All is not what it seems.

Anxiety – what is it and who suffers from it?

I feel that the word anxiety has a stigma against it. It shouldn’t. I think that perhaps a lot of people actually suffer anxiety to some degree, but it’s how we deal with it that allows others to believe that perhaps, we don’t suffer from it. 

So what is anxiety?

The dictionary definition is – 

“A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.”

“A strong desire or concern to do something or for something to happen.”

Anxiety can be normal in stressful situations such as public speaking or taking a test. 

Anxiety is only an indicator of possible underlying disease when feelings become excessive, all-consuming and interfere with daily living.

I myself suffer anxiety. From the outside, I may look like I am controlled and at ease but little things give me anxiety. I control it well but sometimes it manifests inside me and makes me feel overwhelmed, shakey or even emotional. I get tight in my chest and my tummy becomes knotted.

Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.

Some people who experience some type of anxiety symptoms, may have a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and these conditions can sometimes run in a family. However, having a parent or close relative experience anxiety or other mental health condition doesn’t mean you’ll automatically develop anxiety. We are all different and deal with situations differently.

My husband says that I have O.C.D (Obsessive compulsive disorder ) and to an extent, I would agree. A mild case. I like things in particular order, in my home I have a place for everything and if something is misplaced or put back where I believe it may not go, it bothers me. Bothers me to the extreme that I need to put it back in its place. If it isn’t where it should be I can become jittery, unsettled, tight in my chest and agitated until it is back ‘in its place’. This can be difficult to deal with especially as I have young children but I’m learning to deal with it. I find that my O.C.D can cause me anxiety.

The definition of Obsessive compulsive disorder is – Excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviours (compulsions).

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterised by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to compulsive behaviours.

An example of my O.C.D and anxiety that my husband recently picked up on was when we were driving in my car, and he wanted to turn the music up. Now for the majority, this would be fine, so my husband went to turn the volume switch on the centre dashboard. 

When I noticed him changing the switch, I stopped him. I like the circle with the stroke on it pointing upwards. I myself only change the volume from the thumb controls on the steering wheel, not from the centre dash. I quickly changed it back. My husband then challenged me and asked me to ‘deal with the stroke not pointing upwards’. I tried, I lasted about 1 minute before he could see that I was getting agitated and struggling to have it not how I prefer it. 

To the majority of the population, this wouldn’t be an issue. For me any anyone with an O.C.D or anxiety, this can become a distraction and lead them into all kinds of feelings. It was my compulsion to need it ‘back perfectly’ to how I prefer it. It’s little things like this that can cause  fears and a sense of ‘lack of control’. 

I’m not a controlling person but I’ve been very Indepandant from a very young age. I had to be. I left home at 17 and moved 3.5hrs away from where I grew up, and all that I knew. Yes I chose to leave my small country home town, but it required me to find Independence, responsibility and maturity really quick. I had a job and bills to pay. No parent looking out for me, making sure I had groceries and money to pay my rent. It was all on me. 

To an extent, this sense of needing perfection started at a younger age. I remember having my C.D collection in alphabetical order. My books stacked smallest to tallest and everything had its own place. Underwear was folded a particular way and to this day, my house is still very ‘orderly’. Everything has its place and I find that when everything has a place or belongs somewhere, it’s easier to find. 

But has my need for all this resulted in something that isn’t healthy? I guess it depends who you ask? 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is considered to be a mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the urge to do something over and over again (compulsions). Some people can have both obsessions and compulsions.

OCD isn’t only about habits like biting finger nails or thinking negative thoughts. An obsessive thought might be that certain numbers or colors are “good” or “bad.” A compulsive habit might be to wash your hands multiple times after touching something that could be dirty. 

Although you may not want to think or do these things, you feel powerless to stop.

Everyone has habits or thoughts that repeat sometimes. People with OCD have thoughts or actions that:

  • Take up at least an hour a day
  • Are beyond your control
  • Aren’t enjoyable
  • Interfere with your work, social life, or another part of your life

OCD comes in many forms, but most cases fall into at least one of four general categories:

  • Checking, such as locks, alarm systems, ovens, or light switches, or thinking you have a medical condition like pregnancy.
  • Contamination, a fear of things that might be dirty or a compulsion to clean. Mental contamination involves feeling like you’ve been treated like dirt.
  • Symmetry and ordering, the need to have things lined up in a certain way. (What I suffer from) 
  • Ruminations and intrusive thoughts, an obsession with a line of thought. Some of these thoughts might be violent or disturbing.

Many people who have OCD know that their thoughts and habits don’t make sense. They don’t do them because they enjoy them, but because they struggle to stop doing them. In some cases, if they stop, they feel so bad that they start again.

I like things to be in a certain place and I believe that having things in place makes my like easier. Colour coding my children’s dinnerware, having all knifes face a particular way, folding towels a particular way and even the need to stack the dishwasher a certain way.

Obsessive thoughts can include:

  • Worries about yourself or other people getting hurt
  • Constant awareness of blinking, breathing or other body sensations

Compulsive habits can include:

  • Doing tasks in a specific order every time or a certain “good” number of times to make it ‘right’ 
  • Needing to count things, like steps or bottles
  • Fear of touching doorknobs, using public toilets, or shaking hands in fear of ‘germs’

Obsessions and compulsions in some situations cannot be controlled. They can feel like they control you. Doctors aren’t sure why some people have OCD and quite often stress can make the symptoms worse.

It’s a bit more common in women than in men. Symptoms often appear in teenagers or young adults.

OCD risk factors include:

  • A parent, sibling, or child with OCD
  • Physical differences in certain parts of the brain 
  • Depression or anxiety 
  • Experience with trauma
  • A history of physical or sexual abuse as a child

Recently we were away on holiday and my husband had to leave early and head home without us. Usually I am ok with this and am 110% cape able to look after our children alone. However on the first night of us being alone, we had gone to bed early and were all deep asleep when there was loud banging on our door and rustling with a deep man voices yelling to let him in our room. This went on for a good 5 minutes before I realised that I wasn’t dreaming and in fact someone was trying to get into our room.

I got out of bed and tried calling the reception of where we were staying, they didn’t answer , I tried concierge, they put me on hold, I retried reception to them answering and asking to put me on hold. That’s when I said, no someone is trying to get into my room. This rocked me. My heart was pounding, I could feel my hands trembling and I was quite afraid for if they hot into our room. Not scared for me, but for my children who were sleeping, next to me. 

Within minutes, security arrived and they calmed me down but this made me anxious and I just wanted to go home. Home to the safety of my own surroundings and husband. 

For the next few days after this event I have been anxious. The tightness in my chest has staied and I am ‘on edge’ so to speak. I just want to feel safe and calm. 

I have dealt with anxiety all my life. I feel like I have it under control for the most part, but I feel with some situations, it’s to keep my family safe. 

From the outside, most people who know me wouldn’t know about my anxiety as I try to keep it at bay. For those close to me, they know I suffer from it but probably not to what extent. 

This is not a ‘poor me’ post, but a please be mindful. You never know what others are going through and how they feel. 🙏💗 #BeKind