Anxiety is a condition that plagues many people; some visit medical professionals on a regular basis, while others are afraid to take that route just yet. Still though, most of us with anxiety share a similar hope: that our friends can more fully understand us.
1. We sometimes have to make accommodations for our medications.
While hanging out at happy hour after work seems like a great deal of fun, people who are taking medications for anxiety often can’t drink. Even if we would like to go out, we may sit and sip a soda, and we would like to do so without being asked why we are not having an alcoholic drink every time a new colleague comes into the bar.
2. Intense social situations can fill us with a great deal of trepidation.
Some of us have anxiety about meeting new people for the first time, but we may also fear social settings in general. A crowded bar or concert with loud noise and music can make us feel as though we are trapped, and we may soon begin to experience both claustrophobia and an anxiety attack at the same time. Not exactly a fun night out.
3. Our anxiety may be related to another condition, but that’s not necessarily true.
Some people automatically assume that individuals with anxiety also experience panic attacks on a regular basis or that they are currently going through depression too. While those disorders are related, they don’t always exist alongside one another. Just because you have a cough, for example, doesn’t mean you automatically have bronchitis.
4. Not knowing about the details of plans until right before they happen is problematic for us.
People with anxiety like to think about what time they are going to leave, how they will arrive at their destination, if the social scene will be packed with people and so forth. If we are texting you and asking about the details on the regular, we aren’t trying to be annoying. We are simply trying to calm ourselves.
5. Being on time is important to us.
When we aren’t on time, we start to wonder what we are missing, and we may wonder if the host is going to get mad at us. Sometimes, that means people with anxiety don’t want to carpool with others who are notoriously late. We respect your desire to make a grand entrance later on at the party, but please respect our need to be punctual.
6. Some of the worst times for us are the days leading up to a negative event.
For example, giving a speech in class might not be that bad, but the few days before it are plagued with anxiety. On the same token, if our family is going out of town in a week, we might cave under the pressure of the anxiety and anticipation. We aren’t trying to consume the conversation, but we almost cannot think of anything else.
7. If we have anxiety that is caused by obsessive compulsive disorder or that involves obsessions, understand that we may engage in rituals you find a bit strange.
Before we leave the house, we might need to go around to check all of the appliances to ensure that they are turned off because we know we will have anxiety later about it if we do not take that step now.
8. Maybe you try to invite us out to cheer us up when we are upset; however, the level of
unpredictability can make our anxiety even worse.
We may wonder how we are going to get there, when we are going to get home and what exactly we are doing. Instead of surprising us with a plan to take a road trip, ask us about a specific activity and see if we would like to do that instead.
9. Sometimes, we are afraid to travel in certain types of vehicles.
The thought of getting into a plane, train, bus or a car driven by someone else is an anxiety many people have. When we tell you that we would prefer to drive ourselves, please don’t be offended. We’re not commenting on your ability to operate a motor vehicle; we are simply unable to ease our minds enough to get into a car with any other person, except perhaps a select few like our parents.
10. Our emotions can take over at times.
Many of us are visiting doctors for therapy sessions or prescribed medications so that we can function regularly in everyday life, but that isn’t true for anyone. Some of us are struggling to come out about our anxiety, and others are unable to follow a medical routine every day.
Sometimes, we may seem completely wrapped up in our emotions and thoughts. We don’t mean to be rude; we just haven’t found a way out of that mindset yet.
11. Not only might we appear emotional, but we may also come across as selfish.
When we are experiencing anxiety about a particular event or situation, we may lose focus on everything else, which makes us poor listeners. Know that deep down, especially as people who observe so much about the world around them, that we do care, and we will work to make it up to you.
12. Chances are, we know we need to work on our patience.
Waiting for an answer, especially when it’s a particularly important result, may seem like the most arduous process in the world to us. In some ways, you can look at it as a level of excitement and see how eager we are to learn good news when the situation is positive.
13. Not all of us are the same.
If you have one anxious friend whom you know about, you may assume every other person with anxiety is the same. Consider other conditions. You and your friend could have colds, but have slightly different symptoms. You may spend the entire day wiping your nose while he is constantly coughing.
14. We are willing to try new activities.
Some people assume that because we have anxiety, we are afraid of anything new. Maybe you think that we won’t go skiing with you on the mountains or take a swim in the deep end of the pool. Don’t assume that. We might want to know what safety preparations are in place, but we may very well try it.
15. Our entire lives are not necessarily consumed by anxiety.
Some people do have very bad levels of anxiety, and they do miss a great deal of life opportunities because of it, but plenty of people have moderate, mild or low levels of anxiety. We do not necessarily think about our anxiety all of the time.
