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When I Doubt If My Own Anxiety Is Real (Even Though I Know It Is)

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One of the toughest things about an anxiety disorder is that most of it takes place in my own head. Sure, there are physical symptoms, sometimes tons of them, but the thing causing the physical symptoms is a battle raging inside my mind. The tricky thing about this is it’s hard to win a battle you can’t see. In fact, as humans, we tend to doubt what we can’t see — even when it’s happening inside our own heads.

I have an anxiety disorder, and sometimes I find myself doubting the reality of my condition. Me, the person living with the diagnosis, finds it hard to believe the thing I’m struggling with is real.

The doctor said it’s true. It’s right there in my medical file. And there are hundreds (if not thousands) of articles and books confirming the existence of anxiety as a medical condition. But I can’t see it. I can’t touch it. It’s not real to me in the same way as a broken bone or a scratch on my hand.

Instead, my anxiety often feels more like a personality flaw rather than a disorder. Why do I worry so much? It’s not because of a disorder. It’s just because I’m not trusting enough. Why do I get so anxious over small things? It’s not because of a disorder. It’s because I can’t handle even the least difficult of situations. It’s not a disorder. It’s just me. I’m just not strong enough to handle life’s simplest problems.

I can tell myself over and over that my anxiety is indeed real, but some tiny part of me holds onto the disbelief. The self-doubt. And if it’s that hard for me to believe it’s real, it’s only logical to conclude it is even tougher for those who don’t have an anxiety disorder themselves.

So to all of you out there who have a friend or family member living with anxiety, please keep trying. Keep trying to understand and believe that anxiety is a real thing. We know it’s hard. We may have a hard time believing in it ourselves. But keep trying. And help us believe in it too. Because it’s easier to fight this invisible battle when you’re on our side.

“Is this real? Or has it all been happening inside my head?”

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

— J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

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Photo by Jacob Morrison, via Unsplash

Originally published: May 26, 2017
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