I think many people have anxiety, but just at different levels. Some feel it a little less, and some, a little more.
Some hide it well, some don’t hide it as well. I’ve told some people in my life about my anxiety, but the most common reaction is:
You see, on the outside, it looks like I have my shit together, but the truth is a little less organised. My anxiety can range from being scared of making a phone call to a full-blown panic attack, and since I was young till about a year ago, panic attacks were common occurrences to me.
The older I get, the more manageable it got, but I’d honestly just say it’s better buried than it is ‘cured’. If you happen to have the same issues you can try to use CBD oil to reduce anxiety. Many people are not willing to try it just because they mistakenly consider it to be pure hemp oil. Read more to learn about CBD oil vs hemp oil and make your own conclusions.
This is what my high-functioning anxiety feels like:
I avoid certain situations.
Since I was young till today, this is something that has always stuck with me. As Alice Boyes, Ph.D., said on Psychology Today, “Avoidance is the number one behavioural symptom of anxiety. People avoid situations and actions they fear will trigger anxiety or where they’ll be unable to escape.”
A good, personal example of mine is my weird issue of not being able to eat comfortably in crowds and with people I don’t know that well. After being forced to ‘deal with it’ by my family, I’m a little more comfortable these days but I do face my back at people and prefer sitting in corners or beside a wall.
I like to get invited to parties, but I don’t really like to go.
Like my last point, I can’t iterate enough how much I hate crowds. So whenever I get invited to parties, I tend to decline. But when I keep declining, people cease inviting, this happens:
But when I do get invited, this happens:
And when I do go, this happens:
Even though I know I’ve probably done nothing wrong, or I probably wasn’t invited for a more ‘normal’ reason, I can’t stop my mind from shutting up. So just because I decline your invitation doesn’t mean I don’t like you, people or parties:
I keep myself busy to keep myself sane.
This has been happening recently where I love being busy, and love keeping myself busy, even though I have a tonne of things to do. This is why I’m juggling two jobs; a full-time job and a freelance.
And no, I’m not stressed – on an uncommon level – nor overworked. But my love for being busy sometimes comes off as a glorification of being busy. What it really is, is a cover-up for what happens if I’m not busy. I keep myself busy to keep myself sane. In the eyes of others, I’m ‘put together’, but the truth is that I don’t have a choice. Which brings me to my next point.
Sleep is a luxury.
And I’m sure for many people, it is. But juggling work, freelance work, friend, and family can be really exhausting. According to MacMillan, many people who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder have sleep disorders. When my mind decides to have a time-travelling adventure through all my bad decisions, I tend to turn on Netflix, sketch, sing or more, rather than spend the entire night tossing and turning.
I almost never feel well.
And this is related to my last point. Constant anxiety takes a toll on me mentally, emotionally, and even physically. WebMD has stated that physical symptoms of anxiety include headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, dry mouth, and more. I always feel like I’m on the brink of getting sick due to the Malaysian weather, lack of sleep, and more, but never actually catch the flu. Most of the time, I just feel fatigued, and when it’s just too much…
I get a panic attacks.
If you’ve ever suffered a panic attack, you probably know how much it sucks; you’re hyperventilating, you feel like you’re getting a heart attack and can’t breathe, and everything’s falling apart, all together, all at once. And this is the part of anxiety that’s the most destructive. Studies have shown that panic attacks, or panic disorder can get out of control; it can lead to agoraphobia (fear of being in places where escape or help would be difficult) which can lead to a slippery slope of a whole lot of other things.
My panic attacks last for about 10-20 minutes, depending on what ‘triggers’ me, and not in some triggering-meme-joke kind of way. Personally, mine sometimes happen when I have a whole lot of suppressed problems, tipped over by one small problem and a really bad day. But you’ll never know it because I’d look like I always do and then lose it when I’m in my own room.
I’m self-conscious on a whole different level.
Shyness takes on a whole different level when I was younger. Everyone thought I was shy and timid. If you met me a couple of years back, you would never have recognised it was me from how I was acting. You’d think little me was a doppelganger.
“Social anxiety disorder doesn’t always involve speaking to a crowd or being the centre of attention. In most cases, the anxiety is provoked by every day situations such as making one-on-one conversation at a party, or eating and drinking in front of even a small number of people.” – Amanda MacMillan.
