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22 Reasons You Might Not Notice Your Friend's Anxiety

We often turn to our friends for a sense of support and community, because as the saying goes, that’s what friends are for. It can be easy to be open with friends about the latest happenings in your life, but sometimes, talking about mental health with the people who “get you” can still be difficult.

People with anxiety might feel like their struggle is a burden to others. Or they may be ashamed to admit they are struggling, for fear they might be seen as more their struggle and less them. But most of the time, friends of someone struggling with anxiety just want to know how they can be supportive.

That is why we asked people in our Mighty mental health community who struggle with anxiety to share the reasons their friends wouldn’t notice they were currently struggling. By looking out for the underlying ways people deal with their anxiety, we can continue to be supportive of our friends no matter what they’re going through.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “The days that I’m at my worst are the days I take time to put on makeup (my ‘war paint’) and make an extra effort to look collected and in control. Those are the days people don’t see me struggling — they only notice my outward appearance and aren’t part of my internal monologue.” — Mary-Catherine M.

2. “I say I’m not feeling well — a headache or stomach ache. When in reality, it’s my anxiety, but it takes less explanation and confusion when I just say I physically don’t feel well.” — Molly C.

3. “I try to hide it with as many jokes as I possibly can. Mostly dark and self-deprecating jokes. I feel like joking and being bubbly keeps me a little more relaxed when facing a group of people.” — John B.

4. “I do my best to hide it so I don’t make them panic. The last thing I need during an anxiety attack is for them to freak out.” — Matt Y.

5. “I mask it with an almost obsessive happy exterior. I act as though I’m fine, laugh at jokes (maybe sometimes ones that aren’t even funny); and I don’t even know why I pretend this way anymore, but I guess it is a habit now. Usually I’m actually feeling lousy and want to be at home in my room away from everything.” — Lily-Rose P.

6. “I definitely am one to cut people off temporarily just so I don’t have to deal with all of the pity they think I need. I hide my problems pretty well, but I know some people can see through my mask, so I just don’t talk to anyone.” —Lexi S.

7. “I have great grades, a great social life and everything looks ‘perfect’ on paper. No one thinks there’s something wrong when everything appears perfect.” — Brooke B.

8. “I always push myself past my limits and challenge myself in ways someone with this level of anxiety probably shouldn’t. I refuse to let this illness overcome who I am and want to be as a person. So if I’m ever anxious around my friends, I have coping mechanisms I do they wouldn’t notice: like counting to 10 in my head or breathing deeply. I could be having a normal conversation to them, but I could be feeling like I’m ‘dying inside.’ This only happens sometimes, and I am thankful for my friends understanding and supportive nature. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.” — Angeline M.

9. “I grew up with a mother who ‘didn’t believe in mental illness’ and always told me I’m ‘choosing to be miserable.’ So when my anxiety or depression is bad, I tend to put on a brave face. I feel like I have to deal with it by myself because I was raised to believe mental illness isn’t real and I was choosing to feel the way I feel.” — Ally D.

10. “I smile and laugh a lot and I’m very upbeat. But when I’m by myself, the demons come out and I start getting depressed and my anxiety comes on. People think I have anxiety and depression for attention so I try not to show it to others.” — Sidney P.

11. “I only struggle at work. Around my friends, I’m just ‘a bit high strung,’ which they accept me for.” — Sally C.

12. “My main anxiety symptom is a feeling of dread. This cannot be seen from the outside. Inside, I’m in so much mental anguish and I want to do anything to get out of the situation causing anxiety. But on the outside, I can look more or less ‘normal’ and like nothing is wrong.” — Kay C.

13. “I am naturally an extrovert. I also push myself and refuse to let anxiety stand in the way of me achieving my dreams.” — Nikki B.

14. “It somewhat comes off as confidence. I use false pride to get me through anxiety filled situations. I act as if I have everything figured out, but on the inside I am an insecure anxious mess.” — Suzy B.

15. “I’m usually the driver of the group, the one people ask for rides from. They don’t understand that sometimes I need to cancel because of my anxiety and the risks that come with driving while it’s happening.” — Melina A.

16. “I go off the grid. [My friends] won’t hear from me or see me [for] months because my head is a scrambled mess on fast forward and I don’t want them to see me that way or burden them. The longer the time I’m away, the more anxious I get about trying to reach out. They don’t notice because I’m not there.” — Brittany H.

17. “When I’m out with them and I get anxious, I flip between talking a lot or getting completely silent (depending on the situation). When riding in a car I usually talk a lot. When I’m out on the town, I usually shut up and try to find some way to take my mind off of things or escape entirely.” — Susan T.

18. “I put on a mask like no other and I go about my day, even though I could actually be on the verge of throwing my guts up because I’m panicking so bad. People have made me feel invalid for having something I can’t control, so I no longer show it unless they actually care and prove it.” — Hollie D.

19. “It’s not that they don’t notice, it’s just commonplace now — it’s become the norm. My best friend even compared me to the white rabbit from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ because I’m always in a hurry to leave because of one anxious trigger or another.” — Mary D.

20. “I space out a lot. Most times it’s because I’m daydreaming. I’m a daydreamer at heart, but other times it’s because I’m trying to get myself back in focus on what I’m doing. I just space out for a few minutes.” — Kari G.

21. “I have the ability to not just put my anxiety on the back burner, but to focus all of my energy on helping my friends instead. I choose to see the positive in every situation, no matter how anxious it makes me. [My] meds also keep me somewhat leveled.” — Melody A.

22. “I ramble. I find something to talk about and just go with it. I’m agreeable so they just think I’m easygoing rather than trying to be a people pleaser and not wanting anyone mad at me because I’m afraid they’ll disappear from my life.” — Jennifer N.

Can you relate?