Anxiety is one of the most difficult things to understand if you are not a sufferer. During the past few years, there has been a drastic rise in the patients visiting psychiatric clinics for anxiety disorders. It doesn’t mean that anxiety rose suddenly. It has been a result of awareness and education about anxiety and its effects on people’s life.
A very common thing we see is that we often pretend or assume different things about anxiety. But, what happens in real life is that rarely our assumptions and pretensions help us get appropriate help or improve our anxiety problems.
For that let’s learn what anxiety disorders are not.
Anxiety is not worry and tensions
You have always heard- worries and tensions are part of life. There is no life without stress and strain. Although there are similarities and connections between tension or worries and Anxiety,
Anxiety is completely different from daily life tensions, stresses and worries that common people experience.
No matter how stressed or worried you are, it does not mean you are suffering anxiety. There are some assessments that are used to evaluate if somebody has anxiety.
We often say- “Even I have experienced that.” Or “Even I am always stressed.” By saying that, we actually neglect the seriousness of the condition of an anxiety sufferer. We pretend we know what anxiety is and we don’t understand what he is actually suffering.
So, here is the truth-
There is a very clear distinction between tension or worry and anxiety at the experience level.
Anxiety is a disorder and not mental illness
It may sound surprising and astonishing that anxiety is a disorder and not a mental illness.
Commonly, when we talk about anxiety and refer to a person going to a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist, it is conveniently assumed that the person is mentally ill!
But, not to exaggerate, anxiety is not a mental illness!
Now you may be wondering- What is the difference between a mental disorder and mental illness?
Mental illness arises because of chemical imbalances or structural abnormalities in the brain. They are the conditions in which the sufferer cannot control (in most cases) his thinking, perceptions, and behaviours. They have a major physiological content. Medication therapy is usually necessary to manage them.
On the other hand, anxieties come under the tag “disorder.” It simply means there is a disorder (lack of order) in the thinking and behaviours that lead to mental distress. Disorders have a biological predisposition and chemical imbalances may result as a pat of it (as displayed in the physiological manifestations of anxiety) but they do not originate because of any abnormalities in the brain.
Anxiety disorders can usually be effectively managed without medicines. Today there exist very good psychotherapies that are seen to be very effective for a wide range of anxiety disorders. It highly depends on how much the sufferer and his guardians know about getting the right help for his or her specific problem.
You might say, but anxiety is not a sign of timidity, feebleness or weakness
In case of an anxiety sufferer, we often hear others saying –
“He has to be strong.”
“Her timidity is her problem.”
“He does not have the daring to face difficult situations!”
“Her coward nature is the reason for her problems.”
But, it is very important to understand that anxiety is far more difficult and tougher than the words- Timidity, Fearfulness, and Cowardliness. It is above and beyond all these things.
We have come to this conclusion from the fact that research has proved that even the daring, outgoing, strong and lively people often develop anxiety disorders. It can be a surprising fact but it is true.
Anxiety does not discriminate between strong and weak.
So, there is no reason to stigmatize anxiety prone people to be weak, timid or feeble. It is just a condition of their mind.
It is not a condition that resolves on its own (Or by drinking herbal tea!)
Anxiety is a condition which requires very tricky mental and physical therapeutic manoeuvres. These manoeuvres and therapies have been developed over past three decades with extensive research and analysis.
The therapy that has gained popularity in the past two decades is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The therapists who give this therapy are trained clinical psychologists who have the expertise to bring change in the thinking and behaviours in the people having various anxiety disorders.
It is seldom found that someone cured his own anxiety disorder. The reason for that is anxiety disorder is like a trap where, for the sufferer, there seems no way out. It is a vicious cycle of negative thinking and behaviours which keep the individual trapped.
Don’t advice an anxiety sufferer to relax or drink herbal tea! (Or anything like that).
You will annoy him or her.
Anxiety cannot be cured by relaxing or drinking herbal tea, nor does it resolve on its own. Most people have a tendency to wait and see if anxiety vanishes. They think it will go away on its own but sadly, that doesn’t happen either.
In fact, anxiety intensifies over time making the life of the sufferer a living hell.
In that case,
Getting immediate help from a professional makes a lot of difference.
It not an uncommon condition
At last, it is always held that anxiety is a very rare condition. But even that is not true. Anxiety is very common. Only because of social stigma, lack of knowledge, lack of empathy and negligence a very large number of people don’t get appropriate professional help. Because of that, it appears that anxiety is very uncommon.
In India anxiety affects nearly about 25% of the population in different ways. That is a pretty huge number and it is rising in the current trends of globalization.
Therefore, if you are assuming that it’s not anxiety, you may have to think twice.