Am I Losing My Mind, or Is This That Anxiety Thing?
Anxiety can make you feel different. As a teen, I never knew why no one else seemed to struggle with life the way I did. And it wouldn’t have mattered what diagnosis or label was put on me because it would not have changed how I felt. Sadly, teenagers can let anxiety steer them through most life decisions. Left untethered, anxiety will drive every choice and action you take.
So how do you know if you’re experiencing anxiety or something more insidious with a Latin name in the Physician’s Desk Reference? The type of anxiety we address in this book is not the healthy, normal varietal that prompts you to get important stuff done, like studying for an exam or running from prom date requests. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Severe anxiety that lasts at least six months is generally considered to be a problem that might benefit from evaluation and treatment.”
Rather than motivating you to act and get things done, anxiety at this level interferes with daily living, activities, and relationships.
The Accoutrement of Depression
Like a salad bar and sneeze guard go together, anxiety and depression disorders are often interlinked. So, don’t berate yourself if you’re feeling depressed on top of everything else. It’s more likely than not to occur. And though signs of depression, anxiety disorder, and even bipolar disorder have similarities, each requires different treatments right down to medications used. This is why a professional diagnosis is so important in order to obtain the correct treatment regimen. Having anxiety doesn’t have the social stigma it once did. It just means you’re really living.
But, there is a little-known dichotomy about anxiety that makes seeking treatment difficult: When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it’s often hard to do what’s best for your welfare – this includes seeking help. Anxiety is a narcissist that wants you to focus on … anxiety. Anxiety will cloud your mind and fill your consciousness with a perverse volume of thoughts, noise, feelings, and stressors that have no validity. Next thing you know, you’re not turning in homework on time, missing chores, and arriving late to work or practice, and everyone’s wondering why you can’t get your act or matching socks together. If they saw the thought carnival in your mind, they’d surely understand.
No medication will cure anxiety. Medication treats the symptoms of anxiety.
Every case of anxiety is unique. Unfortunately, many anxiety sufferers use prescription medication when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies such as those taught here would work just as well - if not better - because they are actual skills with no side effects. Therapy and skills usage include development of the necessary tools to beat anxiety.
The goal we’d like you to adopt from this book is not to remove anxiety, but to bring it down to more manageable levels. That means working with it directly, in a nonjudgmental way, and not avoiding it or thinking it’s bad or weak that you feel this way. We’ll talk specifically about how to do this in the book.