Mental illness is tough. Not only do you often have to deal with the world’s judgment, but you often have to deal with your own as well. After all, we are often our own worst critics. Even more common mental illnesses like anxiety have a stigmas and beliefs attached to them. This can make it hard for people struggling to realize or admit they have a problem.
So how do you know if you actually have anxiety?
I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) a couple years ago and personally, it was a bit hard for me to come to terms with. At times, it still can be. To be honest, it wasn’t a surprise. I had been suspecting it for a while. The issue I struggle with is, am I really anxious enough to have an anxiety disorder?
I have many friends who also have anxiety. You can tell if you get to know them. Some of them are really quiet, and can’t speak in front of others. Another will cry from stress and get visibly upset. But I don’t do any of this. I can be quite loud, and I’d never even considered crying in public. I hate crying in general. Worst case scenario, I’ll have to blink back tears while waiting to present a project. Because of this, I have a very hard time admitting that yes, I too, have anxiety.
I mean really, how could I have anxiety? School doesn’t bother me much. I’m usually fine. A common theme among my friends is getting really anxious over grades. So does this mean if I don’t stress over grades, I can’t have anxiety? After all, bad grades don’t usually matter to me after a few minutes of cursing at myself and crushing my self-esteem. And sure, I’m scared to death of talking to teachers, but does that really matter? And so what if I can’t order food myself because I’m scared of talking to people. That doesn’t mean anything, right? And every social event ever. Just because I automatically assume my friends all hate me and want me to leave because I’m ruining their fun, this doesn’t mean I actually have anxiety.
Logically, my brain does understand those are signs of anxiety. But the part of my brain that is terrified of being “overdramatic” wants me to think I’m overreacting. Because after all, other people thinking I’m an “attention-seeker” is much worse then me silently struggling, right?
When people look at me, they see an immature, childish, high schooler who probably should try and “grow up.” Nobody would ever guess I have anxiety. I don’t have panic attacks. I don’t make myself sick with stress. I don’t think I get unrealistically anxious over things, though I will admit I can be a bit paranoid at times. I’m not sure what anxiety “looks like.” All I know is I don’t feel like I fit the bill.
So why am I writing this? Well, I’m not 100 percent sure. Out of curiosity, I was reading a bunch of articles on “high-functioning” anxiety. I was hoping to finally find something that would describe how I felt. But these articles didn’t really help me since I still felt those people struggled much more then me — yes, I know that thought may be a bit irrational.
So, to answer my question. Am I anxious enough to have anxiety? I think the answer is yes. Anxiety is different for everyone. Just because mine isn’t exactly like others, doesn’t mean it’s not real. I think that’s important for people to keep in mind, especially if they haven’t exactly come to terms with their diagnosis. You are not an attention seeker. You’re a human, who’s just trying to cope in this crazy world.
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Thinkstock photo via EfsunKutlay.