Everywhere you look today it seems as if someone, somewhere is struggling with anxiety. Nearly 40 million adults over the age of 18 in the United States, or 18% of our population, has been diagnosed with anxiety. I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of others who have not even been diagnosed, not to mention that of those 40 million only about 36% of them are receiving some sort of treatment for their symptoms. Not everyone experiences anxiety the same way, and there are countless symptoms that could determine which type of anxiety an individual may have. Even with all the variations however, it is fairly common to lump all those different types of anxiety into three main categories: Panic Disorders, Phobia-based Anxieties, and General Anxiety Disorders.
I’ve been lucky enough throughout my life to have only experienced anxiety a handful of times, yet that is not the case for my girlfriend. For the most part, she has lived with anxiety her entire life. It typically comes and goes, but over the last few months it has ramped back up again just due to daily stresses from work, our puppy, etc. It tends to start small with something like a slight headache, restlessness, or silence. We typically never shut up (we could legitimately talk until our voices were gone), so when she goes silent I know the anxiety is brewing. I would like to think I am getting good at noticing these signs now, and this is typically when I go into overdrive. I start doing everything in my power to distract her or to make her laugh, in hopes that I can get that nanoscopic seed out of her brain before it sprouts into a massive redwood of worry. That doesn’t always work though, and before too long the uncomfortableness of that awful, on setting uneasiness turns into full-blown anxiety. Anxiety is, after all, a mental disorder. It causes its victim’s brain to lose all sense of judgment, and hundred upon thousands of thoughts flood their mind. Most of these thoughts are worry or fear-based, and usually about things that they have no control over or things that are out in the future. From here the panic and fear really dig in, and that is when we as significant others MUST be there for them. No matter what we have going on, they need us to stop and be there with them. They need to be held and comforted. They need to be reassured that everything will be ok. Even the littlest things can go a long way for someone having an anxiety attack.
After watching her battle through this over the last few months, I’ve noticed how strong she truly is. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to live with something like that. Having a cloud of doubt or worry constantly looming, waiting to strike when all seems well would be absolute hell. But, I’m glad I’ve been able to experience this with her. It has made our relationship even stronger than it already was, and it makes me that much more grateful that I can be here with her whenever she is in need. So that’s why I am writing this, to let all of you with significant others out there know how important it is to not let them go through anxiety alone. No matter how rough, or if it doesn’t seem like it’s helping at the time, they are more than appreciative. They deserve our support at all times, and we should give it whenever so that they don’t have to constantly live on the edge of anxiety alone.