16. We may want to spend time with people who also have this condition.
That doesn’t mean we are pulling away from you or that we want to end our friendship; it simply means that on some days, we may want to go to a support group for people with anxiety instead of the local soda shop.
17. We like dates and times.
If you give us a specific time that something is slated to happen, then we know we can relax until that time has arrived. We also like to keep calendars so we do not accidentally mix obligations. If you do not respond to us with a date on which you would like to get together in a short period of time, we may schedule that date for another activity.
18. Many of us do not like to have a great deal of free time.
It gives us time to think about our anxiety. You may wonder why we never like to just sit in the apartment and relax, and the answer is because our minds start to race and we do not necessarily feel our best when we do that.
19. In a similar vein, some of us also have trouble enjoying hobbies.
Our minds often wonder what the utility of a particular project is. We want to know what the deadline for the project is, how it will be put to use and how we can design it to achieve that particular use. It is not as though we lack interests; our interests just may not be exactly the same as yours.
20. It’s not just a bout of regular nervousness.
Everyone gets nervous at some point, and it most commonly occurs before important or worrisome events. For those of us with anxiety, these feelings aren’t always limited to certain types of events. Instead, we feel nervous upon the presence or thought of simple life situations like going to the grocery store or even talking on the phone. For situations that may create anxiety for normal people, the fear is present tenfold for those with general anxiety. The same techniques you use to get over your nervousness may have absolutely no effect on those of us with severe anxiety.
21. We can’t just “get over it” suddenly.
Anxiety isn’t something that can just be shaken off quickly before moving on. It may take years of various treatments in order for sufferers to live comfortably. Even if you know someone with anxiety, their treatment may not be the same as another person’s. You may know many people with this condition, but they may still respond differently even if using the same treatment methods.
Try to understand that coping with the issue is an ongoing process that is never instantly solved. Maintaining a friendship with an anxiety sufferer may require a bit more effort than usual if you feel the relationship is worth it.
22. We may fear things without reason.
The life of an anxiety sufferer is nowhere near the typical one. Many times, you may find we’re anxious with no necessary cause. We may also have fears about the future that go beyond the standard worries. Most people worry about their future in terms of success, but anxiety sufferers may fear specific situations. Some people have a reoccurring feeling of impending doom, and we may fear situations that have no realistic reason for taking place.
Even if you don’t understand the fear, be an open ear. Don’t judge us, but try to offer calming words of support if this happens.
23. We’re not strange.
People with anxiety issues are often assumed to be incredibly weird or strange compared to others in society. Despite what you may think, we’re not inherently antisocial. We value relationships just as much as anyone else. The problem lies in the fact that we may lack the confidence to pursue or maintain them due to worries about responses from other parties or our own expectations of perfection. We are usually just as normal as everyone else behind closed doors or in other situations where we feel at ease. Don’t assume our actions or behaviors in public settings define who we are throughout other areas of our lives.
24. We’re just as motivated as you.
Because we sometimes separate ourselves from typical lifestyle activities, others may assume we lack drive. The truth is, we have just as much ambition as everyone else. No matter the field, to succeed in life takes approval from others. It usually also involves constant interaction with other people. Our fears may hinder or delay our abilities to be placed in situations where we’re put on display for others. Don’t judge the accomplishments or development of an anxiety sufferer based off of your own life experiences.
25. We’re not always shy.
Many people dealing with anxiety may shy away from social situations, but that doesn’t make us all shy by default. Many of us are actually very outgoing, funny and creative. Apparent shyness in unfamiliar situations again goes back to the worry surrounding approval from others. We may also have reservations based on our perceived personal limitations that prevent us from achieving our ideal image in the face of others. You shouldn’t be surprised if you notice a more open and energetic shift in personality from time to time.
26. It doesn’t have to be debilitating.
While severe anxiety can be crippling for some, this isn’t necessarily the case for each person. Many of us with anxiety find ways to enjoy the same activities as everyone else, but the processes to accomplish them may be a bit different. Don’t assume that this condition is automatically a lifestyle disability for anyone who suffers from it. If necessary, ask ahead of time when making plans or announcements just to get a feel for how we respond.
What’s really important to remember when it comes to anxiety is that no two people are exactly alike. If you have friends who have anxiety, don’t expect all of them to engage in the same behaviors. Also, do not push them to tell you about their condition, because you may only make it worse. Instead, let them tell you in their own time. In fact, they may never come out and admit that they have anxiety, but you can still be a good and lifelong friend to them anyway. They will appreciate the companionship and nonjudgmental understanding.