Everyone experiences anxiety. Not everyone lives with an anxiety disorder. And for those who do, getting an “official” diagnosis can be scary, confusing, intimidating — or all of the above. But just because you have an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean you simple can’t “handle” anxiety like everyone else. Anxiety disorders are real, and naming it might be the first step to giving it less control over your life.
We asked people in our mental health community who live with anxiety to tell us one thing they’d want someone who was recently diagnosed to know.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Never let anyone tell you it’s ‘just your anxiety.’ It’s a diagnosis that blurs the lines between what you can and cannot control; you are always allowed to feel whatever you’re feeling without being marginalized for it. Your diagnosis is not a weapon for others to use against you to silence your concerns.” — Kelsey Whiting
2. “There’s nothing wrong with you. Having a diagnosis will help you to learn how to cope. I found being diagnosed is actually pretty great.” — Aoife Gray
3. “The most genuine people I ever met I met because we had anxiety disorder in common. It’s scary, but there’s so much more to you than a diagnosis.” — Nancy Jaimes Reyes
4. “Here’s what I was told: Everyone gets anxiety, it’s normal to feel anxious.
My advice: Just learn about you, keep a journal about abnormalities in your personality, mood, emotions. This will help you understand what is anxiety and what isn’t.” — Catherine Ward
5. “Nothing is different about you because you have a diagnosis. You are the same person you were before you went to the doctors office. You have already made it through 100 percent of your toughest days, now there’s just a label on it. Take advantage of all of help that comes along with your diagnosis.” — Amanda Camara
6. “Treat it, medicate it, do what you need to do for you. It’s OK to be #openlyill” — Kiera Schmierer
7. “Not everyone is brave enough to face their diagnosis or even brave enough to get diagnosed. I won’t tell you to get over it because I know it doesn’t work that way. Healing is a long and difficult process, yet it is possible. Getting diagnosed is, I believe, the first step of healing. There will be good days, and there will be bad days that will almost make you want to give up, but hold on. Please always try to hold on because I believe you can make it. I’m also struggling, but I’m starting to get through healing. We can make it. I am so proud of you for facing it and trying to help yourself.” — Kaloy Aquino
8. “Don’t let your anxiety define you; you are not your anxiety. You will be able to cope, it just takes time and effort to take control of your brain again. Stay hopeful.” — Hailey Danielle
9. “Just because you experience a lot of anxiety, it doesn’t make your anxiety any less real. Your feelings are valid. Always.” — Jennifer Ashley Hoffmeister
10. “Try to stay in the present moment, and be kind to yourself. Your thoughts, are only just that — thoughts. Thank your anxiety for giving you a chance to show caution, and be more aware of your surroundings. Reward yourself for those little steps you take with something you enjoy, even though you’re scared. You will learn how to cope with it, and you will find the calm hidden within the chaos.” — Kai Zilli
11. “Getting a diagnosis is the best part because at least you can now put a name to this weird, scary feeling, this slow spiraling into madness, the unexplained, inexplicable sense of worry and panic that envelops you out of nowhere, even on a good day, even on your best days. The diagnosis means the uncertainty part of our illness is over. It’s easier to explain to yourself and your loved ones what’s wrong with you. Take your diagnosis and make it work for your recovery.” — Soonha Abro
12. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Learn how best to manage and even conquer it. There will be good days and bad, but don’t let the bad ones take over. Talk to others who have anxiety, it helps. No triggers are wrong. Everyone is an individual and everyone gets anxious, just on different levels and to different extents. Love yourself, be compassionate, give yourself time.” — Gemma Hall
13. “Your life may feel overwhelming and out-of-control right now, maybe even more than before your diagnosis, but know this: being diagnosed is the first step toward more times when you’re able to manage your anxiety rather than it managing you.” — Monica Mongiello
14. “You are never alone within this struggle, even when you feel like you’re losing the battle. People may leave you, but they just don’t know how strong you are. Never let a dream disappear. You may have to face different obstacles than others, you may not get things right away or need better explanation, but never be afraid to ask. I’m here for you.” — Adrian Torbenson
15. “Some days will be harder than others, but that is life with or without an anxiety diagnosis. Learn your triggers and when you can be courageous, confront your fears. On the days when you can’t do that, it is OK, and you will be OK. You are not alone!” — Nelson Carrington
16. “There are medications, cognitive behavioral thearpy and counseling available to you. Learn about your disorder and educate your support system. Group therapy helps us realize we are not alone and coping skills are shared. You are not your anxiety and with this new awareness and dedication, you’ll start to feel the shift back to peace of mind.” — Flurp Smith
17. “Don’t judge yourself when you know your thoughts are irrational. Instead, recognize that it’s part of your anxiety, and that it’s not a reflection of your character. Be kind to yourself.” — Tamara Lavoie
18. “Don’t let a diagnosis alter your spirit! Be strong and determined to find the best course of treatment. Let others help you because it can be a lonely place.” — Sharon Emslie
19. “You are not crazy, do not be ashamed and try to hide it. You will be just fine. Believe in yourself and know that no matter what life throws at you, you are stronger than your diagnosis.” — Cheryl Moore
20. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s still possible to do anything you want to do. You can learn to succeed despite a mind that is turned against you.” — McKenna Guegold
21. “It may be a hard road ahead, but you were brave enough to take the first step in getting better. You can do this!” — Paige Johnson
22. “Your life will still be amazing, you will experience joy and peace. And your story will inspire hope in others.” — Alicia Nelsen
23. “You are never alone, you are never a burden, and you are never worth less than the person standing next to you.” — Laura Sanscartier
If you live with anxiety and need more support, there are resources that can help. Visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of American to find a therapist, local support groups and more information about anxiety disorders.
*Answers have been edited and shortened.
Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.