Finding the right words to describe anxiety can be difficult, especially if you’re trying to explain it to a loved one. Not only are anxiety disorders themselves complex, but trying to describe them to someone who’s never experienced them before can be uncomfortable and challenging. Many people don’t understand how anxiety works, and they may assume that you’re overreacting or that you can simply “get over” how you feel if you want to. For those struggling to put their mental illness into words, we’re sharing a guide on how to explain anxiety to loved ones that can help.
How to Explain Anxiety to Someone You Love
If you have anxiety, then you know how all-consuming it can be. You can’t just “get over” your thoughts, even when you know they aren’t necessarily rational or even helpful. If you’re trying to figure out how to explain anxiety to a loved one, below are some things you can point out.
Anxiety Can Be Physical
Many people don’t realize that anxiety can take both a mental and physical toll. Anxiety is often coupled with extreme bouts of fear, and other symptoms include physical things like stomach problems, headaches, and excessive sweating. People with anxiety may also experience anxiety or panic attacks in moments when they’re exposed to their fears (if there’s a specific source) or if they’re emotionally overwhelmed or stressed.
These attacks are often marked by physical symptoms like rapid breathing and heart rate. Anxiety can feel physically suffocating. When symptoms flare up, the person may feel as if they can’t think or even see clearly. To make matters worse, this physical discomfort can worsen the nervousness and fear the person is feeling, creating a horrible cycle.
You Feel On Edge
People with anxiety may feel great one day and terrible the next. For many people, it’s almost like the saying, “The straw that broke the camel’s back.” Things bubble up to the point where one slight stressor can send everything over the edge.
Oftentimes, specific things can trigger this build-up and a sudden explosion of symptoms. For instance, a person with social anxiety disorder may struggle with anxiety in anticipation of an upcoming presentation. Someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might feel unsafe the entire day after coming across something that reminded them of the traumatic event they experienced in the past.
Other factors like mood, physical health, energy levels, and relationships can also impact a person’s anxiety levels. And when you’re already feeling a little anxious, it’s easy for any small thing to amplify that feeling and spiral out of control. Minor things that wouldn’t typically trigger an anxiety attack may do so in these moments because your mind is already primed.
While these spikes in anxiety aren’t always predictable, identifying your triggers is a great way to steer clear of future anxiety attacks.
Numbing the Anxiety Is Tempting
It’s no surprise that anxiety and substance use disorders, eating disorders, and other behavioral addictions are connected. After all, nobody likes to feel uncomfortable, which is why so many people with anxiety disorders turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or other harmful behaviors as a quick fix for their symptoms.
For people with anxiety, numbing the discomfort of their conditions is tempting. Not only can these behaviors worsen anxiety, but they’re only temporary solutions to a chronic problem. While the satisfaction is immediate, it’s short-lived.
There’s also the risk of facing complications like addiction, financial distress, and legal issues. With that said, it’s important to remember that while the desire to escape from the discomfort of anxiety isn’t unreasonable, the anxiety peaks and worsens when you engage in unhealthy behaviors like drug use, risky sex, gambling, and overeating.
It Can Feel Like Depression
Anxiety and depression share many symptoms, which is why they often occur together. With both conditions, a person may feel irritable, easily bothered, and emotionally sensitive. They may struggle with their appetite, sleep schedule, and ability to focus at school or work. On top of this, the individual might also have feelings of hopelessness and despair.
While depression is rooted in disappointment and apathy, anxiety is rooted in worry and fear. However, these conditions overlap due to struggles with control, perfectionism, and low self-esteem. A person with both might also struggle to maintain healthy relationships and may prefer to isolate themselves from loved ones.
It Comes With a Lot of Shame
At times, a person’s anxiety can make them feel mortified. Because it can be so consuming, anxiety can affect the way someone interacts with others. The worry and fear of anxiety can lead to increased sensitivity and overthinking, both of which can impact a relationship. This can eventually lead to shame, embarrassment, and lowered self-esteem.
This sense of shame that stems from anxiety can quickly become all-consuming and toxic. Eventually, the anxiety leads to negative thoughts of worthlessness and failure. Unfortunately, when someone hears something enough, they begin to think it’s true.
These thoughts eventually become facts to the person, which can dictate how they act and feel. Of course, these harsh thoughts also tend to make anxiety worse. In the end, shame is deeply rooted in emotion and is often the source of mental illness.
Need Help for Anxiety or Depression?
Specialists at our luxury rehab in South Florida understand that depression and anxiety aren’t simple disorders to deal with. Especially when it comes to navigating how to explain what anxiety feels like to loved ones, airing out these difficult thoughts and feelings to others can be terrifying. However, even if you don’t have people in your life whom you feel you can talk to about your mental illness, we’re here for you.
Not only does Seaside offer depression and anxiety treatment, but we also provide individual and group counseling sessions to promote comfort and recovery. Clients at our high-end rehab can enjoy amenities like gourmet meals and boarding while learning more about their disorders and discovering new and healthy ways to cope with them.
Because mental illnesses and addictions often co-occur, we also offer luxury dual diagnosis treatment that incorporates modalities like medical detox and psychotherapy to treat the individual as a whole. Don’t let mental illness or addiction rule your life any longer.