How many times have you heard “just get over it”, from friends, family, co-workers? Probably a lot! People without a true anxiety or panic disorder will never understand the symptoms of our diagnosis. If you don’t have either of these, and yes, although used interchangeably they are two different conditions that share similar symptoms; let me help you understand:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is constant worry, stress, fear, irritability, of anticipation and in most cases is built up over time and is usually associated with other mental health conditions such as: Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizophrenia, and PTSD.
Panic Disorder comes on quickly and has more physical symptoms than anxiety which are mostly psychological. Panic attacks usually come about with a impending sense of doom, dissociation, and is the one that makes you feel like you’re having a heart attack!
Did you know that you can have a Panic Disorder without having anxiety? That is important to note as again, people interchange the terms. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can be debilitating to some, it isn’t something you just get over. It is a constant state of living on the edge of something you can’t define. Everything seems larger than life and there’s a need to take action or in some cases not take action immediately for fear that something will happen. This is why many with GAD are introverts and find it difficult to socialize. Anxiety is not a choice, it’s a lifestyle that is hard to control. It can lead to a panic attack but not vice versa.
Excessive anxiety is something you can not simply get over. It is chronic and impairs focus, sleep, has physical aches & pains, and can be accompanied by restlessness.
Anyone can have a panic attack but not everyone has chronic anxiety. You have have normal day-to-day worries about bills or dinner or work, for people with GAD those things are magnified and overwhelming. It causes such distress that some people call in sick to work, cancel plans at the last minute, won’t go into crowds…and many times this is embarrassing for us. The stigma around anxiety and the belief that it is a choice is harmful to us. It shames us when people around us don’t understand and judge. Even with medications, coping skills, essential oils, etc., it is still a challenge to control our anxiety.
It is important to not minimize the anxiety someone has. There have been times where I’ve gone shopping and left my cart in the middle of the store and left because it hadn’t become too overwhelming for me. With anxiety, you never really know how bad it’s going to get at times. Talking on the phone is a great example of how people with feel. We hate it! It is our arch nemesis. Anytime the phone rings we are faced with a plethora of irrational questions that can’t be answered before the phone stops ringing. Having to call someone is even worse! We will put it off until absolutely necessary and when we are waiting for you to answer, our palms are sweaty, our hearts race, our bodies get the tingle that only only anxiety can bring, and we just hope you don’t answer so we can leave a message and say at least we called. Don’t expect a second call.
It’s no fun living in this state of expedited alertness. This is why people with anxiety, you need to take care of yourselves. Take the time to relax, oh, I know, easier said than done. Try it to your best ability! Find something that helps calm those nerves. Smells are a great way to change your mindset. It’s cliche but essential oils do work and they are easy to take with you when you’re on the go or at work. Work some distress tolerance skills such as:
TIPP — Temperature Intense Exercise Paced Breathing and Paired Muscle Relaxation. I usually will throw a iced gel pack on my face with I am anxious to change my body temperature which allows me to physically relax.
Self Soothe — Using your sense to distract yourself. Eat that piece of dark chocolate! Be mindful of what it tastes like, smells like, how it feels melting in your mouth. Be in the moment with that candy or whatever you choose. Put those essential oils on your wrist and smell. Focus on one thing in a room and if your eyes wander put them back on your focus object.
There are many ways to calm the beast of anxiety, even for a few moments.
I love going to the beach and letting the water ground me. Maybe taking a nap and listening to some classical music might help. If you don’t have anxiety, try to understand that this is something we don’t want. We would love to have normal worry, but that’s not us. Be gentle or you may scare us away.