Anxiety | The Human Psyche

Alex Davies returns for a piece on anxiety as part of The Human Psyche series on Cultured Vultures.

In my last article, I tried to explain what it is like to live with depression. Judging from the private responses it got, I think that it could be beneficial to continue the theme. In this follow up I will try to explain anxiety. Anxiety is a key part of my mental construction, as is paranoia. But often when I discuss one, people, (sometimes myself included), seem to mistake it for the other.

Anxiety comes in many forms. From generalised anxiety disorder, to more specific – yet no less common – conditions, such as social anxiety disorder. They are some of the most common forms of mental illness. This is because anxiety is a perfectly normal part of a human life. It is, therefore, hard to spot some of the conditions.

Anyone who is of a nervous disposition will struggle to carry out certain tasks, from leaving the house, to holding a conversation. I am going to focus more on social anxiety, however, because I have experiences with it. Imagine a feeling of constant scrutiny: a feeling that every word and every sound is analysed thoroughly. That you are being watched, judged, and every social mistake made makes you a laughing stock.

The average person lies in some capacity in most conversations, from the outright to innocent exaggeration. But that is not my concern as my feelings of nervousness continue long after the conversation sometimes. I replay it in my head. I hold myself accountable for each badly chosen word. Each inconsiderate statement and for every belittlement, even in jest. Everything is relevant.

Anxiety can strike in many ways. With me it is a strong wave of fight or flight. The compulsion to either run from the situation or confront my fear head-on. My friends have probably noticed it. During conversations with me, if I mishear something I will become obsessed with what was said. The reason is because I am certain that it was an insult aimed at me that I missed. That is the fight, the confrontation. They have also probably noticed me making weak excuses and leaving a social event early. That is the flight. The anxiety causes a rush of adrenaline, though not in a good way. A wave of extreme fear, a feeling of major danger and when it becomes too much, I lose my control and one of the above two happens.

When I am highly anxious, my whole body tingles. I have been told that that’s the adrenaline. I also feel my mood change in a matter of moments from relatively comfortable if a little nervous, to completely on edge and suspicious. It feels like a revelation, but one of fear rather than happiness or relief. I also feel an overpowering sickness in my stomach and find it difficult to stand still. If I try to relax my body, I begin to tremble.

These anxiety attacks happen to me in almost every conversation I have. I do not understand why, but I find it’s easier to talk to the same people online. The elimination of the face to face element makes me feel more at ease. Becoming a recluse, however, is not a solution. Becoming a recluse is letting your anxiety beat you. But with determination, and bravery, many people can overcome their anxieties.

Anxiety is perfectly normal, so don’t for a moment assume that everyone falls into the category of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is perfectly natural, but if it occurs daily, or very frequently, then there is probably a problem somewhere. If you only ever feel anxiety when you are about to sit an exam, or have a job interview coming up, or any other countless stressful situation playing on your mind, then don’t worry, you are perfectly normal.

I mentioned in the last article that the overuse of the word depression weakens the word’s integrity. Yet, in the case of anxiety and nervousness that would be a much more difficult statement to make. Everybody feels anxious sometimes. But if it becomes difficult to cope with, its frequency doesn’t mean you should not deal with it. There are ways of coping with anxiety, both with medication and simple psychology. Researching into ways to cope with the conditions and visiting a doctor for advice is not a bad thing to do, so don’t feel for one second that you can’t.

Like with any illness -physical or otherwise- there are so many people in this world that you are never alone. It is just sometimes hard to find people who understand.

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