|Welcome to the third installment of the blog series focusing on anxiety and anxiety disorders. Through these articles, my hope is to share an overview of what anxiety actually is and to promote an understanding of just how difficult it can be to live with a mental health disorder like anxiety.
Also take a look at the other posts in this series: Anxiety: Defining & Understanding | 4 Common Anxiety Disorders | Treatment & Recovery from Anxiety
The focus of this post will be to highlight the impact and consequences of the experience of anxiety and we will also explore the lived experience of people living with anxiety disorders. As with all mental health concerns, anxiety can have a great impact on the physical, psychological and social areas of a persons life and can impact each individual differently.
It is also worth noting that the symptoms and impacts of anxiety can be experienced by each person with varying degrees, can occur without warning, and can be felt on a continuum ranging from low impact (manageable with coping skills) to high impact (possibly debilitating such as in the case of an anxiety attack). In order to understand the impact and consequences of anxiety, let's take a look at some examples.
The theory of the mind-body connection assumes that our cognitive and emotional state can alter our physical state (and research suggests that the opposite may be true, as well - that our physical state can also influence our mental and emotional state). In other words, how we think and feel can alter the way our body feels, depending on the degree of these thoughts or feelings.
Some examples of how anxious thoughts or feelings can impact physically:
The cognition's or thought-process that an individual has can cause anxiety related to either present or future situations. For example, a person may worry about how well they might do on an upcoming test or exam. If this person has not attended any of the classes or spent time studying, these test-taking worries may be warranted. However, if a person has a track record of being an honour student, or has spent time studying and generally does well on tests, but these worries become overwhelming and excessive, the anxiety that has been generated may be maladaptive and begin to interfere with an individuals daily living.
Some examples of how anxious thoughts or feelings can impact psychologically:
Individuals who experience anxiety may also have a tough time being in social settings or in situations with lots of people. For some, even taking public transportation or going to the grocery store is too anxiety-provoking to go through. If you have ever been in a crowded room and felt as if the walls were closing in on you, and that you wouldn't be able to escape, you may have experienced what it's like for someone who experiences the impacts of social anxiety! Scary, hey?
Some examples of how anxious thoughts or feelings can impact socially:
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the impacts of anxiety, and if you suffer from problematic anxiety or have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, your experience may be very different. It's also important to note that mental health disorders rarely exist in isolation and co-occurrence with other mental health disorders is common (such as depression). Each person will have their own unique experience of anxiety and in order to have a closer look at what this is actually like, we will next explore some of the lived experiences of anxiety & anxiety disorders.
Learn more about how social factors can impact mental health or even influence the development of mental health disorders through Coursera: The Social Context of Mental Health & Illness created by the University of Toronto
Lived experiences of anxiety
Ready to go inside the mind of someone living with chronic anxiety? The following are quotes from well-known celebrities as well as people who have graciously shared their lived experiences of anxiety with me.
"Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within." ~ David Duchovny
"Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." ~ Arthur Somers Roche
"Most days, I like to look at it as a machine. I know the process of how it works. And I can control it by pushing buttons, stop, go, etc. Most days, I have learnt to look from the outside, and understand the buttons/triggers. Then I can work on it in the future. And one day, I will have it all figured out." ~ Anonymous
"There isn't anybody out there who doesn't have a mental health issue, whether it's depression, anxiety, or how to cope with relationships. Having OCD is not an embarrassment anymore - for me. Just know that there is help and your life could be better if you go out and seek the help." ~ Howie Mandel
"All too frequently, anxiety crushes not only your spirit and your potential, but your ability to take care of your mind and body." ~ Jonathan Davidson and Henry Dreher
"It can hit at any time. You feel like you're in an open field, and there's a tornado coming at you. And you're just consumed by it." ~ Kim Basinger
References: mind.org.uk, health.harvard.edu, healthline.com
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