Women Describe When They Realized They Suffered From Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems, with 18% (that's almost 1 in 5) American adults suffering from an anxiety disorder. But since everyone feels worried or stressed sometimes, it can be really easy to mistake true anxiety for mere stress, or vice versa. "Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision," the National Institute of Mental Health's website explains. "But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships." In a recent thread in the AskWomen subreddit, women described the moment they realized they were dealing with clinical anxiety, not everyday stress, offering us all a lesson in being open about our struggles and in anxiety in general.
One Redditor under the name impsythealmighty wrote about her avoidance of social situations, which can be a symptom of social anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. "I was reading Fangirl (which is an awesome book, by the way), and there's a part in there where she's at college and talks about how she doesn't want to go to the cafeteria because she doesn't know where to sit, where to go, what to do, how it works, etc. So she just doesn't ever go," she recalled. "And suddenly it clicked in my brain that I have done that in many situations and that isn't normal. I guess it just never really occurred to me that not everybody had that anxiety, and that I don't have to live like that."
The symptom that led paisleyterror to identify her anxiety was chest tightness, which can be a symptom of panic attacks. For her, it manifested as tightness and trouble swallowing and taking deep breaths. Although chest pain can also be a sign of heart problems or other health conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is not uncommon for anxiety to come with physical symptoms as well, including chest pains, sweating palms, and even an upset stomach. You can get a clearer idea of what your symptoms really mean by talking to your doctor, which is what paisleyterror did.

suspected something was up when she started having frequent panic attacks. The National Institute of Mental Health lists recurrent panic attacks — "sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear" — as a symptom of Panic Disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, panic attacks involve at least four of several symptoms, including sweating, shaking, and shortness of breath. "I couldn't even function to do homework," she remembers.
It took quitting a job on the first day for kmarielynn to get help. "I felt like I was going to throw up/pass out/die," she wrote. "I thought there was something physically wrong with me until I got home and started sobbing because of how useless I felt." The good news is that her mental health did "a total 180" after she sought the help of a therapist. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, most people with anxiety respond to treatments, which can include taking medication, talking to a therapist, or both. These solutions may not get rid of all anxiety symptoms, but they'll help you manage them. As kmarielynn explained, "I still have bad days every once in awhile — the difference is that they don't feel like the end of the world anymore."

More from Mind

R29 Original Series