For the 40 million American adults who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders, everyday life can be a little more challenging than most people realise. There’s the dreadful fear of particular events, the looming thought of a panic attack and persistent physical symptoms – and it can be all the more difficult when you feel like no one else understands what’s going on. According to Todd Farchione, a clinical psychologist at the Centre for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, there are certain stigmas that society has created for anxiety sufferers, but even more opportunities to overcome them. From touchy phrases to intense fears, below find eight things people with anxiety know to be true (and what everyone can do to help), Huffington Post reports.
How annoying “calm down” is: The last thing that will calm down an anxious person is telling them “calm down”. In fact, it may make the situation worse. According to Farchione, some research suggests that trying to calm oneself during the middle of an anxiety attack can actually increase the original emotional response in the moment. As a result, by trying not to be afraid, the sufferer may experience a more intensified reaction to what’s making them fearful. Instead of encouraging someone with anxiety to calm down, Farchione suggests offering support that shows understanding. “It’s a bad strategy to tell someone to ‘calm down’ – mostly because it doesn’t give anyone a sense of how can they do that,” he explains. “If they could calm down, they would – it’s an overly simplistic view of emotion. A better strategy would be asking questions like ‘What’s making you feel this way?’ By voicing it and thinking about it, generally speaking, they can deal with it in a better capacity.”
Panic attacks are never convenient: It’s a normal day. You’re getting ready to head out the door when suddenly, your chest constricts. Soon you’re engulfed by fear – it’s almost excruciating. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Some panic attacks come out of nowhere, without a whisper of a warning, while others are fear-induced, brought on by confronting the situation that gives them anxiety in the first place. Regardless of when it happens (or how the experience affects you personally), it’s never pleasant – and it’s rarely convenient. “When someone suffers from one of these disorders, it’s completely debilitating,” Farchione explains. “Partly just because people recognize that what they’re experiencing is irrational, but they’ve learned to respond in a certain way in those situations so it’s a natural response to those experiences. It can be frightening.”
Physical symptoms can show up in unexpected ways: Anxiety doesn’t just plague the mind – physical symptoms can also stem from the disorder. A 2007 New Zealand study of participants with inflamed digestive tracts suggests there’s a link between anxiety disorders and the development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The high levels of stress commonly associated with anxiety can also produce symptoms that range from hives and rashes to dizziness and dry mouth.
Fear has a different meaning: When you’re dealing with anxiety, your fears are amplified to an extreme degree – and it’s something that doesn’t necessarily go away. Getting on a plane or walking into a room full of strangers can become excruciating and there isn’t a quick fix for how you’re feeling. As child psychiatrist Allison Baker explained, we all feel uneasy when facing uncertainty.
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