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This topic could possibly be titled Understanding Depression or Understanding Phobias or any other psychological issue which does not easily project their symptoms to other people from sufferers. People may unwittingly make sufferers feel worse by suggesting there is nothing to worry about. That after all, is the point. It wouldn’t be an illness if there was a reason to be anxious. What differentiates anxiety sufferers from the anxiety every one of us feels from time to time is the fact that we can’t easily ascribe a reason – there may be none – and its very presence can provoke panic in sufferers who keep getting told there’s nothing to worry about.

The problem is far bigger than you probably imagined. According to the Anxiety Disorder Resource Centre website (http://www.anxietypanicattack.com) an average of 1 MILLION Americans each month suffer anxiety related panic attacks. Which equates to about 1/3 of Americans over their life time. The ADRC website is a useful website with information, statistics and approaches for dealing with various types of anxiety.

I have suffered with anxiety since I was a teenager. At first I had what is known as social anxiety. This means that I was afraid of being embarrassed when with other people regardless of who they were or where we were. As a result I was an almost recluse as a teen. I had friends, but I didn’t go to their house parties, or out with them on a friday/saturday night. The very idea could cripple me with fear. A dear friend Imran one day showed me a website which explained how we both felt and introduced the term social anxiety to us for the first time. I believe we were Year 10 students at the time. From there I seemed to gradually improve as I was at last able to put a name to what was ‘wrong’ and face it down. I eventually put it behind me when I reached university and participated in the Basketball and Film making Societies. I just threw myself in. Don’t think for a minute I wasn’t terrified, I was. But people responded to me, I got invited to a curry meal in a fellow members flat and slowly but surely I no longer feared social environments.

However my anxiety problems didn’t vanish. They just transformed. Speaking with a Doctor a couple of years ago he said that there was a theory that anxieties as a youth, if concrete enough, can be ‘dislodged’ in the mind and can re attach itself to a different object of worry or none at all. Clearly he didn’t mean this in a physical sense, the brain is wired up in such a complicated fashion that wires just get crossed at times. My anxiety re manifested itself in my 2nd Year at University in the form of severe panic attacks in the Library. I almost left University I was in such an emotional wreck by the end of the year. Fortunately I was convinced to take a years absence on medical grounds instead.

I had three attempts at counseling which I found useless (but a friend found very beneficial so don’t dismiss it before trying it for a few weeks) before I eventually swallowed my pride and took some weak medication – 10mg Escitalopram.

Since then – touch word – I have been okay. I tried to come off the pills with Doctors assistance but went back to panic attacks so I am still on them to this day. I completed my degree successfully and have been juggling six jobs at once for the last six months. So the pills must be working!

The thing to realize when dealing with somebody with anxiety issues is that they may be fine with some things. I can teach 30 horrid fourteen year olds at school with no problems. However, ask me to fill in a government form and I seize up. Identify what are the affected areas of your life and try, with help, to find workarounds or solutions. I treat forms now like a maths exam – I answer all the easy stuff first, then gradually fill in the rest. I don’t spend ages fretting over one question. That’s how I work best.

Check out the above website for more general information on anxiety. Post any other helpful links, comments or stories below… And don’t forget to stop telling people not to stress out. Its easy for you, but we all deal with things differently. Have some understanding, offer assistance and if it’s not wanted give them the time and space to work it themselves.

And in the famous closing words of televisions Frasier Crane:

“I wish you goodbye and good mental health”.

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