Having anxiety can be crippling. To the person experiencing it, the physical and mental symptoms can become so overwhelming that they’re impossible to ignore. But the tricky thing about anxiety is that, while the person affected may be utterly consumed by it, outsiders may have no idea. That’s why it’s so important to bring awareness to the mental health disorder, not just for those going through it, but for friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and more to better understand what to look for, so as not to judge but to understand, and even help.
1. You sometimes can’t follow through with plans.
To others, it may seem like you’re simply blowing them off, whether it be picking up the phone or meeting up for dinner. But the reality is, anxiety can be debilitating. It can lead you to cancel even the most looked forward to plans. While outsiders are quick to accuse you of not caring, or being disinterested, sometimes that can be so far from the truth. You wanted to catch up on the phone. You wanted to go to that dinner, but an overwhelming sense of panic, fear, and fatigue can ruin everything in a moment’s notice.
2. You spend way too much time thinking about things that would never cross someone’s mind who doesn’t have anxiety.
Perhaps it’s the way your friend texted you. Are they mad? You read the text over and over, trying to figure it out. You may begin to fear confronting them, or running into them. Maybe you can’t stop thinking about something your boss said in passing. Was his tone off? Does he think you’re not working hard enough? People without anxiety likely see this kind of behaviour as obsessive, when really, worrying over pretty much anything and everything is one of the biggest side effects of anxiety.
3. You go into quiet modes seemingly out of nowhere, and if you’re a very social person, people take it personally.
Friends may call you out, wondering why you’re being so quiet. You can’t muster up the energy to explain that you just have so much going on in your mind that you simply can’t keep up with what’s going on around you, so you find people assuming you’re sad, bored, tired, etc.
4. You replay conversations over and over in your head.
You try to avoid confrontation at all costs, because it only worsens your anxiety. When you have an argument or even a conversation that seems lovely to the other person, you continue to think about it after it’s said and done. You can never get it out of your head and you always think you said something wrong. It can really eat you up inside, and you always have to remind yourself that it’s just your anxiety talking, and everything is most likely fine.
5. You lie to people about how you’re feeling to make the anxiety go away.
People may pick up on your sudden breaking of plans, quietness, or disinterest, and ask you if you’re okay. You reply by saying, “Yes, I’m good!” Though others may assume you don’t trust them with your true feelings, it’s really more about you not wanting to put any additional attention on the anxiety consuming you. When you’re trying to combat a moment of anxiety internally, sometimes talking about it with someone who doesn’t have anxiety issues doesn’t help, or even makes it worse.
6. When people tell you they’re worried about you, your anxiety only heightens.
People voicing their concerns about your anxiety can do the complete opposite of their intention: worsen your negative thoughts or anxiety attack. You start thinking that if they are worried, then there’s something really wrong with you, and you need to worry more about yourself.
7. You personalize even the smallest of things.
So your friend didn’t reply to your text message right away. Now you think you’ve done something wrong. You could have been having a completely normal conversation, with no grudges anywhere in sight, but because they haven’t answered in what you consider to be a timely manner, you suddenly feel like you’ve done something wrong, and this feeling consumes you.
8. You come off as lazy, but the reality is you’re a perfectionist.
9. You get caught up in comparisons.
You find yourself obsessing over checking in on people’s lives on social media, especially people your own age, comparing your success to theirs until it makes you want to scream. This isn’t a bad trait of yours, which some people might assume, but rather a side effect of anxiety. You find yourself worrying that you will never be good enough, because of the things so many others have accomplished.
10. You can’t let go of mistakes, and instead keep replaying them.
Whether it’s at work or in your relationships, you find the mistake consuming your thoughts. Rather than allowing it to help you grow, you get incredibly down on yourself.
11. There are some days you simply can’t get out of bed.
On days when your anxiety is strong, you just want to hide from the activities of life. People around you living their lives — smiling, working out, getting tasks done — overwhelms you to the point of tears. You find a strong urge to disconnect from it all by staying under the covers.
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