When Panic Is Your Partner

People with anxiety live with panic as a constant companion. It doesn't show on the outside, but anxiety is a mental health disorder every bit as debilitating as a physical impairment. A prosthetic leg or a white cane are obvious disabilities; but people who struggle with anxiety are broken on the inside.

Unrelenting worry dominates your thought life, leaches your energy, and interferes with daily activities. High Functioning Anxiety makes you a skilled actor. The calm and competent exterior presented to others hides a person paralyzed by self-doubt, and terrified to be exposed as an incompetent fraud.

Unless you are a politician, this is an irrational fear. But anxiety is not funny.

The rest of the world is unaware of what you are going through. Just because you’re “functioning” doesn’t always mean you’re happy. You can mask your pain and fear, but your body doesn't lie. Anxiety takes a physical toll. Nail biting, pulling out hair, chewing on pens, grinding teeth and other compulsive habits are maladaptive ways to expel the tension inherent in this disorder.

Being unable to sleep, or even calm down long enough to feel some peace, is a common complaint. Every emergency room doctor routinely sees patients with dizziness, nausea, racing heart, chest pain, and shortness of breath who were certain that their panic attacks were actual cardiac events.

Anxiety is exhausting, demanding, and totally unworthy of your time. You can't catch it. There is nothing you did, no flaw or frailty you have, that made it happen. It wasn't your fault. But you do have control over what you do about it.

The first step is to acknowledge the problem. Sarah Schuster, editor at The Mighty says: It means learning how to say, “I need help.” Trying to take care of yourself without the guilt.

Medications and psychotherapy are valuable tools in treating anxiety, high-functioning and otherwise. General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety and phobias affect 18% of the adult American population. Of those fifty million sufferers, less than half of seek treatment.

You deserve to live a fulfilling life without the drag of anxiety on your progress. Your doctor or even the local health department can steer you to the services that will lead to healing.