Read my anxiety story here.

Understanding Anxiety
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental
illnesses. Scientists think that, like heart disease and type 1 diabetes,
mental illnesses are complex and probably result from “a combination of
genetic, environmental, psychological, and developmental factors,” according
to the
I think anxiety manifests differently for everyone
who experiences it. The best explanation I have heard is this:
Imagine the crazy, panic-stricken feeling you’d get
in your body if your car somehow got stuck going over a railroad track, just as
the barrier came down. You hear the train whistle. You experience a shock to
your system. Electric pulses seem to zap your brain. You can’t catch your
breath. Your heart skips a beat. You have a sense of being disconnected from
Now imagine if your brain didn’t know how to
interpret a real danger, like driving toward an oncoming train, with a fake
or perceived danger.
Suddenly, you get that same bodily feeling all the
and without warning. Scenarios that should not incite fear
somehow cause your body to react as if you were about to lose control,
spiraling into lots of “What if?” thinking. (What if I pass out? What if I lose control? What if I were to die right
) As you imagine the worst-case scenarios, your rational mind is
trapped in a cycle that only makes the bodily feelings of panic worsen. Anxious
thoughts lead to more bodily symptoms related to the body’s natural “fight
or flight” response which we use to deal with actual danger. Somehow, you
know it’s not real. The feelings, however, are completely real.
– In any given year, anxiety disorders affect about
18% of all American adults, or 40 million people, according to the
– Women are 60% more likely than men to experience
an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, due to the way the brain processes a
fight-or-flight response. While estrogen and progesterone keep the anxiety
reaction going stronger and longer, there’s often a lack of seratonin, which
calms the anxious response.
– Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety,
panic, social anxiety, specific phobias (like snakes or heights),
obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
– Studies out of the U.K. show that almost 1 in 5
people feel anxious all of the time or a lot of the time, while only 1 in 20
people never feel anxious.

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