiety.
The reality of actually being diagnosed with anxiety versus using at as a catch-all word for being nervous or unfamiliar or uncertain is as significant as night to day. Anxiety might ebb and flow but it never fully stops. Imagine feeling like you have a pair of emotional underpants full of bees.
That’s sort of what it feels like to have an anxiety diagnosis.
At least in the mindset of this anxious person.
On top of this, most of us anxious people are also quite high-functioning. We have ot be. We don’t live in a society that values mental illness diagnoses and allows us time to deal with our struggles. We live in a society that says we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps or fall through the cracks.
As a result, many of us become quite functional even in the worst throes of our issues with anxiety. This behavior, of course, shows some pretty strong effects.
Here are eleven of them:
1. Other people don’t get it.
Telling someone with anxiety that they look unwell or inferring that there is something wrong with them can max out that person’s ability to cope. Which is what we were trying to do just before you mentioned it.
2. We over-analyze every conversation afterwards.
In trying to regain some semblance of control over our lives, we pull apart ervey interaction with the people closest to us so that we can see where we screwed up and try not to do it again.
3. Envisioning the worst case scenarios.
Not matter how well things appear to be going we very easily lose sight of this. We concoct ideas of the worst possible scenario, given the circumstances. We make it extremely difficult on ourselves to enjoy the moment.
4. My insomnia beats your insomnia.
Anxious people don’t sleep well at all most of the time. The immediate stress associated with everything we’ve done throughout the day waits for us to settle into our beds. Then it pounces. We spend the rest of the night ruminating and trying not to.
We, anxious people, obsess constantly over the most trivial details. Somewhere along the way we have convinced ourselves that we will have more control if we do this. We are completely incorrect about this, but we do it anyway.
6. Passing up opportunities to be social.
Being social is a helpful foil for our otherwise control-driven obsessive lives. Often, though, that same anxiety that tells us we need to retain control also tells us what terrible friends we are, what terrible people we are, and that nobody wants to spend time with us. Again, this is all untrue, but we convince ourselves of this and skip most social outings because of it.
7. Assuming it’s my fault.
Anxiety-ridden people, no matter what the outside circumstances, assume their own wrongdoing is involved no matter how crazy it may seem. A friend across town you haven’t seen or talked to in two years gets in a car wreck? Your fault. Your kid falls on a swing and bumps their head at school? You should have been homeschooling them. And on and on…
8. Living in the present is nearly impossible.
The future is so lurid and seductive with all of its unknown fears, of course, you want to hang out there instead. So, you do. People who have high functioning anxiety fear desperately for the future and spend most of their time living in that fear.
9. We magnify our own mistakes.
We probably give everyone else a pass on theirs too, but we inflate our own mistakes to epic proportions. That way we can obsess more about what we did wrong and try to constantly correct our wrong behavior. The notion that everyone makes mistakes doesn’t apply to us. We are not everyone.
10. Constant comparison.
People with high functioning anxiety are constantly comparing their lives to others, and finding their own wanting. They are never good enough/pretty enough/powerful enough/successful enough.
11. The importance of sheer mental exhaustion.
Most of the time I do pretty well, but sometimes the mental stress hits me to a point where I just have to lie down and sleep. I’m not sleepy. I’m not tired. My brain is so exhausted by my anxiety, however, that I simply must sleep. It’s awful.
Do any of these effects sound familiar to you? If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety you can find help on the SAMHSA website. Treatment can help tremendously. Let us know what you think of this article in the comments!