By: Luz Gomez
Anxiety, an emotion that causes one to feel trapped in fear and panic. It makes the person experiencing it create unrealistic situations that make everything seem a lot worse than it really is.
Anxiety has been around for a long time and over time different perspectives of it have developed. The different perspectives of people dealing with anxiety have changed, but have they changed in an acceptable or unacceptable way?
Anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes one to feel anxious or worried. It can get so severe that it interferes with daily activities. Many people with anxiety have problems sleeping and experience a shortness of breath. Other symptoms also include nausea, dizziness, and an inability to keep calm during certain situations
Anxiety can be caused by many things. The exact cause of anxiety is still unknown, but there are a few factors that many believe lead to anxiety. It could just be a personal weakness where the brain can’t function properly and it could be caused by environmental stress. “I think you can actually have a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes some people to have anxiety more seriously than others,” said Ms Riha. Anxiety can also be genetic. If it has run in previous generations there is a higher chance that it can continue on to the next generation.
A large amount of stress can cause anxiety as well. For teenagers, it is common due to the amounts of stress caused by school and all the expectations from the world around them. “You might get anxiety from all these expectations from the world around you or especially from different cultures where you're expected to go to college and get a good job,” said Sam Boxeth.
The main factor that many believe to be the cause for anxiety are traumas or significant events in a person’s life. “I also think it can be things like having a rough childhood or having some sort of major trauma in your life,” said Ms Riha “They cause anxiety to build and become something really real for people.”
Many people dealing with this disorder are most likely dealing with other disorders such as depression or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). As previously said before, this disorder can get so severe that it interferes with daily life and daily activities. Although anxiety isn’t like a cold that can be cured in a matter of days or weeks, there are various ways that it can be attended and can possibly be “cured.”
Many are assigned prescription drugs that help calm the anxious feeling. It works, but there are negative effects that come with them. Another way anxiety is treated is through therapy or counseling. In therapy, the person dealing with anxiety is taught ways to relieve the anxious feeling and is also given the chance to speak about how they feel and what is causing them to feel anxious.
In many cases, people just need to be understood and they need to get the feeling that someone out there cares. “As a teacher I've just tried to learn about it and recognize if someone is really going through anxiety, not to push them,” said Ms. Riha “I try to push my students, I try to encourage them, but if someone is just struggling with anxiety, I'm not going to push them as hard because I need to realize that it's real for them.”
Anxiety may be new to some people, but it has been around for centuries. It was around for so long but people weren't aware of the disorder and did not realize what anxiety really was. “Hysteria” is how anxiety was first defined in Greece. Hysteria was believed to only affect women because women have a uterus. Men believed that that was the main cause along with the idea that women behaved that way due to the lack of sexual intercourse.
During the renaissance the idea took a turn. People started believing that women behaved in a certain way because they were witches and practiced witchcraft. If women spoke about their anxiety or “hysteria” in public they were tortured (Spain), executed (Britain), and even burned at the stake (Scotland).
In the Victorian era things weren’t as intense as before. Women with hysteria were just seen as crazy and they mainly stayed at home. If the illness got worse women were most likely sent off to an insane asylum.
During the civil war people started noticing things. They noticed that soldiers returning from war who were MALE were also showing some of those symptoms that “only” women were experiencing. They called it “Irritable Heart Syndrome” which is now known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This time was very beneficial especially for women because it was now being recognized that men could also experience emotional problems. The only downside was that the treatments that were discovered were only temporary and would not solve the problems completely.
The 20th century came around and the whole idea of anxiety was still not completely fixed. Electroshock therapy was still used with severe cases during the 1950s. 10 years passed and doctors found that antidepressants were some sort of “solution” to the disorder. In 1980 anxiety was finally given the name of “Anxiety Disorder.”
Today anxiety is viewed differently. Anxiety isn’t just viewed as a “woman thing” and it is not considered almost a crime like it was before. The ideas of witchcraft and the idea that having a uterus is the cause for anxiety has died off. Anxiety is taken more seriously than before and people are now coming to the understanding that anxiety is a real mental problem that can affect anyone really.
Even though anxiety has a different perspectives it is still not 100% understood. “I think maybe it’s a newer thing were diagnosing as a real problem and so people don't understand it,” said Ms. Riha. “There's a lot of misconceptions with mental health of all different kinds and so there is a stigma that comes with that as some people not thinking it's a real disease.” In reality only the people dealing with anxiety can explain what they feel and how they are affected. “Some people can't handle it as well as others and some people won't even admit to having it because people don't want that stigma of being disabled,” said Ms. Evans.
