October 17, 2016
There’s a symptom that’s pretty common to people with mental illness that can lead not only to confusion but more drastic things like social avoidance, and isolation: anxiety. The thing is, this isn’t just a symptom common to people with major mental illnesses; it’s pretty widespread all across the board. I’d wager to guess that the majority of people have experienced this symptom at one point or another during their lives and, though it isn’t regularly talked about, I think most of us can relate to the feelings involved with this symptom.
Anxiety can be a hard thing to deal with. Chances are you’ve had a moment in your life where your thoughts overwhelmed you a bit about an upcoming obligation to the point that you’ve found it hard to concentrate.
Take, for example, public speaking. This ranks pretty high on the list of most common fears that people have, and the reason for that is that its all too easy to worry about what other people think of you. If you’re not worried that you’ll mess up somehow, like tripping on your shoelaces and falling flat on your face, you’re worried that people won’t take kindly to the things you are going to say. They might think you are in too deep or over your head in a subject you know nothing about, or they might think you’re an idiot or a fraud.
The thing is, a lot of us have encountered these fears before, especially when dealing with other people. It’s only a major point of contention for people with mental illnesses because it could lead to scarier things like paranoia and delusions. Someone with schizophrenia could easily transform simple social anxiety into fear that people are going to kill them or tease them relentlessly.
It’s tough to separate anxiety from paranoia, but paranoia is the notion that you are being assaulted whereas anxiety is just the worry that it could happen. Further on down the line from paranoia are delusions; these are conclusions you’ve come to as a result of the paranoia. Take, for example, the notion that you are a spy who has to evade being killed. This belief came about only because you felt that people were going to kill you.
Suffice it to say that it’s a slippery slope from anxiety to full blown delusional thinking. Anxiety, though, exists pretty rampantly, and it’s easy to get bogged down in worries about what people think of you.
There are several tricks you can use to combat anxiety though. First and foremost is getting the feeling off of your chest. Talk to a friend or a family member about the notion that is going through your head at the moment; when it comes out it might sound unrealistic and your loved one can help you realize the reality of the situation simply by countering your fear with encouragement. It helps to talk about anything especially anxieties.
Another trick is breathing deeply. If you feel overwhelmed by a fear take a moment to have a few deep breaths; it can instantly clear out the tension in your chest, and it’s pretty much invisible to anyone around so you don’t have to worry that people see that you’re scared.
Finally, if you have to, feel free to leave the situation altogether. It’s perfectly to exit a situation where you don’t feel comfortable and it can save you immense amounts of stress. Overall, anxiety is common, you shouldn’t feel bad about having some fears or worries because worrying is part of being human.
As social creatures we all want to impress other people, and anxiety is pretty common in that desire. The thing to watch out for is if it gets to be too much and the worries turn into paranoia or delusions. We have to be careful about those because stability is key. Most of all, just know that you’re not alone in your anxiety. Pretty much everyone else has it too.