Anxiety is fast becoming one of the biggest and most common mental health issues affecting our society, but there is still limited understanding of how it affects sufferers.
Everyone, at some point in their life, will experience anxiety or anxious feelings. It’s a completely normal human emotion and is used by the brain to keep us safe in certain situations. The problems come when these feelings of anxiety including panic, fear and extreme worry, become an almost constant state of mind, controlling your behavior and limiting what you can do in life.
While no two anxiety sufferers are the same, there is a consensus that certain situations can cause more problems than others. Here are ten everyday things that might seem trivial, but to anxiety, the sufferer can be a complete nightmare.
1. Making a Phone Call
The words someone with anxiety dreads: ‘give them a call.’ Even the thought of it can cause panic and fear to rise in your chest. No-one enjoys calling people they don’t know, but for an anxiety sufferer, it can cause a full on a physical reaction. It’s not that they don’t want to, they physically can’t.
Wonder why they never rang about that job? Or when you asked someone with anxiety to call your landlord and tell them there’s a leaking pipe? You might as well have told them to rob a bank or strip naked and run down the street, both are terrifying.
Any phone call like this will either require hours and days to build up the courage to call or will involve them accidentally forgetting to dial the number and only remembering when it’s too late.
Like a phone call, the thought of going into a shop, trying something on and then going up to the counter and buying it can be an impossible task. It’s several stressful situations, with the potential for many scenarios to arise all rolled into one. Online shopping is the anxious person’s gift from heaven. No trying on, no pressure to make a purchase and best of all – no forced interaction with someone at the checkout.
3. Opening Text Messages and Mail
An anxious person will always have thousands of emails to reply to, message boxes nearing their limit and unread mail. It’s not that they don’t want to respond, it’s that it takes courage to open the mail. An anxious person will be terrified the many awful scenarios they’ve dreamt up about that official looking letter will come right and will put it off for as long as possible.
4. The Lunch Break
Lunch is meant to be your chance to relax during your day, but for someone with anxiety, it can be a huge source of stress and panic. The thought of interacting with colleagues can be so terrifying that they will often avoid peak hours or if they can eat at their desk, safely away from small talk or any other unwanted conversations. Kitchen facilities can be a nightmare, too, and anxious people will end up spending a fortune on buying lunch rather than navigating the stressful world of a communal fridge. They will cover it up well though, and you will have no idea the reason they only just started eating breakfast is that it took four months for them to build up the courage to use the toaster.
5. Speaking in a Group
Whether it’s at work, among friends or strangers, anxiety sufferers can become so stressed out by having the attention of the room that they physically begin to fall apart. They can feel under so much pressure by a situation that they may slur or stutter their words, struggle to form sentences and even become faint or light-headed. This is especially frequent in pressurized situations like work or in front of people you don’t know. The worst thing is, the more visible your anxiety symptoms become, the more you do it because you either fear the people you’re with have noticed or that because of it they won’t like you.
6. Getting Dressed
Many anxiety sufferers worry about their appearance, but not because they want to be noticed. In fact, it’s usually the complete opposite. They will spend hours trying to pick the most comfortable, under the radar, run of the mill outfit to make sure they don’t attract any unwanted attention.
It can mean they spend hours getting ready just to go to the shop or meeting friends for a drink. Changing multiple times because they don’t feel comfortable and in some cases claiming they can’t go somewhere because they haven’t got “anything to wear.”
Social occasions will be missed; friends will be let down because they don’t feel confident in how they look and physically can’t leave the house.
7. Making a Mistake
Whether it’s sending an email to the wrong person, missing a meeting or accidentally breaking someone’s prize mug, when someone with anxiety does anything wrong, you can be assured they will think about it for years to come. The smallest mistake can haunt them, knock them off balance and throw them into a downward spiral they may never get out of. That’s why two years after they’ll still be apologizing for that time they accidentally broke your sunglasses when you had completely forgotten about it.
8. Being Late
Late for work, late for brunch, late for their birthday. Anxious people are often late because leaving the house and attending events are filled with sources of stress and worry. Not only will they procrastinate for hours before getting ready, but they will also put off leaving as much as possible by spending hours in the shower before the stressful task of getting ready. Before the even more stressful task of traveling somewhere only to get to a social or work function full of potential pitfalls. If an anxious person manages to meet you at all, you should feel lucky.
9. Falling Asleep
Sleeping can be the biggest source of stress to someone with anxiety. Most sufferers have trouble sleeping, and in many cases, anxiety goes hand-in-hand with insomnia. Sleep can feel like a constant battle with your body and when people say how much they love getting some shut-eye an anxious person may well feel envious that it comes to you so quickly.
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