14 Things Only People with Anxiety Will Understand

While many refuse to speak out about it, living with anxiety is an immensely difficult feat. The truth of the matter is that few non-sufferers comprehend how this illness affects people. In that light, here are just 14 things that people suffering from anxiety know to be true.

Anxiety does not define a person


This nugget of truth is perhaps one of the hardest things to explain to people who don't suffer from anxiety. Contrary to what some people may think, an anxious person is so much more than their mental state. The truth of the matter is that anxiety is not something that defines a person; it's a mental health disorder and ought to be treated as such. These are some signs you might have an anxiety disorder.

The effects of anxiety can be physical


Let's be clear: Even though anxiety is a mental health disorder, it's not just something that just affects your mind. Anxious feelings can manifest physically—sometimes severely. For example, someone suffering from anxiety may get uncontrollable panic attacks, headaches, dizziness, and an irregular heartbeat. To ease anxiety before these symptoms strike, try these natural remedies for anxiety.

Tens of millions of adults suffer from anxiety in America


In case you're thinking that anxiety is this small-time thing that only affects a few people in the country, think again. There are a whopping 40 million U.S. adults suffering from anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Since there still tends to be a stigma associated with the condition, it can be harrowing to admit that you're a sufferer. (Here are some things you should NEVER say to someone with anxiety.)

In fact, it's the most common mental illness in America


Many people believe that depression is the most common mental illness in this country. Not so. Forty million adults suffer from anxiety, which makes up for 18 percent of the general population. That means there are more people suffering from anxiety than any other mental problem in America. (Did you know listening to this one song can reduce anxiety by up to 65 percent?)

Content continues below ad

Just because a fear is irrational, doesn't mean it's not real


Much of the time, what people worry about when they are suffering is something entirely irrational. Just because there is technically 'no need' to stress about a certain thing, that doesn't make the fear any less real. There's nothing more frustrating than being in the midst of a crippling panic, and someone explaining to you how very ludicrous your fears are. Shockingly, this tidbit of information does not help at all; if anything, it hinders.

Panic attacks are completely overwhelming


While we're on the subject of panic attacks, let's talk about how they actually feel. Of course, everyone experiences these episodes in different ways, but there are some symptoms that every sufferer will recognize all too clearly. The surge of awful dread and fear comes over you out of nowhere. Suddenly, you're completely gripped by the sense that all is not well; something truly terrible is about to happen. You can barely breathe, you feel hot, your heart rate quickens, and you want to leave the place that you are. It physically hurts and you feel you have no control. And this barely scratches the surface of what it feels like to have anxiety. (These essential oils are known for their anxiety-calming tendencies.)

If you have anxiety, you may also have depression

iStock/Highwaystarz Photography

Here's the kicker: Many people who suffer from anxiety are also likely to suffer from depression. (Here are eight warning signs you might be depressed.) Scientists have found a biological link between the two mental illnesses, according to a study by the University of Western Ontario. That means that people currently living with anxiety may also have undiagnosed depression as well.

The most common time for anxiety attacks is 9 p.m.

iStock/milos kreckovic

Here's a bizarre little fact, which perfectly illustrates how anxiety is biological rather than merely mental. The most common time that teens, in particular, report suffering from anxiety is at 9 p.m. That is according to a report from the Crisis Text Line. The information is based on how many texts the line gets throughout the day. Of course, there could be many reasons why people suffer the most at this time, but one explanation is that this is when certain chemicals are inactive in the brain. (Doing this one thing could help relieve your panic attacks.)

Content continues below ad

No, you can't just 'get over it'


As an anxiety sufferer, one of the most infuriating things you can hear is that you ought to simply 'get over' your illness. The challenging thing about living with anxiety is the fact that many people refuse to acknowledge it as a legitimate illness. (By the way, sorry caffeine-lovers, but your coffee might be having a bigger impact on your anxiety than you think.)

Attacks can come out of the blue


Many sufferers have so-called anxiety triggers, which often come before the onset of an attack. (Here are four more ways to overcome an anxiety attack–and two you should avoid.) That's not to say that panic attacks have rhyme nor reason, though. In reality, attacks can come from nowhere; it's simply not possible to predict when or how they will raise their heads. In a sense, that's what makes suffering from this illness so difficult.

Not everyone with anxiety gets treatment


The number of people getting regular treatment for their anxiety is shockingly low when you consider the fact that it's the most common mental illness in the U.S. In reality, only about a third of people suffering get the treatment they so desperately need, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The sad truth, then, is that two-thirds of sufferers are living under the shadow of this illness alone. If you suspect you're suffering from anxiety, it's crucial that you see a medical professional. (If you are thinking about reaching out for help, here's how to find a doctor you can trust.)

It's not just a state of mind


The greatest and most problematic misconception about anxiety is that it's merely a state of mind; something that the sufferer can somehow control if they really wanted to. That idea is damaging simply because it places the blame of the illness on the shoulders of the sufferer. Instead, anxiety is something that you can learn to manage, but never fully control on your own. (These are some things that everyone should know about anxiety.)

Content continues below ad

There are ways of managing it


That being said, there are a few ways that you can manage anxiety. (These magic phrases to ease anxiety are a good start.) If you know what it feels like to have anxiety already, it's essential that you get the help you need. Each individual needs a different level of care, and your doctor will be able to help you determine the best course of action. People should not have to carry on living with anxiety without the help and support they deserve.

Sometimes, it's the stigma that hurts the most


The stigma of struggling with mental health issues is often what hurts and hinders the recovery process the most. There are many people out there who genuinely feel powerless over their illness since they don't want to actually admit they're a sufferer. It shouldn't be that way, and it doesn't have to be. As the solution so often is, the answer is education. For more advice, you can visit adaa.org.

View as Slideshow

Want to stay smart and healthy?

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.