It’s probably hard to understand someone who has anxiety for people that don’t experience any at all. Sure, everyone gets a little nervous and on edge sometimes, but there are things that people with anxiety quietly live with all the time that non-anxious people have no idea about. When someone says that they’re “managing” their anxiety, they mean just that — it’s not “solved,” just managed. Social settings, certain kinds of people, even noises can throw a person with anxiety off of their game.
If you understand what people with anxiety live with every day, you can be a supportive person in their lives.
There are 40 million people living with various anxiety disorders, some more severe than others. There are about 7 million living with general anxiety disorder, about 15 million suffering from a “major depressive disorder,” and almost 8 million living with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Here are some things that people with anxiety live with every day.
1Deadlines are much worse.
Having work to do is often a good thing, but when you have anxiety, every project feels like it’s a make or break moment. Even worse — turning something in and waiting for feedback is torture. People with anxiety just assume they’re getting fired every time they walk into the office.
2People think you’re a pessimist.
Because you can jump to the worst possible conclusions, people who don’t really know you think that you’re a worrier or just super negative. It’s not true! You can be positive and optimistic and also have anxiety. Does this sound exhausting? It really is.
3Everyone hates you.
If someone doesn’t return a text message or email right away, a person with anxiety can start to freak out very quickly. Until that response, it’s hard not to assume that someone is mad at you or just fed up with your BS. Which is why when people with anxiety are actually rejected or go through a break up, it’s ten times worse.
4You can’t just *change* plans.
Being spontaneous is not a thing with people who have anxiety. If you’ve made plans with them, they’ve likely already thought about their outfit, how they’re going to get there, and what all the pros and cons of the activity are. When you cancel that plan or change it up, it can take a minute for a person with anxiety to readjust.
5Parties can be awful.
Having to talk to multiple new people at once — or even just a lot of longtime friends — is killer for a person with anxiety. There are so many things to consider when it comes to social outings. The social dynamics are flying in all directions. A person with anxiety can go into overdrive.
6And drinking is really a gamble.
Which means that a lot of people with anxiety will try to self medicate, usually with some booze. The person in your social circle who drinks the most and is either the life of the party (or the person you have to console all night) is likely the person struggling with the most anxiety. Play nice with them.
7You cancel plans because it’s just too much.
Meeting new people and networking is the absolute worst for people with anxiety. It’s common for a person with anxiety to go back and forth about making plans with a new person or meeting someone for work. Having to meet a new person is no small feat when you live with anxiety.
8All futures are scary.
Thinking about plans for next week can be debilitating. But so can trying to figure out what the long-term future holds. There’s no winning when it comes to thinking about any kind of future.
9There’s always a panic attack coming.
One of the most difficult things about overcoming panic attacks is the fear of another one on the horizon. A person with anxiety will likely know what triggers their panic attacks, but that doesn’t always mean they’re prepared for them.
Whether you have anxiety or just love someone who does, the world can seem like a scary place. Just remember not to tell them that everything will be OK. Listen to them instead.