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Anxiety Disorders Are Not Defined by Listicles


I was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder going into my sophomore year of college. However, I believe I experienced symptoms far before then. I sought help for anxiety almost a year earlier.

While there are common symptoms that people associate with an anxiety disorder –shaking, hyperventilating, etc. — those are not the only symptoms that exist for people with anxiety disorders. Some are not visible or identifiable.

I know some people whose voices go up a few octaves when they’re anxious, some who become irritable, some who try to hide it by disclosing and then saying, “nevermind haha” or something to the effect. Some people have to always have their hands or minds busy. There’s no one or cluster of symptoms, though, that have to apply to everyone with an anxiety disorder.

The only commonality I know between people who have anxiety disorders is the fact that they have a feeling of urgency and fear over logically minute things or seemingly nothing for an extended length of time.

Some people know their triggers and some don’t. Sometimes it’s a mixture. Sometimes I can pinpoint an attack to a specific trigger and sometimes I just start hyperventilating and crying and shaking and digging my nails into my hands for what seems like no reason.

As far as medication goes — some people need it and some do not. I, personally, need medication because without it, I cannot get through talk therapy. Talking about specific attacks or triggers is so overwhelming for me that it’s almost re-traumatizing and causes me to cry to the point where therapists cannot understand what I’m saying and it takes the entire session for me to recover. However, for some people, controlled talk therapy or coping mechanisms are just fine without any medication.

If you believe that you or a friend have an anxiety disorder, do not try to conform yourself, him or her to what a listicle says about anxiety disorders. Every experience is different. Please just get medical consultation. If you want to post a blanket listicle about how your anxiety disorder looks or affects you, please just write a disclosure that says it applies to your experience, but perhaps not someone else’s.

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Getty image via gabriel__bostan