Can we please talk about this explosion of anxiety?

Five years ago, I only knew a few people other than myself who had anxiety. Now, everyone has it. There’s a difference between nervousness and anxiety. Nervousness is NOT an anxiety disorder.

Over the last year, I’ve seen a LOT of articles circulating about anxiety. And they all summarize anxiety really similarly.

“She didn’t text me back immediately so I thought our friendship was over. This is how bad my anxiety is.”

“I was so anxious at work it took me two days to respond to an email.”

“[Later,] I spent an entire party on my phone because I was too anxious to socialize.”

“I kept going over our conversation in my head, worried that I had said something that potentially could have offended her.”

By these definitions, EVERYONE has an anxiety disorder and should be popping Xanax left and right.

But this isn’t anxiety. It’s nervousness, coupled with insecurity. Hell, maybe you’re just an introvert.

Have you guys noticed this? I know I’m not the only anxiety sufferer this really pisses off. It trivializes people who actually have anxiety. My anxiety runs deep and stems from extended childhood trauma and abuse.

Like anyone, I might not feel comfortable socializing at a party. I’m often too stressed and burnt out to respond to emails in a timely manner. But do I consider this part of an anxiety disorder? No, not even close.

Anxiety for me is all consuming.

I actually have panic attacks so severe I can barely move when I have one, let alone breathe. The terror that consumes me when I have one, for no apparent reason, is unbearable. It’s terror mixed with the deepest, darkest despair I can imagine. It’s like I’m at the bottom of an abyss and I can’t escape. My mind races. I can’t breathe. I want to pace, sometimes I vomit.

That’s anxiety.

I had a girlfriend when I was younger whose anxiety presented as a fear of death. All day, every day she was terrified that she was having a heart attack. We were 19. But she had legitimate chest pains, she couldn’t breathe, sometimes she’d pass out.

That’s anxiety.

I met another woman who was so terrified she was dying during her anxiety attacks that she’d hyperventilate. She’d called 911 on three separate occasions to rush her to the ER. She was hyperventilating so badly that they had to give her oxygen and sedatives. And she didn’t even have insurance to cover any of it.

That’s anxiety. 

Worrying is not anxiety. Everybody worries.

So if you’re worried about a friend not texting you back, if you’re worried about a work email, if you’re uncomfortable socializing at parties, if you worry you said the wrong thing – WELCOME TO ADULTHOOD. People worry about those kinds of things and it makes them nervous sometimes. It does not mean you need a prescription for Xanax.

Which, by the way, is prescribed to a whopping 50 million Americans. About one-third of opiate deaths in 2010 also involved a benzodiazepine like Xanax. And let’s not forget that Xanax itself is often a gateway drug to more dangerous opiates. (Source)

Being nervous or stressed is normal. They’re called emotions.

Let’s stop trying to silence them with prescription drugs and start living happier, healthier lives.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Do you have a legitimate anxiety disorder and this annoys you too??