14 Things Only People with Anxiety Will Understand

Living with anxiety is huge challenge, and few non-sufferers can comprehend how the mental illness affects people. Here’s what people suffering from anxiety know to be true.

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Anxiety does not define a person

Anxiety is a normal and even helpful emotion that we all experience. Sometimes, though, it can cross the line into generalized anxiety disorder. The idea that an anxiety disorder doesn’t define you is perhaps one of the hardest things to explain to people who don’t suffer from anxiety. Contrary to what some people believe, an anxious person is much more than his or her mental state. Anxiety is a mental health disorder and ought to be treated as such. Why? Julia Breur, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist with a private clinical psychotherapy practice in Boca Raton, Florida, says untreated anxiety disorders may prevent you from “engaging in family and other social relationships, attending to work or school requirements or even enjoying normal daily activities.”

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, Dr. Breur says someone suffering from a panic attack may feel dizzy, shaky, or short of breath. Panic can be a type of anxiety or a separate disorder. Physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder commonly manifest as muscle tension, irritability, restlessness, and feeling “keyed up.”

Millions of Americans have anxiety

If you think that anxiety only affects a handful of people, think again. There are a whopping 40 million U.S. adults suffering from anxiety disorders, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Yet since there still tends to be a stigma associated with the condition, it can be harrowing to admit that you’re a sufferer.

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

You might think that depression is the most common mental illness in this country, but that distinction belongs to anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. There can, however, be an association between anxiety and depression. “It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa,” according to the ADAA.

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