There are two types of people affected by Anxiety Disorders.
Those who have it, and the people around them.
What many don’t realise is how the Loved Ones feel on the outside of an anxious person’s mind. They can be frustrated because they don’t understand what it is like.
The hard truth is that those with Anxiety either cannot find the words to explain it, or are still trying to figure it out for themselves.
In my case, I couldn’t explain it as I didn’t really understand what it was.
Once I was able to learn what an Anxiety Disorder was, I was then able to begin explaining it to family and friends. I answer their questions, and I also ask them what it’s like from their point of view.
Here are a few common scenarios relating to Anxiety and how each side views and responds to the situation.
“I’m too depressed to do anything”
A common symptom of Anxiety is feelings of depression. You feel like everything is hopeless, there is nothing good in life for you, and you just want to hide under your bed covers forever.
I’m exhausted from battling my inner critic, I have no mental or physical energy. The thought of having to get up and do something simple like have a shower seems impossible.
Not only that, but I’m so miserable with my life. What’s the point in getting up just to have another struggle of a day.
Then, I feel guilty for disappointing my family and friends. I’m letting everyone down but I don’t always have the strength to fight through it everyday.
So no matter what I do, I’m stuck in this depressive cycle.
Loved Ones’ POV
I just don’t understand what is so hard about getting out of bed in the morning.
It’s a new day, they’ve slept all night, and nothing that monumental has happened for them to be so sad.
Couldn’t they at least have put away the dishes? I have my own issues going on right now too, but I can’t afford to shut myself away all day.
I try to help them feel better and ask them to come for a beach walk; the sunset is supposed to be gorgeous tonight. I’ll even cook them their favourite dinner.
All I’m met with is resistance. If they just made an effort, I know they would feel so much better.
“Sorry if I snap and push you away”
Anxiety can cause you to snap at Loved Ones, sometimes unprovoked. You are constantly in fear of everything that you build up a defensive attitude. Your Loved Ones are usually the first in the firing line.
When I’m feeling scared, vulnerable, or hurt, I tend to push people away. I might snap at my Loved One over something small, such as being asked “how was work today?”.
In the moment, it is really hard to control my outburst. Afterwards, I feel absolutely awful that I have hurt someone I love.
It’s important to know that when I push you away, that is when I need you the most.
It may not feel like it, but I am actually trying to reach out. But I’m terrified of doing so.
Loved Ones’ POV
When they are in a mood, it feels like I’m walking on eggshells. I’m afraid that anything I do might set them over the edge.
I don’t know what I did to anger them, I just wanted to know how their day was.
Perhaps something else is going on, I know they wouldn’t intentionally hurt me like this.
I hope they know I still love them, and that they can tell me what is wrong.
“Please don’t make me go”
Social anxiety can form in different degrees. You may simply be uncomfortable in these situations, or you have an anxious meltdown over what to wear and not go at all. You come across as a party pooper and it seems as thought you are not making an effort at all.
During the entire lead up to this event, I have been building up my mental strength to go. I can’t stop obsessing over my outfit, what to say and what to do.
I’ve even practised my happy, social, friendly persona multiple times to make sure I don’t come across as unpleasant.
I’m so exhausted from prepping my mind and body that the LAST thing I want to do is go to this event.
I won’t be able to keep up the facade, break down in public, and be the wet blanket of the evening. Everyone will judge me and I won’t be invited anywhere ever again.
Loved Ones’ POV
Social events are fun, but they always drag their feet.
Even when all our family and friends are there, they’re not even attempting to enjoy themselves.
They try to get out of it by lying or just not showing up, which seems selfish because everyone else is making the effort to be there.
I know if they just came, they would have a great time. There’s food, drinks, and even a dance floor. Just one dance and I know they won’t want to stop.
When they ask if they can leave early, I remind them it’s inconsiderate to our hosts who invited us.
“I’m freaking out!”
