Please remember that all mental health experiences are different and experienced in their own unique ways. If you feel in any way triggered, or are struggling with mental illness, please speak to a professional and seek the help you need.
It is mental health awareness month and as part of this, I thought I would share my journey with anxiety 💚. If you are part of my newsletter community or follow me on Instagram, you know that this is a deeply passionate topic of mine. I have suffered from anxiety my entire life. It is evident to me now, even though I have never been formally diagnosed. I could not put into words the feelings I was experiencing as a child and basically just presumed they were “normal” or part of everybody’s life existence. It has taken me a long time to understand my thoughts, my thought patterns, and my trigger points when it comes to anxiety. Given the current environment we are living in, anxiety is much more heightened than usual. So, whether you have suffered for your entire life, or you are new to these (very) strange feelings… let us dive in.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety Disorder (Anxiety) is oftentimes synonymously used with the word “fear”. However, whereas some of the symptoms are similar, the two conditions are distinctly different. Fear usually comes with a life-threatening, real event that is perceived as danger or an emergency. Feelings of fear tend to dissipate once said emergency situation is over. Anxiety, on the other hand, are feelings and emotions of fear – oftentimes irrational – that can persist for lengthy periods of time and neither have a start nor an endpoint associated with it. In other words: Anxiety keeps you in a hamster wheel of fearful thoughts that are usually not true.
Types of Anxiety
When I did my initial research, this part was possibly the most eye-opening for me. There are different forms of anxiety, and one can either experience all of them or “just” one. Granted, any one of them is horrible, uncomfortable, and can leave you in such an overdrive of thoughts and emotions. I did find it helpful to know them in order to understand my trigger points better:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – characterized by persistent worrying about possible disasters, or everyday life events;
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – fear and anxiety in social situations, for example, public speaking;
- Panic disorder (PD) – panic attacks that appear unexpectedly with severe bodily stress symptoms (e.g. palpitations, shortness of breath, extensive sweating). This can be coupled with agoraphobia – intense anxiety of being in public places from which escape is perceived as difficult;
- Separation Anxiety Disorder (SepAD) – persistent and developmental unusual Anxiety involving separation from home or parental figures;
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – the only Anxiety form that directly links Anxiety to a traumatic experience in an individual’s life;
- Selective Mutism – a condition most prevalent in children where they choose to speak in some settings but not in others;
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – a disorder where a person has recurring thoughts and/or behaviours that need to be repeated over, and over again.
The Types of Anxiety I Suffer From
I suffer from both GAD, SAD, and PD. How does this manifest? In a lot of everyday life. We will cover more about the tricks, tools, and foods I eat (and avoid) in later blog posts, but in essence, when my anxiety is bad these are “normal” day occurrences. I check whether I truly turned off the oven/stove at least twice (usually three times). I check whether I really turned off the iron / coffee machine / iron / closed the car. I worry a lot about people being upset/mad at me/never speaking to me again. When my anxiety is super bad I have random panic attacks about sincerely nothing in particular. Fortunately, those are a very rare occasion for me though. All of these can sometimes be triggered in the smallest of ways. Perhaps someone is taking longer than anticipated to get back to my text or they did not send a kiss at the end when they usually do which makes me think something is wrong 🙈.
Again, I have worked a lot on my mental health and this is not how I feel daily, but it is how I feel when my anxiety is hightened.
How Do You Know If You May Have Anxiety?
A certain level of anxiety is normal for human beings. However, there are a few factors that indicate that a person’s levels of anxiety are unusually high. These can include:
- Constant worrying, in particular about irrational situations;
- How long and how much this stress is affecting a person;
- How much anxiety is impacting a person’s daily life.
Causes of Anxiety
This again was a fascinating tool as part of my research and has helped me a lot to understand why I have been feeling the way I have been feeling my entire life. Unfortunately, the causes for anxiety are not yet fully understood and can depend on a range of factors. It is understood that certain pre-conditions may trigger anxiety, for example, trauma, personality, heritage/genetics, stress (either from an illness or based on life circumstances), alcohol and drugs, or other mental health conditions. Anxiety may also be linked and worsened by other underlying health conditions that have not been diagnosed yet. What has been established is that Anxiety has a very strong link to depression. It is not uncommon for these two to go hand in hand for ca. half of all patients being diagnosed with either condition (!!!).
Next week, we will cover foods that should best be avoided when dealing with anxiety in my how to combat anxiety – part 1 post, before diving into foods that are super good for us, and me sharing my personal tips on how I manage my anxiety day to day. I hope that this blog post has helped you. Please remember, you are not alone on this journey 💕.