From the time a girl hits puberty until about the age of 50, her chances of having an anxiety disorder is double that of her male counterpart. It manifests itself in many different ways, which means it can be as simple as feeling nervous about an upcoming exam or as complicated as feeling so frazzled you don’t quite know what the direct cause of your anxiety is–if there is one. Anxiety may not seem like a big deal to those who aren’t frequent sufferers, but to those who are, anxiety can disrupt all facets of daily life, making it a problem that girls who struggle with it want you to know about.
1. Our anxiety isn’t just nervousness
It could be anything from anxiety attacks to more general, manageable anxiety that never seems to go away.
2. Anxiety does not have a specific ‘look’
We don’t have to be uncontrollably shaking or having heart palpitations to be anxious.
3. We don’t all experience the same symptoms
Our experiences with anxiety are individual and the psychological and physical symptoms we experience depend on what kind of anxiety we have. Someone with generalized anxiety disorder may not experience panic attacks, or fear certain things like someone with a specific phobia. Regardless, not displaying certain symptoms doesn’t make our anxiety any less valid.
4. We are constantly questioning whether or not physical symptoms are due to anxiety or something else entirely
Shortness of breath and chest pains? Oh my god, I think I’m having a heart attack.
5. Not all anxiety has a cause
It may sound strange, but we want you to know that there isn’t always a specific reason for feeling the way we do. Sometimes, the anxiety is just there. In particular, panic attacks can be triggered by nothing at all. Please don’t dismiss our feelings or make us feel bad just because what we’re going through doesn’t make sense to you.
6. We never know when anxiety is going to hit
We could be having a perfectly fine day when anxiety decides to strike.
7. Things that don’t bother you bother us
Little things that seem so insignificant to you, aren’t so ‘little’ to us. Anything from fearing you didn’t lock the door before leaving your house (even though you triple-checked) to inviting a new person to hang out can feel like a very big, disastrous situation.
8. “You have nothing to worry about” is not what we want to hear
All that does is invalidate the way we feel. Also, please don’t push us to “face our fears.” We know you mean well, but only we get to decide if, when and how that happens.
9. It’s important to us that you know we’re well aware that our worries are irrational
Just because we suffer from anxiety doesn’t mean we don’t realize when it is and isn’t rational.
10. We know your advice is well-intentioned, but unnecessary
We appreciate that you’re trying to help, but you can’t hop inside our brains and know how they operate. All we really need is for you to listen so we can feel comfortable opening up about our anxieties and not have to bottle everything up inside. The more we don’t talk about it, the worse we’ll feel and the higher chance there is we’ll have a panic attack.
11. You don’t have to try and fix us
We just want to be heard. It’s hard to talk about these things and there’s nothing worse than the feeling of confiding in someone and seeing their eyes roll. All this does is leave us feeling worse than before and totally misjudged.
12. We have to keep busy to preserve our sanity
It’s simple; No time to think equals no time to get lost in the black hole that is our minds.
13. It’s hard to be spontaneous and we may come off as high-strung when making plans
Winging it is a non-existent term in our vocabularies. Having the ability to schedule things and know in advance what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with saves us so much worry.
14. When we’re paralyzed by anxiety and feel like we can’t do anything, cancelling plans is necessary
It’s not done on a random whim, we promise.
15. We are typically night owls for the wrong reasons
Our brains never stop. Sleep is the only break we get from the endless stream of thoughts.
16. We’re exhausted all the time
Having a brain that functions at a mile-a-minute and very little sleep makes normal, day-to-day functioning a real challenge.
17. If we don’t cancel social plans because of anxiety, it’s often due to the lack of sleep anxiety causes
Sometimes we admit the truth. Other times we make up other excuses for cancelling plans just so we don’t have to admit the real reason because we feel ashamed. We feel terrible about doing this.
18. We’re not being lazy or trying to avoid you if we admit we don’t have the energy to hang out
Both cases are not true. Trust us when we say it’s us and not you.
19. Medication isn’t right for everyone
Some prefer dealing in other ways, sans pills. For others, depending on the type of anxiety, it could exacerbate their symptoms, making things worse.
20. There is no single, perfect cure for anxiety
Calming activities are especially a hit or miss. Sometimes they help. Other times, not so much.
21. When life is going well, we can’t help but wait for the next disaster to strike
It’s awful, but true.
22. Our definition of normal will probably never be the same as yours
It may be as simple as not spending the entire day feeling tense and on-edge.
23. We don’t thank our friends enough when they’re patient with us and willing to help
So thank you. We don’t expect you to know the right things to say and that’s alright. We just need to know somebody cares.
Even when we push everyone away when anxiety gets the best of us, nobody is more disappointed in us than ourselves. We might not always show it, but keeping our calm is a struggle we face on a daily basis. Unless you live with anxiety, you can’t fully understand how we feel. However, your efforts and support are appreciated more than you know. At the end of the day, anxiety is not who we are. It’s just something we deal with.