1. Whether the perceived danger is real, exaggerated or imagined
Anxiety is anxiety. It doesn’t care about the statistical probability of something happening. A lot of the things you are anxious about might not make sense, but that’s anxiety.
Examining the likelihood of your fears becoming reality might be a helpful technique for dealing with anxiety, but it might not. Sometimes it helps to reassure people with anxiety that their fears are unlikely to come to fruition; sometimes it makes things worse. Listen to the person who has anxiety (especially if it’s yourself) and don’t tell them their fears are unfounded if they tell you it doesn’t help.
2. How lucky/talented/beautiful/rich/successful you are
Anyone can have anxiety. I know that is a scary thought for anyone who doesn’t currently suffer from anxiety, but it’s quite reassuring for those of us who do have anxiety. You can come up with a million reasons why any given person should not be anxious, but there is one reason why they might have anxiety which trumps them all: ANYONE can be affected by anxiety.
3. How nice people are
I know most people are nice. I know that when I go to certain places, like gym classes, pretty much everyone is nice — well, comsidering my experiences so far! But being around people, especially people I don’t know well, exacerbates my anxiety. It doesn’t matter whether they are polite, kind and considerate (although it definitely helps me cope better if they are): I will still get anxious around people.
4. The logics of the situation
Anxiety isn’t logical. You can be anxious about trivial things and unbothered by things which would scare most people. You can be terrified of a particular situation one day and deal with it relatively easily another day. You can carry out a task without anxiety when you are alone and struggle when you are with other people, or vice versa. Don’t bother trying to make sense of it — anxiety defies logic.
Anxiety gets in the way of life. It makes things awkward and time-consuming. You can spend hours worrying about something and dissecting it afterwards, even if the task or event itself only lasts five minutes. Yes, life would be easier if things were different, but anxiety is inconvenient. All those of us who have anxiety can do is deal with it as best we can.
6. Embarrassing you
Whether you are the person suffering from anxiety, a friend, a relative, a colleague or an innocent bystander, anxiety doesn’t care if you are embarrassed by the symptoms it causes. It doesn’t care if you are uncomfortable with crying in public — or if you are uncomfortable with other people crying in public. It doesn’t care if it makes you shake, shout, collapse or run away.
By the way, if you feel embarrassed by someone else’s anxiety, this is your problem — so please don’t try to make it their problem. Don’t complain or verbally abuse them. Don’t make passive-aggressive comments or give them dirty looks. If it makes you feel better, remind yourself that experiencing anxiety is always worse than witnessing it — and that anyone can experience anxiety, so next time you might be the one in need of compassion and understanding.
7. Being told to calm down
I know it’s intuitive, but telling someone with anxiety — especially if they are in the middle of a panic attack — to calm down is one of the worst things you can do. It’s equivalent to telling them that they have no right to be anxious and their behaviour is unacceptable. You might mean well, but the effect is the same.
Besides, if those of us who have anxiety could calm down, don’t you think we would? It’s no fun knowing that your anxiety is actually attracting the attention you hate when you are out and people telling you to calm down feels like a kick in the teeth. Instead, try acknowledging how people with anxiety are feeling and giving them the time and space they need to cope woth their anxiety.
What else does anxiety not give a damn about? Make your own list and share!