Anxiety is not just feeling nervous. Multiply feeling nervous by 1000 you are somewhat close. It is paralyzing, you freeze, like a rabbit in headlights. You feel your insides are being torn out. People say you get butterflies. It is not butterflies (they are too pretty), it is more like bats swooshing around in the pit of your stomach, creating tremendous nausea and discomfort. You shake. You become hot. These are but a few of the symptoms I experience, but there are many more.
Anxiety affects 16% of the UK population at any one time (statistic from the National Hypnotherapy Society). Many people who suffer are also in a constant state of anxiety (sometimes stronger than others but it can be there 24/7.
Anxiety is also a term, which is used extremely loosely, which belittles it for people suffering from GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and does not acknowledge how debilitating it actually is. There is a healthy level of anxiety, which makes us perform well in exams, athletics, performances, but the anxiety I am talking about is debilitating. You can get nervous about everything and often you literally don’t know what it is making you feel anxious and this is what people need to understand.
For years I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, I just did not know what is was. I passed it off as feeling nervous and worried about everything possible, uncomfortable, not trusting myself or feeling unsettled. I had no idea the uncontrollable tears, shaking, nausea and shortness of breath I experienced everyday on the long escalator down at Angel Tube Station on my way to work was in fact a panic attack. I had no idea that the feeling of dread I felt before going out, the not knowing what to say, the feeling that everyone else was better than me was my social anxiety.
The thing to remember about anxiety, which may seem alien is it is a perfectly natural feeling. It is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, this is called fight or flight mode it is something our ancestors needed when hunting and surviving in the out doors. In reality our culture has developed so fast our brains have not been able to catch up. The problem starts when you cannot manage these feelings and they get in the way of our daily lives, stopping us doing things we want to do.
This triggers all kinds if issues with relationships, professional and social aspects of life. When you suffer from anxiety you avoid everything that may trigger these uncomfortable feelings, and before you know it you have withdrawn yourself from everything, including the things you used to enjoy. It stops you doing things that may benefit you for example developing new relationships or going for that big promotion. Anxiety has taken me away from friends, family and life opportunities.