Mental disorders are more common today than it has ever been. Chronic anxiety happens to be one of the most widespread, yet untreated disorders in the country. India is still backwards when it comes to mental health awareness. Even today, there are people who would associate a therapist or psychologist with the ‘crazies’. You may come across a person who might seem stressed for nothing; only, they seem like they cannot get over it. This is a person who is a victim of anxiety.
All of us have been through anxiety at a certain point of our lives but what we need to understand is our everyday tension and stress is a lot different than those who go through these chronic anxiety attacks. Anxiety disorder, not only affects the victim, but also their loved ones and colleagues.
People who suffer through anxiety attacks are generally creative, compassionate and determined. The nature of the anxiety is in-focused which turns them into heartless, aloof, frightened, paranoid and may even throw child-like tantrums. It is difficult for the loved ones of the sufferer to understand the circumstances going inside the head of the victim. More than that, it is important to understand that the sufferer does not understand the inner-workings of his mind either. He might be scared of his own anxiety attacks which in turn builds more stress for him.
We always have the best interests of the sufferer in our mind, but the normal rules do not apply to him. What we think will help, might bring back a trigger or form more fears in the mind of the victim. Panic attacks are a real thing. As someone who has been through anxiety, I find it difficult to express what a panic attack feels like. I once read someone trying to explain it as “running a race, without actually leaving your seat”, and that only starts to fathom the depth of the constricted feeling in the chest, the feeling of impending death, a racing heart and the uneasy feeling that something is going to go very wrong.
It is common for people to tell a panicked person to calm down, but in this situation, it just makes the panic worse as a panic or anxiety attack is not controllable and basically annoys the sufferer. ‘Calm Down’ has never been able to calm down any person till date. Instead, try asking the person why he or she feels this way. Talking always helps.
The most horrible thing you can do is disregard the feelings of the person who opens up. “Its all in your head” is probably true, but then the panic that “I cannot control my mind” takes over. The fear these people feel is of an extreme degree and is nothing like normal day to day fears that all people face. The worst part is, the person, while having an anxiety attack, might be aware that her fear is irrational, but she can not do anything to stop it. It is not convenient. It can happen any day and any time.
What should you do?
The first thing that you need to do while being around a person with anxiety issues is that you have to be patient and calm yourself. If two people have anxiety together, they tend to feed off each other. Instead of offering solutions to the person, offer to listen to her feelings; ask questions so that their answers dawn self-realization, because nothing you say is going to help her. The most common thing I have come across is people saying, “there are people with bigger problems”; so what does that have to do with my anxiety? You have to remember that it is not the problem that is the only cause of this situation, it is also concerned with chemical imbalances and other mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or even Depression. While you reassure and encourage the person to take out the fear, make sure you do not accommodate it so much that it becomes a real phobia that they can never get over. Try taking the person out to get his mind off, rather than telling her to do so. Alcohol is harmful for the recovery of an anxiety attack, so staying away from it is the best option.
Lastly, make sure the person agrees to get help. Also, anxiety is a tough challenge as the mind knows it is irrational but that does stop the stress from seizing what little sanity they grasp onto.