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The Phrase I Use to Describe My Anxiety Disorder


Having panic disorder and generalized anxiety, I have struggled for years to find a way to explain how my brain works to those around me. Big, clinical words don’t always fit the scenario I’m trying to describe and sometimes make the situation seem more intense than it actually is. Other times, shrugging it off or playing down an anxiety attack is counter productive, because then people don’t realize how frequently I’m fighting with myself to stay calm and stay rational.

Enter “anxiety brain.”

When I asked my mom for the seventh time in two hours if she still loved me, I just shrugged and offered up the explanation of “Anxiety Brain.” Anxiety Brain makes me overplan and overpack for a simple trip the grocery store, making me need emergency cash, a full tank of gas and three people knowing when I expect to be back. Anxiety Brain is why I panic when I don’t hear from my boyfriend for 15 minutes and I assume something tragic has happened.

It’s a way for me to convey my anxiety is affecting my view of things, but that I’m alright and not having a serious episode. It also serves as a reminder to those around me that sometimes I see things in a different way than they do and I need that extra reassurance from them or a moment of patience while I calm down the noise inside my head.

Most importantly, referring to my disorder as “Anxiety Brain” reminds me my anxiety is not who I am. It’s a switch that gets flipped sometimes. It’s a side of my personality that takes a dominant role on occasion. However, there are moments — many moments — when my healthy brain is fully in control and I am functioning as “normal” as possible. Every time I manage to quiet my Anxiety Brain down and shove it away, is a victory. And with anxiety, any victory, no matter how big or small, is the fuel to keep fighting every day.

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Thinkstock photo via jetFoto.