Most people have their own idea of what anxiety is; generally, this idea is based upon their own experiences and in many cases, it is a 'mild uneasiness'. However, only someone who has experienced, or been very close to someone who experiences severe and chronic anxiety, can truly understand how debilitating it can be. The sudden racing heart, sweaty palms, feelings of nausea and thoughts of immense dread or impending doom are not only terrible to endure, but they can rule your life.
Anxiety can stop you cold with fear - a fear that transcends any rationale, assurance or embarrassment. How do I know this? Because I have lived the fear and frustration of anxiety through my daughter. I can understand just how tough this illness can be, and I encourage you to try and understand with patience and compassion. If you ever come across someone with an apparent irrational fear of something that you would consider to be normal, stop and realize that this person is ill. I will give you an example of the thought process that can occur with anxiety - while this may seem ridiculous it actually happened: Extreme anxiety was experienced when rain water dripped from a tree on to the head of a person. (No problem for most of us) However, in this case, the person thought that they were going to get ill and possibly even die. The thought process was as follows: - Rainwater dripped from the tree on to my head. Birds poop in the trees. The rainwater will be contaminated by the bird poop in the tree and now I have germs or bacteria in my hair. When I go to bed my hair rests on my pillow and the germs or bacteria will transfer to my pillow cover. Because of the medication I take, I drool on my pillow while I am sleeping. The germs or bacteria will then transfer from my pillow to the drool in my mouth and then I will get sick and maybe die.
This thought process may seem totally illogical to many of us, but this person relives this fear every time it rains.
Often family and friends of the anxiety sufferer can become frustrated or overwhelmed by the frantic calls and the constant adaptations required to adjust to seemingly unrealistic requests. They can even reach the point of burnout where they lose patience or isolate themselves from the person when they are actually needed the most. So please, for the benefit of all concerned, have patience and try to understand what the sufferer is going through before reacting. Remember, don't sweat the small stuff, the relationship is far more important than that.
In times of crisis, reassurance to the anxious person though seeming to be a quick fix is not a very effective long term solution. A more effective and long lasting solution is more difficult and requires significant effort. For example, some people have found relief through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Both the sufferer as well as their family (and friends) need to take action, not just the sufferer. Each needs to understand the situation from the viewpoint of the other person, In my opinion, it is harder for the sufferer than for the family and friends. The family and friends can still think logically whereas the sufferer is often in panic and cannot focus on rational thinking or ideas.
Education and effort are required on both sides if relationships and rationality are to be saved.
As with most mental illnesses, there is no quick fix, but if no action is taken the situation will most probably not improve. The best website that I have found that provides education about anxiety is http://www.anxietybc.com On the resource page they have a self-help toolkit that has a wealth of information along with tools to use, which I have found very useful and quite effective. I have found though that a single helping does not fix the problem - it takes repetition, hard work and motivation for the person suffering from the anxiety to keep working on it.