A day in the life of a person with anxiety and a day for someone without it is quite different. This is what it is like living with anxiety for me. I along with many other people in the world struggle with anxiety. I have had anxiety for as long as I remember. Just like anxiety itself it took a while for everyone to realize that what I was really struggling with was anxiety.
I struggled with anxiety for a variety of reasons. My family and I had been struggling with a court case that basically took over our lives for a while. Going to court, waiting for the court orders, and hoping that what we wanted would come true took over. I was young and seeing how stressed my parents were and how everything around me was very confusing threw me off. I started showing signs that something was seriously wrong. Every little thing gave a me this strong fear that I could not control.
There were times where everything would be normal and I would just start shaking all of a sudden and I could not stand being alone. If my mom left me for even 5 minutes all these thoughts would come to my head. “Did my mom leave me?” “Why is she taking so long?” When night came around and I had to go to sleep, I would not last even 10 minutes in my own bed when I would have to get up to go with my mom. I felt safer with my mom, but I still hardly slept. A crack in the wood floor or a noise outside would cause me to panic. I felt that something was going to happen to me. “What if they take me?” “They?” you might ask. I don't know. To this day I still wonder who “they” was or is but that fear was very strong. I would fall asleep at one point. Some nights I would say were better than others where I was able to sleep for a while, but there were also those days where I just could not. I slept and would be woken up by these nightmares. I would sit up all night crying because of this intense fear that I had. My mom would lose her patience with me. “What’s wrong? Why are you scared?!” she would ask. I don’t know. She would get angry with me because I didn’t know the answer, but she didn’t understand that it was not something that I could control but rather something that was affecting me.
She would make me tea and any calming remedy that she could think of and at that time she turned to god and church out of desperation because I could just not be cured.
Everything began piling up and they would eventually turn into panic attacks. Panic attacks are not a fun thing to have. At least for me it feels like you might not make it through. I start shaking uncontrollably and I cry because I feel almost helpless. It’s not as easy as it seems to just say “I’ll try to calm down.” This anxious feeling takes over and it’s as if the rest of your body goes numb. As the panic attack intensifies, it gets harder to breathe and the short breaths you are able to take feel as if you aren’t getting any oxygen into your body. The panic attacks would be so severe that I would just end up laying down wherever I was when it came. I would be so exhausted that I would just doze off into a sleep.
At one point when most of the drama that was occurring , I began getting chest pains. My mom worried for those chest pains because she thought it could be a heart problem. I went to various cardiograms to see if anything could be possibly wrong. Nothing. Everything was normal but I continued to experience all these emotions and pains. At this point is when I was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder and Depression.
I went to therapy for about 8 years. In those years I was able to find ways to control my anxiety and not let it take over my daily life. Anxiety is not something that goes away completely. I still get the chest pains, the panic attacks, and the nightmares but they aren't as severe as before.
I remember having my first presentation for English this year. I’m not very good when it comes to new things. It was hard coming to a new school with new people. That presentation I will remember the most. I know that I had everything I needed and I am well prepared, but my anxiety takes over sometimes. Yes, everyone gets nervous when it comes to presentations,but for me it feels worse. I think of everything that could possibly go wrong and that’s all I thought about. In that presentation, I actually felt like I could do it, but once it came for my turn to present, I started having a panic attack. I tried playing it cool and I tried to act like nothing was wrong by presenting my information and giving long explanations that I’m sure didn’t even made sense. My hands were sweaty and I felt like I would pass out any moment.
Everyone gets anxious or nervous at one point. It’s a normal emotion for someone to experience throughout their lives. For people with anxiety it’s more than that. Even the simplest thing could turn into the worst thing possible. For example when I wake up early in the morning to straighten my hair, I’m constantly going back into my room making sure that I turned the straightener off. Throughout the day I keep going back trying to remember if I did turn it off. The whole day I’m stressing over that hoping that I did turn it off. “What if my house burns down? It will be my fault.” As silly as it sounds it causes a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety for me and something as simple as that can affect someone’s life.
When I’m out walking in the street or in any public place in general everything is going fine until the anxiety kicks in. If someone shoots me a look even if it’s just coincidental it stirs up something inside. I feel scared and like I’m not safe, but it’s something that I have learned to deal with.
My view for people with anxiety is the same as it is for people without it, they’re human. At one point we all experience what it’s like having anxiety or that anxious feeling. I believe people without anxiety have to have an understanding for people with it because it isn’t something that people can control right off the bat. They need someone there that can at least try to see what they’re going through and maybe help them find a way to calm down and learn to control it.
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