What is Anxiety?
The exact definition of anxiety according to dictionary.com is, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”, and the psychiatric definition according to myteam.org is, a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Although these definitions are true, they are very broad and do not capture the full realm of what anxiety really is. In my opinion anxiety is a serious and sometimes debilitating feeling that can make the most put together people feel as though there is no logic in their world, and the bravest person suddenly be overwhelmed with fear that makes them unable to even move.
What is an anxiety attack?
The exact definition of an anxiety attack according to dictionary.com is a sudden and intense episode of fear and anxiety. They can be brought on suddenly with no warning or reason, or can have triggers like loud noises, reminders of traumatic events, seeing certain people, etc.
A teens perspective on their anxiety disorder
Every person in the world deals with anxiety. It is part of the human mind to be anxious in stressful and scary times but anxiety disorders are different and are much more difficult to deal with. Everyone has heard of anxiety and anxiety disorders but they are not talked about enough, especially in teenagers. With teenagers there is a stigma that they are super sensitive and are just over dramatic which leads to teens hiding away the feelings they have from adults and anyone who could help them deal with what they are feeling. A student at West High School anonymously talked with me about their anxiety. “I was diagnosed with my anxiety disorder my sophomore year of high school.” The student feels that he or she cannot talk to anyone about their anxiety because, “it’s always perceived as ‘childish’ or that I'm 'faking it’ so it leads to bottling up emotions.” Bottling up emotions is something that many teens feel obligated to do and it's very unhealthy. Keeping feelings bottled up can make the triggers and struggles these teens deal with more amplified. This student expressed to me that the struggles they deal with are being able to make “eye contact for a long period of time, school in general, and tests.” and some triggers they have are, “knowing a test is coming, talking for a long period of time, and my own mind when I doubt.” With all these struggles and triggers coping mechanisms are needed. Everyone has mechanisms, healthy and unhealthy unfortunately, and this student explained to me that their ways to cope are, “Bottling up emotions, and trying to convince myself that everything is alright.” Bottling up your emotions, while it is coping it is unhealthy and sadly many other teens also cope this way. By talking about and recognizing anxiety, the hope is that teens who only know how to deal in unhealthy ways will be more comfortable and understand that they can gain control over their lives again.
My personal experience with anxiety
Anxiety is a major part of my life, and it dictates many things in my life. I was diagnosed with an Anxiety disorder when I was in the 8th grade, and dealing with it has caused problems with my social life and personal life. You know that feeling when you are watching a scary movie and suddenly it gets extremely quiet and you know
something is going to happen, but you don’t know when? That's what everyday feels like to me. No matter what I'm doing, I could be walking down the hallway, or eating lunch, and even just laying down in bed, the feeling sticks with me all the time. It's like a balloon is in my chest and I can feel the air growing, and little things like taking a test, getting called on in class, or the slight raise in someone's voice can make that balloon pop, and set off an anxiety attack.
My personal experience with anxiety attacks
Having an anxiety attack for me is like an out of body experience. I can feel my brain fighting with itself, one side is saying everything is okay while the other side is whole heartedly convinced that we are about to die for whatever reason. I can feel my anxiety attacks coming on which makes my anxiety peak faster until the rational side of my brain slowly loses control. When my anxiety attack is at full peak and all logic has escaped my mind, it is almost as if I am watching myself, and I know I am not in any danger, but I no longer have control over my mind or body to be able to calm myself down. It is the most helpless feeling I have ever experienced and, in all truthfulness, an attribute to my anxiety is that I'm anxious about when my next anxiety attack will be.
How do I cope with my anxiety?
Coping with anxiety is an extremely difficult thing to do, and I must admit I do not have it down, and I probably never will but I will always keep trying. There are unhealthy ways that I deal with my anxiety but I will not talk about those, I would rather talk about
the healthy ways in hopes that if someone is reading this who is struggling that these may work for them too. Hobbies: I love to draw and paint which helps at times but the main thing is dance. Dancing allows me to move freely and allows the overwhelming emotions to flow out of me through my movements. Some people do not have hobbies, but there are many other ways I cope. My second favorite thing to do is to put in my headphones and turn on some music that relates to how I am feeling, and then I turn it up as loud as I can, find a safe space (my bedroom for example) and allow my emotions to take over and just let them out. It is such a relief to be able to release all of that anxiety, sadness, and frustration. It makes me feel 10x lighter. Lastly, and this sounds a little crazy, but I like to meditate and just cry. It can be a guided meditation, or just sitting there and allowing myself to feel something without the pressure of anyone watching and judging me. Feeling your emotions is healthy and you should allow yourself to do it. Many people would say that doing something like this would keep you in depression, but get to know your emotions and you may find that it will help you figure out why you may feel this way, and how to handle it. It will take time, and it will not be easy, but I know that this has helped me immensely. My anxiety disorder still controls a lot of what I do, but with these things I have begun to understand it, and realize that it is not curable but that I can take back control.
Having anxiety and an anxiety disorder is very difficult and can be very trying on people, especially teens. I know this article will not lead someone to the magical cure but I hope that if there is someone reading this who is dealing with these issues, that they realize they are not alone. There are people going through the same thing, I am going through the same thing, and I know it is hard but you can get through this. I wish for you to find peace within yourself.
If you are struggling with anxiety issues you can reach out to a trusted parent, counselor, teacher, or any trusted adult when you are ready. The perception that people do not care is not necessarily the actual reality, no matter how much it feels that way. You can always call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text TN to 741741.