When I was younger, I would overthink everything from hair-flipping to laughing to making eye contact. If my anxiety was bad on that day, it would be debilitating, and I would just skip a whole day of school altogether. As I grew older, I became a little more talkative and got out of my shell. However, the more I opened up, the more anxious I would get. But after a couple of panic attacks, depression, horrible anxiety issues, I started to ‘get wise’ to how my brain works.
On good days, I go out and that’s what the world sees; a carefree girl who doesn’t care what other people think. On regular days, I can only see people I’m very close to like my family, and on bad days… well… forget about even leaving my room.
I doubt myself at every corner.
This is probably the part people with anxiety can relate to the most. You can be smart, capable, confident (on the good days), successful and yet still suffer from self-doubt. Here’s a series of GIFs that encapsulates how I personally feel about myself daily, at certain moments, at random times, all at once:
You should probably watch this video if you have the time.
And when it continues for several hours, several days, weeks, or even longer than that, it can negatively affect your well-being, work, relationships and so forth. Joy.
I have many little ‘ticks’ which seem to others like it’s just ‘bad habits’.
One of my personal ticks is picking the skin around my nails, and on bad days, it sometimes leaves a bloody mess. Other than that, I shake my leg a lot – which according to my superstitious family members, I’m kicking all my good luck away. Lol. I also chew on my lips which are naturally dry, and yes, I do bleed and bruise a tonne. And when I’m out, I tend to peel bottle labels and arrange my utensils neatly. I used to bite my nail a lot, but I’ve learned to stop doing that by painting my nails, which didn’t really help the first couple of months… and I’m now wondering how am I still alive with all the nail polish I ate.
These are all just little symptoms of anxiety that many of us do, and if you have any superstitious relatives, old people can really annoy you and flare up your anxiety even more when they begin to lecture you about how you should stop your ‘bad habits’.
I’m not a perfectionist. But I do obsess.
I’m not a perfectionist in everything, but I have issues with certain things. For example, I stopped writing handwritten notes a while back because of how ‘itchy’ and uncomfortable I was when something needed corrections, or if a word looked uglier than the rest, etc. So I started doing it on Word so that everything can be fixed without affecting how the notes looked and I can always add notes on the side!
I also obsess about closing bottles tightly, arranging my utensils on my plate after a meal, and some other little things. I’m still a messy person, but I always say that there’s a system in my chaos even though it might seem like my room got hit with a tiny tornado.
I’m always worried.
Now, this might seem reasonable. But try imagining worrying about going out, worrying about staying home, worrying about missing out when you skip a party, worrying when you worry too much and so forth. You get the gist. That’s how it’s like for me most of the time. I’ve learned to suppress most of it, but I know it’s still there, telling me to worry about not shutting the door right, if I’ve switched off the lights outside, if I’ve put my keys in a visible area so I don’t forget them, etc. It’s something I battle with internally on a daily basis.
There’s a whole bunch of other things anxiety can feel like that I didn’t put in because I wanted this article to be personal and not just another listicle. Some of them are that people with anxiety disorders:
- …have an event that they’re still scarred from, and it could also mean that they’re suffering from PTSD. I don’t suffer from this but there are some things in my life done unto me that I now avoid, just like anyone else who has gone through bad things.
- …have pretty had phobias. I don’t have bad phobias, other than closed spaces, crowds and clowns. Clowns debilitate me though. If I see them, I can’t move and I get a minor anxiety attack. Which is why I won’t be watching ‘It’ anytime soon and why you will never see a clown meme, gif, etc from me. Ever.
- …compartmentalise their emotions, thus they may seem ‘stoic’ or unemotional. I’m fairly emotional but I do know how to compartmentalise my emotions and anxiety around people… whilst sober.
There’s an idea everyone has that if someone’s still ‘functioning’, that their anxiety isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be perceived as one. Just because someone doesn’t show it outright to you and have panic attacks all the time in front of you doesn’t mean they do not suffer an internal battle.
What most people see is the working, cleaning, staying occupied, basically anything that looks like that someone has their shit together. What they see is the success, but what they fail to see is the battles it took to get there; the stress, the anxiety, the sleeplessness, the self-deprecation and so much more.
So, if someone has anxiety but looks fine, don’t assume that they have their shit together, because this is how high-functioning anxiety looks like.