2. Anxiety doesn’t always manifest in obviously-anxious ways. It’s not always shaking, sweating, or heavy breathing. Personally, when I am experiencing an episode, I tend to become grouchy. I am quicker to criticise people and just become a huge grump. If the situation persists, it can escalate into angry yelling. But I’m really just concerned about what’s going on and the effect it will have on either me or my loved ones.
— Taylor H, via email
3. I wish that I could help my more extroverted and less anxious friends understand that I will of course be at their parties, but if I don’t want to “loosen up” or I want to leave early, it’s not because I don’t love them. It’s because I feel like the world is closing in on me and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
— Melanie B, via email
5. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to you. I just overthink what I’ll say and how to act because I’m anxious. I don’t want to embarrass myself so I just don’t say anything at all. I’d like to be talked to, it’s just hard for me to initiate conversation because of my anxiety. It’s always great to be able to talk to someone who keeps an open mind and continues to make an effort to talk to me, because it still makes me anxious talking to people I know. It’s not anything you did, it’s just my own overthinking and anxiety.
6. Mental health is something that shouldn’t be ignored. It eats away at you and if you’re really having a hard time, can cause you physical pain. It sucks to feel that way and have people get annoyed at you or think you do it to get out of things. I don’t like feeling this way, nobody does.
8. To most people I seem to be a fully functional person. But the reality of my life is that my anxiety impacts everything I do. When my anxiety is at its worst I can’t leave the house without vomiting first. How my anxiety presents itself has changed as I’ve aged, which makes it even harder for me to identify that I’m having a serious anxiety attack. I have found that medication can help manage my anxiety, but I still struggle to accept that I need medication when I’m feeling good and will stop taking my medication, which will send me into another spiral. I have learned to let family and close friends in and to give them permission to check in about my mental state and to remind me that my medication is important.
9. Triggers are actually a thing, not just something the internet has made fun of. It can be as simple as someone saying something completely harmless, something that happens on TV, or what feels like deja vu. Be sensitive to these triggers, because sometimes even the person with anxiety might not even know they have them until they happen. We aren’t frail people, we just have frail moments.
— Rachael C
11. I’m sorry if I freak you out when I spill about my anxiety. I don’t want to ever make anyone feel uncomfortable, but sometimes I just need to talk to someone. It’s really hard when you go through that kind of thing alone.
12. A lot of people think if they can just prove to me how I’m feeling is illogical, I’ll magically be cured. Honestly, it just compounds the whole thing. I already feel crazy, now other people know I am. Anxiety isn’t logical and that’s ok, it’s valid no matter what. Feeling like I need to hide it makes it worse.
14. Different situations cause different levels of anxiety, and even if two situations are very similar, that doesn’t mean I’ll have the same reaction to both. I could be perfectly fine going out to dinner with someone but have a very hard time just going into a grocery store. Just because you think I should be able to do something doesn’t mean that I actually am able to do it or am okay with doing it. Please don’t assume that since I’m okay with one thing, I’ll be okay with something else.
15. Sometimes I seem mad and snappish but actually I’m anxious and struggling. Please don’t take offense, get mad back, or try to force me to talk. I know how I’m acting, and I don’t like it either.
— Beca Green Watson, via Facebook
17. Dear All My Friends,
Anxiety is different for everyone. My panic attacks don’t make me hyperventilate, shake, or pass out. Just because I seem calm, doesn’t mean I’m okay. Sometimes I’m quiet, still, and perfectly fine. Other times, I’m quiet, still, and my brain has completely shut down.
Also, I don’t need to be babied. I may not be the best at handling my problems, but I CAN handle them nonetheless. Don’t worrying about triggering me, and don’t feel guilty if you do.
One more thing: when I am in the middle of a panic attack, don’t freak out or worry about me. I’ll feel like a burden, and my anxiety will only get worse from there. If you really want to help, coach my breathing. Show me you care and be calm.
But know this: I appreciate you, whether you breathe with me or keep away from me. I can be hard to deal with, I know, so it means a lot just to know you care.
19. There are different types of anxiety and different ways it manifests itself. Every time someone shares an article on Facebook like “15 things every person with anxiety does!” with a generalized list of symptoms, it only hurts the fact that some people may be struggling and you would have no idea. I have high-functioning anxiety, meaning that my anxiety manifests itself in not letting me be still and destress. I have to get everything done and I have to always be doing something and it’s incredibly hard to “relax.” But just because when I get anxiety attacks or particularly bad days, I don’t curl up in a ball unable to function, doesn’t mean I’m not suffering just as badly.
20. Invalidating our anxiety will not cure us. It will only make it worse. So be patient and learn to accept and adapt with us if you truly want to see us happy.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.
If you need information and practical advice on anxiety, you can call the Rethink advice and information service on 0300 5000 927 (10am–2pm), if you’re in the UK.
You can call the Samaritans for confidential support if you’re experiencing feelings of distress or despair on 08457 90 90 90 (24-hour helpline).
And you can call the Crisis Call Center at 1-800-273-8255 at any time of the day if you’re based in the US.