“Loving the quarantine so my anxious self and I can finally get peace and chill”
“When you try to remember more than one thing and you remember you have crippling anxiety”
“When you are anxious about having anxiety”
These are examples of memes which are shared by thousands because they are funny and #relatable.
As somebody who has dealt with anxiety to an extent that I’d have a breakdown during brushing my teeth, I want to tell you that this topic isn’t meme-worthy. It isn’t laughable. Sharing it does not make you cool because some of us actually feel jitters on many things which others may find ‘normal’.
Talking about anxiety like it’s normal is not the same as mental health awareness, and we will get to that soon.
Below is one of the few items from the merchandise which a famous Youtuber with 1.74 million followers Corinna Kopf launched. Rightly so, it led to an extensive backlash about doing more harm than good because wearing your mental health to show the word isn’t fashion.
Romaticisation of mental illness has increased to a sick amount especially with the increased use of social media.
National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that while social media has become a medium for people to express and foster a sense of community for people to come together and discuss issues, there is also a feeling of mental illness to be desired.
Mental illness is being sensationalized is harmful to young and vulnerable teenagers.
Why do you need to worry?
Imagine your younger sibling or your child hitting the internet when they grow up.
They go through black and white images of people cutting themselves, reading quotes on suicide such as ‘those who want to die are just angels who are going back where they came from’, and constantly reading about people around him/her dealing with anxiety.
Firstly, suicide is contagious. A study by two academicians from the New York Psychiatric Institute elucidates that external influences such as media, exposure to suicidal peers, and suicide clusters (numerous suicides taking place in close proximity) can influence an individual to commit suicide.
Let's not forget that all these things are only a click away now.
Secondly, a teenager growing up develops self-concepts. They find (and form) their identity to determine who they are and who they want to be.
Modified Labelling Theory, states that “individuals who are socialized to accept negative stereotypes about mental illness are primed to accept and internalize those messages, and are, thus, susceptible to a negative self-concept once they themselves are labelled as mentally ill.”
And when the youth is socialised to accept these self-concepts of having a mental disorder even when they don’t, they tend to internalise this negativity and make it a part of their self-concept. They behave exactly as somebody does with mental disorders because they make themselves believe that they’re suffering.
To prevent themselves from this perceived mental disorder, they actively use coping strategies such as isolation which also leads to self-defeating behaviour.
You need to worry because our youth is at risk of going through pain even when they needn’t feel that way, just because being mentally ill is highly glamourised around them.
In simple words, there may be a crazy FOMO about mental disorders. Which is disastrous.
What Can We Do?
We are at a stage where we can really curb this trend.
Let’s recognise a few behaviours we can notice, and change. A lot of this has to do with the words we use because they’re incredibly powerful.
Let’s take a look at a set of things which we should not say to those suffering (because honestly, unless you’re asked you have no right to), and some things you shouldn’t say at all.
I have a feeling we’ve all done at least one of these blunders.
Do Not Associate us with adjectives
“Stop being such an introvert.”
An introvert is a personality trait and has nothing to do with life choices. An introvert can be outgoing and have many friends.
As somebody who is an extrovert and had social anxiety, people made me anxious but that doesn’t change my personality trait.
I am funny and happy when I’m around with my people, but new people make my tummy squeeze and churn. It doesn’t change who I am, it’s just a physiological reaction in my body because of my mind.
Do Not Recommend Us Yoga/Meditation
There are stats which prove yoga and/or meditation significantly reduce anxiety and we completely agree. We totally agree!
But some of us may be triggered by flashes in our head or past experiences which make us anxious.
There is a reason we have therapists and other professionals who can guide us out of it. Meditation and yoga are great and may help feel better but not recover.
Mental Disorders are not Verbs or Adjectives
We have spoken about adjectives and now we come to verbs. I don’t know about you but this feels like an English grammar class now.
“I am so OCD about cleanliness.”
It’s great that you’re an organised person and like to keep your spaces clean. An actual person with OCD may get sleepless nights thinking of cleanliness. But please do not use actual illness names as verbs, because they are not.
“Every time I am anxious I binge on chocolate.”
One of my closest friends has been dealing with binge eating for 6 years and will tell you that your midnight cravings are not nearly as painful (or painful at all) as compared to binge eating.
Small changes begin by observing ourselves and those around us, let’s not say something which will hurt another,
Do Not Recommend Us Self-Help
We want to help ourselves more than you do.
Famous quotes or telling us to believe in the ultimate energy of the universe may not change or break the unwanted patterns eliciting certain behaviour which our mind has created.
We love it. We respect it. We believe Tony Robbins too when he says illness is a result of thoughts and can be rectified by changing our thoughts. And we try it.
Sometimes we need a little more guidance to change our thoughts and behaviours. Our therapists help us out with that so we can get to a healthy state and start applying more of Tony Robbins’ wisdom.
Talking About it All The Time
Mental health awareness is one thing and glamourising it is another.
More people have to be aware that mental health issues exist and are normal. More people need to know that it is okay to seek help. More people should feel comfortable about talking about their battles.
What is not okay is talking about it all the time when you have not been diagnosed with it or have had a second-hand experience, when you label an emotion you felt at the spur of the moment as anxiety.
If you are dealing with anxiety, please seek help. We want nothing but for you to feel better and stay healthy. But if you are self-diagnosing with anxiety and talking about it all the time, we want to tell you this isn’t really a cool kids club.
It is anything but that.
This (and only this) is Anxiety
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition has the following criteria for anxiety:
- The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.
- The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.
- The anxiety and worry are accompanied with at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms :
- Edginess or restlessness
- Tiring easily
- Impaired concentration
- Increased muscle aches or soreness
- Difficulty sleeping
Before you use ‘anxiety’ to participate in any of the points highlighted in this article to curb the glamour, please understand the pain of somebody who is going through the above-mentioned symptoms.