Growing up, I always knew I had a problem, I just never really knew exactly what. I could never understand why I thought so much about about so many things. Whether it be choosing an item off a restaurant menu, taking a math test or shooting a basketball; my mind would never seize to go less than 110 miles per hour.
It wasn’t until years later, when I was diagnosed with Anxiety that I realized what exactly it was I suffered from.
I have always been very guarded on the subject of Anxiety, I think in part due to the culture I live in. Unfortunately American’s have this fucked up stigma towards anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness that those who suffer are just ‘weak’.
Interestingly enough, more than 40 million adults in the United States are suffering from anxiety and depression, this amounts to roughly 18% of the population. Along with this, there is a horrifying rise in anxiety among children and teenagers-- today 25% of boys and girls between the ages of 13-18 suffer from mild to moderate anxiety disorder.
Suicide rates have continued to be on the rise in the United States for the past decade. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. 12.93 individuals per 100,000 die annually due to suicide-- 42,000 Americans die every year by taking their own life.
To put this number in perspective, the likelihood of you dying in a terrorist attack is 1 in 20 million. It makes you wonder what war we should be fighting?
The sad truth is that I have found there hasn’t been enough people fighting this silent war going on in our family and friend’s heads, so I am choosing to get slightly off topic on my blog today. I will be publishing a two part series called “The Silent War”.
The post you are reading now will be helping those not suffering from anxiety gain a better understanding of what it is, and those suffering from anxiety to have something to relate to. Part two will consist of the various ways I have gone about mitigating anxiety in my life, that I hope you can apply to yours and your loved ones who are struggling.
Before I dive into the meat & potatoes of part one, I would like to preface with the fact that I am not a psychologist. I am just a 22 year old man, sharing my perspective on an illness that myself and too many people suffer from. Let’s begin.
The 10 Characteristics of Anxiety
1. Anxiety Does Not Discriminate -- I don’t care if you are 10 years old or 60. Black or white. A 6 ft. 5 in. body builder or a competitive chess player. Gay or Straight. Man or woman. Nobody, and I mean nobody is immune from developing anxiety.
2. Anxiety Is Insidious -- Anxiety’s soul purpose is to take its sufferer down and pummel them to a pulp. There is absolutely no good that Anxiety seeks to do. While there are common impressive and ornately ‘good’ characteristics that are shared by people who suffer from Anxiety-- it itself seeks to do no good for its beholder.
3. Anxiety Feeds on Fear -- The American Psychological Association describes Anxiety as being an emotion characterized by tension and worry, so in other words ‘Fear’. I have found that individuals who suffer from anxiety, are troubled by a tension and worry that comes along with a specific or unspecific fear. In other words, I believe that coping with Anxiety comes down to identifying fear and coping with that fear. Often times, identifying that fear can be difficult.
4. Anxiety is Unappeasable -- Anxiety can not be appeased nor reasoned with, meaning it will never be satisfied until it gets what it wants… you. The only language it understands is the language of power. Those suffering, must seek to find power over their fears and their Anxieties before they are capable of ruling over it.
5. Anxiety Has No Conscience -- There is a special place in hell for the people that kick you while you are down, and Anxiety has a warm place right next to the devil. Anxiety will not let up from its sufferer when he or she is down. Where Anxiety is concerned, there is absolutely no such thing as ‘Rock Bottom’. Anxiety packs a shovel and will dig a deeper hole, dragging you further and further down. Unless you get it under control.
6. Anxiety Is Invisible -- Anxiety can’t be seen, except on the faces of those who are suffering. This makes it increasingly more difficult for those not suffering to empathize with the pain of those who are.
7. Anxiety Does Not Sleep -- Anxiety has no specific hour that is strikes, for it needs not sleep. It will hit you like a fucking freight train in the middle of the night, just as easily as it will knock you off your feet in broad daylight. With this, Anxiety can not be ‘Slept’ off. It is not like a fever or a cold that requires shut eye, it must be dealt with head first and eyes wide open.
8. Anxiety is Depression’s Best Friend -- Like I stated in number 6-- Anxiety, nor depression for that matter, sleep. Except of course, with one another. Individuals who suffer from anxiety have a higher likelihood of developing depression. In part this is due to the fact that they are difficult to differentiate, but also the constant exposure to intense stress can lead an individual to enter into a depressed state.
9. Anxiety is Misunderstood -- Too often are people who suffer from this illness dubbed as being weird, crazy, high-maintenance or weak. In order to relinquish Anxiety, the sufferer and his or her supporters must recognize it for what it is. An illness, that needs to be taken seriously.
10. Anxiety is Unwanted -- I wish this could go without saying, but people do not choose to have Anxiety, nobody wants Anxiety. I think this is very important to remember when empathizing with people who are suffering. Genetics, the environment people were raised in and the traumatic experiences that have happened in the early stages of their lives are just a few factors that can bring about Anxiety. No one chooses a life of worry.
I urge you to take this post seriously, because The Silent War is real. Take time out of your day, to ask your loved ones how they are doing, and how they are feeling. Be thoughtful, be compassionate and be aware of the torment an illness like this can bring.
Just because you see no physical scarring on the outside, doesn’t mean that someone isn’t hurting on the inside.
By Cole Schafer