When something goes against the plan, or someone changes the plan, all hell breaks loose. People with Anxiety can feel like their world is spinning out of control, which can lead to an Anxiety or Panic attack.
What do you mean you’re running late? We’re going to miss the movie.
The other session is not until tomorrow, and I can’t go tomorrow. I already bought our tickets and our snacks, I can’t get the money back now.
I wish you’d told me sooner, I wouldn’t have bought everything. What do I do now?
Cue Panic mode:
– Racing heartbeat
– A million thoughts swimming in your head
Loved Ones’ POV
If something goes against the plan, they can’t cope with the change. It’s like I’ve told them the world is coming to an end. It’s not that big of a deal.
Something else has to be going on, this sort of situation doesn’t justify the reaction.
I only suggested we change our plans slightly and suddenly they’re yelling and crying.
I can’t reason with them.
“I don’t want to talk about it”
There may be times when anxious people are approached by loved Ones out of concern for their well-being.
They might ask if they need to speak to someone or see a doctor about their behaviours, which isn’t always met with the best reaction (even with the purest of intentions).
Everyone has always told me that I am over dramatic, that I need to calm down. I thought it was within my abilities to control these feelings.
When I can’t control them, I feel like I have failed and I am just an inconvenience to everybody.
It can’t be this hard to control it, everyone else seems to be handling life. I need to do better.
I try so hard to have my emotions and feelings held together but I always end up breaking. I can’t help it that I worry about everything. Uncontrollable situations stress me to the core.
Loved Ones’ POV
I’ve been worrying about them for a while now. They don’t seem to be as happy with life. I’ll ask them how they are and all they do is snap at me or ignore me. I hope I haven’t done anything to upset them.
One time I sat them down and asked them gently if they might have depression, and if they do I will help them any way I can. Doctor appointments, treatments, emotional support, I will be there.
As soon as I suggest this, it blows up in my face.
I feel utterly useless because I am trying to figure out what is wrong and they won’t even tell me.
I love them so much, it kills me to see them suffer like this. If I go on saying nothing, then things will just get worse.
I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t
Tips and Suggestions
Tips for those with Anxiety
Anxiety opens up your vulnerability. Even though you want to tell your loved ones about your anxiety, you’re afraid of rejection or judgement.
You are so hard on yourself, trying to control your emotions, that you try to suppress them completely. You then snap at a loved one who is simply trying to help and understand.
It’s almost as if you are looking for a reason to hate or even sabotage yourself, so you can whip yourself back into line.
Most loved ones are in the dark about Anxiety and Mental Health.
You need to open up and explain why you are anxious about something. Explain what is going through your mind at that point. Also tell your loved ones how they can support you through an anxious episode.
Things will get better when you are honest with them and yourself.
Tips for Loved Ones
The first and most important point is to not take any attacks personally.
People with Anxiety Disorders can’t always control their emotions, and their first instinct is to push away even though they are actually asking for help. Remind them that you will always love them no matter how much they try to push you away.
When someone is having an anxiety attack or episode, do not tell them to get over it, or some other similar phrase.
Yes, I know you get frustrated with them, but that’s only because you don’t understand it.
When situations change, Anxious people lose control. Then they get anxious, and possibly descend into Panic.
Here is a suggestion on how to handle it:
1. Acknowledge the situation
They are clearly having some sort of breakdown and are not coping. Who cares what the reason is, they are visibly upset.
2. Next, ask them what they want
They might need time alone, or want to talk through it. Sometimes they just want someone to listen and validate their feelings.
3. Once they have calmed down, you can ask questions
Why did that make you feel anxious? What should I do next time?
Also understand that when you suggest they have Depression or any other mental illness, they immediately feel as though they are failing.
Everyone handles it differently, so it’s hard to say whether to keep pushing or to let it go.
It’s a journey you have to take, and you should do as much research as you can along the way. Get educated on mental health in order to properly support someone you love.
If you would like to read more or follow this Anxiety Series, please Subscribe to receive email notifications whenever a new blog is posted.
Have a lovely day,