What is Anxiety?

With anxiety your fear and/or worry does not go away and if left untreated can get worse over time. Fear, stress, and nerves are normal feelings and experiences for us. It can creep up on you at any moment and interfere with your daily activities either at work or home.

I’m often asked what makes my disorder different from the “normal” daily worries that tend to go through our heads. Since the holiday season is upon us, let’s use an example of a Christmas Work Party. Worrying about what to wear, how to get home if you have too many drinks or not knowing what to say to that cute person on 4th are considered normal feelings and experiences. But what if someone will not even fathom to leave their house for fear of being in a large crowd? What if you try on 24 different outfits because your mind over-thinks each minuscule detail? What if you go over every possible conversation scenario in your head for fear that this cute person will judge everything you do/say?

Worries, fears, and intrusive thoughts that are extreme, unrealistic, or exaggerated and interfere with normal life and functioning could constitute an anxiety disorder

There are many types of anxiety-related disorders where you’ll see some similarities overlapping and others that have more specific symptoms of their particular disorder. I, myself, was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder which we’ll go into further at a later time. In general, what you can expect from me is being worried, general nervousness and specific fears that are ongoing, excessive and can put a serious strain on my ability to function.

Growing up was a struggle for me because I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me, I felt alone and misunderstood for the longest time. I never acknowledged WHY I felt this way and trying to explain it to others was a hassle. Since they didn’t feel the way that I did, they couldn’t understand how something that comes so normal or natural to them can be anxiety-provoking for myself. Comments of “Just let it go,” “Calm Down” and “There’s no reason to worry” would irritate me to no end because I couldn’t. I retreated into my mind and just decided to not talk about it. Whenever someone asked how I was, I would lie and just say “Fine” even if I was crying on the inside. This is one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made, and when my husband told me I needed to see someone professionally back in 2013, I broke down. He was right.

Anxiety needs to be considered as severe as a disease. However, the stigma surrounding it makes anxiety feel as if it’s a fault or weakness. There have been many studies that demonstrate it can be biological, chemical imbalances and/or trauma.

If you think you might be struggling with an anxiety disorder, you’re not alone, According to Stats Canada:
· Approximately 2.8 million people, or 10.1% of Canadians aged 15 and older, reported symptoms consistent with at least one of six mental or substance use disorders
· Symptoms consistent with a mood disorder were cited by 5.4% of Canadians aged 15 and older, while 1.5% met the criteria for bipolar disorder
· 2.6% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported symptoms consistent with a generalized anxiety disorder, an anxiety disorder characterized by a pattern of frequent, persistent worry and excessive anxiety about several events or activities. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, “the 12-month prevalence for any anxiety disorder is over 12%, and one in four Canadians (25%) will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime”. Again, important to note that the 2.6% mentioned above pertain to generalized anxiety disorder only. Seven other anxiety disorders are not part of this statistic. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental illness in Canada.

I would like to make it clear that I am not a licensed professional. I cannot diagnose what type of disorder you might have – what I can say is that Anxiety is a tricky little thing when it comes to linking it to a disorder, so if you feel you might need to get an assessment I highly suggest visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist.

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