There’s anxiety and there’s anxiety disorders

Having worked directly with anxiety sufferers for some time now I know what a traumatic and horrific experience an anxiety disorder can be. 

I've also experienced intense anxiety myself. 

Equally, I see the word anxiety used often when perhaps it's not anxiety?

Bear with me and read on. 

The thing is, each and every one of us experiences normal everyday levels of nerves, stress, worry or concern.

Yet the word anxiety tends to be used to cover all forms of worry or nerves these days.  

Anxiety is defined as "a feeling of unease such as worry or fear which can be mild or severe" (NHS.UK)

What I'm trying to highlight here is that there's a marked distinction between feeling anxious, and suffering from an anxiety disorder.

If the word anxiety is used incorrectly, those who actually are suffering greatly from an anxiety disorder (and who’re in the process of healing this) perhaps don’t feel as well understood as could be?

It’s common to hear comments like “Oh, you’re just worrying too much, take a chill pill,” directed at anxiety sufferers. 

And the “It’ll be alright, stop thinking about it!”

But this doesn’t help.

Nor do comments like this stop the physical symptoms, emotions or irrational thoughts we have on a daily basis.

No, this is anxiety. 

I’ve done chest x-rays on patients with suspected heart attacks, and it boiled down to a panic attack. 

I’ve heard the shaky, tearful, painstaking voices of clients, full of fear while they sit in the comfort & safety of their homes. 

I’ve been told, “I feel like I'm dying, I can’t breathe”.

This is anxiety.

Anxiety to the degree that I’m talking about here was first recognised in the late 18th century. 

But even nowadays, anxiety frequently occurs with other conditions such as stress and depression.

Meaning it’s difficult to diagnose it as an anxiety disorder from the medical point of view. 

This is what makes it so difficult to diagnose and treat.

Everyone seems to suffer differently. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that 7.8% of the UK population suffers from an anxiety disorder. 

The WHO also found that women are twice as likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder as men. 

I do love a statistic, but stats depend on the answers of those who were part of the study. 

So how can we know these numbers are even accurate?

Or that absolutely everyone who is suffering actually becomes part of these statistics?

The truth is, we can’t know. 

If I was to guess, I’d say the numbers of those suffering from an anxiety disorder are far higher than recorded. 

And that’s because not everyone gets diagnosed for some reason or other. 

According to medical books, there are 6 classified anxiety disorders:

-Generalised anxiety disorder

-Social anxiety disorder

-Phobias

-Obsessive-compulsive disorder

-Post-traumatic stress disorder

-Panic disorders

I understand it can be terrifying to think of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

However, the reason for getting a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder if you’re suffering to the extent it's affecting daily life is so the correct treatment can be offered, and the right support given to you. 

I specialise in helping women overcome anxiety naturally, and have a particular interest in helping those who are recent mothers during the postnatal period. 

But equally, I’m a healthcare professional myself, and would always recommend or suggest onward referral to a doctor to get a diagnosis should the severity of symptoms be outside the scope of my practice. 

Do remember that getting help, reaching out, being seen and heard is part of healing.

It’s not a failure, it’s not a sign of weakness and it’s certainly not something to be embarrassed about. 

Wishing you well as always. 

Sophie x

(Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

Have you tried journaling as a form of anxiety relief?

Try these powerful guided journal prompts.