Yes? Then this article will sound all too familiar to you.
No? Then you’re about to learn a great deal about what goes on inside the heads of your anxious friends, family, and other acquaintances.
Anxiety goes far beyond just being shy, introverted, or nervous. Anxiety involves extreme fear of seemingly irrational things, and it interferes with a person’s daily life. If you suffer from anxiety, you know all too well that it is something which you struggle with every single day. You are restricted from living a normal life. No one else understands what it is like to have this level of anxiety.
In fact, there are several things that you do because of your extreme anxiety that most other people remain blind to. Here are a few examples:
1. You Imagine Worst Case Scenarios
Whether you are about to meet someone for the first time or you have a presentation to do at work, you envisage horribly embarrassing scenarios. You worry that your pants will fall down or you’ll forget all of your lines. You picture yourself being laughed at and teased for your behavior. For every situation you go through, you tend to look at the worst case scenario.
Because of your negative thought patterns, the anxiety starts to build until it affects your sleep and everything you do leading up to the event. The worst part is that the scenarios playing out in your head become self-fulfilling prophesies. Because you envision the worst, your anxiety gets the best of you, and you end up performing poorly when the time comes.
Your performance then justifies your thoughts, and the cycle continues. You wish you could just get out of your own head every once in a while.
2. You Avoid Situations Where You Feel You May be Judged
Anxiety causes you to feel like you are always being judged. You just know that Bob from accounting will think you are dumb for the way you pack your lunch, so you avoid seeing him in the break room. You are also convinced that your friend Sally will be embarrassed by how you look and the way you act if you go with her to the party, so you decide not to go.
In fact, you avoid as many situations as possible where you may be judged. And that ends up being most situations. This is why you spend a lot of time alone with your fears. No one understands why you never want to leave the safety of your own home. They are blind to the fact that you fear being judged by everyone you encounter.
3. You Worry That Others Will Notice Your Fear
You are certain that your anxiety is written all over your face. You fear that everyone you pass on the street will be able to see it. You think about it so much that you experience physical symptoms like sweaty palms, shortness of breath, and trembling hands. And you are convinced that everyone sees those symptoms. So you avoid speaking up in meetings. You avoid small talk as much as you can. You pretty much avoid people altogether (especially those you aren’t familiar with) where possible. You are the stereotypical socially awkward person.
4. You Are Only Comfortable With A Few People
You can count on one hand the number of people that don’t make you anxious. Those people are your close family members and maybe the one or two best friends whom you’ve known since grade school. Everyone else causes a huge spike in your anxiety every time you have to interact. You fear being in a public place without one of these people. You even try to convince one of your “inner circle" to accompany you out into the world whenever you have to go.
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Your anxiety causes you to overthink everything. You obsess about what you did say or do, what you didn’t say or do, and what you should have said or done. You overthink which socks you should wear and how much toothpaste to use. Your mind races with all of the decisions you have to make each and every day. You fear having a panic attack in public if you aren’t given adequate time to process the day, so you often don’t leave your home.
6. You Are Both Tired And Wired
Your anxiety leaves you completely drained physically. The constant state of stress you live in takes its toll on your body and mind. You are exhausted and desperately want to rest. A few hours of sleep sounds magical. Yet you can’t sleep because you are also wired from the stress and the sheer speed of the thoughts running through your mind. The combination of the two leaves you wondering what to do.
7. You Don’t Think It Will Ever Change
Because of your history of anxiety, your future appears hopeless. You don’t believe you have the power to change. You feel that you will always be anxious, you will never have friends, you will never do well in your job…and on and on. You know that your thoughts and fears are irrational, but you continue to feel this way no matter what you tell yourself.
You wonder if you are the only one in the world who has these horrible symptoms. You’d like to change. You’d like to go to social events. You’d like not to be lonely. But you don’t believe it is on the cards for you. You think you are doomed to live this life forever.
8. You Worry About Everything
All you do is worry. You spend every minute of every day worrying about everything. The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding things to worry about, and you have found them all. If you ever find yourself in a moment where you aren’t worrying, you’ll think of something new to worry about.
You worry that you’ll sleep through your alarm. You worry that you’ll twist your ankle on the way to the bus stop. You worry that the bus will crash on the way to work. You worry you’ll spill your lunch on your keyboard. You worry that your dog is chewing through a power cord while you are away. You worry you left the stove on at home. The list goes on and on. You can’t shut it off.
Every day is much the same for you because you are suffering from anxiety. Fear, avoidance, and mental agony are common themes of your days. Very few people understand the agony and trauma that anxious people undertake on a daily basis, and that is because you try your best to hide it from others, especially family and friends. Because you hide the things that you experience and go through every day, others around you are completely blind to the things that your anxiety causes you to do.
Do you experience this level of anxiety (or have you before)? Do the points above reflect how anxiety impacts your life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and stories with others – you never know, it might help them and you not to feel alone in this situation any more.
Melissa Ricker is a nuclear engineer and a professional freelance writer specializing in career growth, technical writing and online entrepreneurship. She writes a blog, Engineered Motherhood, for working mothers who need help balancing career growth and time management.