So back to my episode in Monsoon. Was it the music? Was it the assault on my senses coming from all the paisley? Possibly. But then I had been exposed to this and much worse a thousand times before. Was it the fact that I was about to sit some of the most important exams of my life, had just gone through a break-up and didn’t have any idea what I was going to do after graduating? Perhaps. But then most of my friends were in the same position and were instead looking at me with a bemused glare from behind the novelty iPhone cases.
The same friends will tell you that for those months I was not myself. I had been running out of lectures for fear my hands would fall off, and insisting they walk with me between dorms to protect me from ghosts. It was rough. And after the condition had reached such levels that it was beginning to affect my work and had caused my tutor on more than one occasion to recommend I go take a shower, comb my hair and sleep before attending another one of his seminars, I decided to seek help.
Alleviating the symptoms of chronic anxiety can be done one of two ways. The first involving a hip-flask, Valium, an X-Box and a marked-down copy of Assassin’s Creed II. The second, recommended by most trained professionals, involves heading down to your local GP and asking for a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Thankfully, under the supervision of the university where I was studying at the time, I was led to this recourse with only time to dabble temporarily in the former. Others aren’t so lucky. Because chronic anxiety doesn’t reveal itself in the way of other ailments, most sufferers will jump to false conclusions, and are more likely to assume that they are suffering a serious, physical defect, such as a brain tumor or terminal heart condition. In this respect, chronic anxiety is chameleonic. A common psychological condition dressed up in sophisticated camouflage. By its very nature, chronic anxiety is borne out of worry – a complex of negative thought processes that leave sufferers assuming the worst.
This is referred to by doctors as ‘spiralling’ or ‘catastrophising’ and can be triggered by almost anything. Hirsch tells me that the sheer volume of negative information now available online can exacerbate, or trigger, chronic anxiety among sufferers already predisposed to unhelpful thinking habits, which lead them to focus on negative information. Even those who don’t suffer from acute anxiety will agree that the Internet has a tendency to make us selectively pluck information to confirm our worst suspicions about the world.