By dictionary definition, anxiety is 'a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome'. Everyone will feel this emotion at some point in their life, some more frequently than others, some hardly ever. However, some of us feel it at the most random, inconvenient times when there is absolutely no reason to feel nervous, worried or scared, like me.
Panic Disorder is defined as 'recurring or regular panic attacks for unexplained reasons' and panic attacks are defined as 'an exaggeration of your body's normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid buildup of overwhelming physical sensation such as fast heart beat, feeling faint, sweating, nausea, chest pains, inability to catch your breath, numbness and shakey limbs stimulated by the bodies natural fight-or-flight response'
Some of my triggers for my anxiety and panic attacks are what some people would consider as 'normal' such as my health, exams/assignments/deadlines in general, the unknown, trains/public transport and other people being stressed or worried. However, some of my triggers for my anxiety aren't so normal, especially for a 20 year old, for example, being in or even near a train station even if i'm not getting on a train, thinking my friends don't want anything to do with me anymore, going on a night out with people that aren't my boyfriend or my best friend or going shopping with someone and them walking off to look at something else.
That last one is a big one for me as it's how my parents know I've always had some form of anxiety. Embarrassingly, until the age of 16, if I went anywhere with anyone, I would not leave their side. At around 11/12, I got into the habit of holding onto the person I was with top or coat so I knew they wouldn't 'run off'. In my head, if they leave me, they won't come back for me. This is an example of the irrational side that anxiety has caused me to be. The rational side of me would say 'but that's silly. Of course they'll come back for you. You're in Tescos and they've gone to buy find the toilet cleaner while you were looking at the selection of blue cheeses. They will come back'. This is one of the biggest problems with understanding someone with anxiety and/or panic disorder as the rational mind of someone who doesn't suffer with it cannot comprehend the irrational mind of someone who does suffer, and that's okay. It is a hard concept to understand.
Onto the biology of it now! Anxiety is not 'being scared for no reason' or 'worrying over nothing'. Statements like that upset people who have the condition as its not as simple as 'being worried/scared over nothing'. Anxiety and panic disorder is the body stimulating a fight or flight response which psychologists have studied and have linked it back to caveman times. When something that is scary or threatening faces you, your body either works itself up and releases the chemical adrenaline to fight it or to run away from it. Both of these choices need energy, extra blood flow to muscles and organs, extra oxygen, enlarged pupils etc to help solve the problem. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase, your breathes increase, your pupils widen and your muscles get read to fight or run. As you can imagine, this is fantastic for when you're house is on fire and you need to get out quick or another event similar to this where you really do need to fight something or get away from it. However, for people like me, this response is triggered by the most random things and as I said, at sometimes very inconvenient times. I explain it to my friends and family as you know when you walk down the stairs and you miss the bottom step and your heart skips a beat, that's a miniature dose of the anxiety that I feel, for sometimes no reason at all.
I can honestly tell you that it is draining. Most of the time my mind constantly works on overtime, worrying about what if's, thinking about things that have either happened and I can't change or things that haven't happened yet, and due to my lovely body kicking into fight or flight response, I then have all of this adrenaline with no where to go. If I can't settle myself down or have someone help me calm down - panic attack.
Some of my symptoms of increased anxiety or my anxiety developing into a panic attack are a numb face and fingers, a quick hot flush from my feet up to my head, being able to hear nothing but my own, fast, heartbeat and blotchy static vision. I talk about my largest and most frightening panic attack in this post if you want to read more.
So that's a brief insight into what anxiety and panic disorder is for me but I must note that it really is different for everyone. Everyone has different triggers, feel different symptoms and handle it differently. It is not an uncommon problem and many people suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder without telling anybody. I hope I have helped you understand it all a bit more by opening up or made you feel like you are not alone if you go through similar feelings too. Feel free to message me or leave a comment.
Love Luce xo