The Oxford English Dictionary defines anxiety as ‘The quality or state of being anxious; uneasiness or trouble of mind about some uncertain event; solicitude, concern.’ In my opinion, this definition shows exactly why anxiety is so personal to each individual. It is a state of mind. As simple as that may sound it is the core to understanding anxiety in both ourselves and others.
I have seen many upsetting internet comment battles about what constitutes ‘real anxiety’ and even some people commenting that person A cannot possibly have anxiety because it has not been diagnosed by a doctor.
Of course I am not saying that anxiety diagnosed by doctors is any less severe, I am just highlighting the fact that you don’t absolutely need to have the word of a doctor just to say that you have anxiety. Simply because it is a state of mind and nobody knows your mind better than you. You are the one who knows when something is not right and when something triggers an extreme reaction from your body.
Therefore, I think that instead of shooting others down by saying “Your anxiety has not been diagnosed”, we should actually understand that this person has been through an experience where something has disturbed what is normal in their state of mind and actually help them to understand what this new and scary experience is. Understanding another experience of anxiety which is completely different to yours may also help you understand your own more clearly.
This is exactly the point that I am trying to make; anxiety can happen to anyone, it may be mild or severe but everyone and anyone can go through it. Therefore, instead of trying to validate somebody’s claim to having anxiety I think that we should actually be using the wide variety of experiences to our advantage. It is only by listening to different experiences that we can truly come to understand the spectrum of anxiety and be more understanding of the feelings of others.
In this series of articles I will be discussing my own experience of anxiety within education, social media and a wider social life and discussing some ideas that I have had to help develop this into a better understanding.