I'm not trying to say that we are members of an exclusive club or anything like that, but people with anxiety experience life differently. On a very basic level, we don't see the world the same way as those who have never dealt with an anxiety disorder; we have a different kind of brain. We turn the simplest things into mini-explosions of stress, and we worry about stuff that wouldn't even make a non-anxious person think twice. Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., the Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cognitive Therapy and author of over 20 books on mental illness, wrote for Psychology Today about the "intrusive thoughts" people with anxiety deal with. He says it can feel like you're battling your own mind at times, and that we anxiety sufferers can be plagued by the most bizarre notions. However, treatments like cognitive therapy can be useful tools in separating the thoughts from reality.
In order to raise awareness about what people with mental illness go through on a daily basis, Huffington Post gathered and shared anonymous thoughts from editors and readers who struggle with anxiety. It was an honest look into the brains of people who can feel constantly misunderstood. For example, one person said they often think, "Are they laughing at me? I hope I don’t mess this up. Was that supposed to be funny? Was I NOT supposed to laugh? Can I leave yet?" As someone who has battled acute anxiety for years, I can't help but laugh a little bit at this, because it's pretty much the exact transcript to the thoughts that run through my mind a lot of the times. Hey, if I have to deal with it anyway, I might as well find some humor in it.
Here are 13 weird thoughts people with anxiety have.
1. "Maybe Gmail Was Lying And That Email Didn't Actually Send"
No matter how many times you double-check whether you finished an important task, like sending out a big email or locking your front door, it's never enough. You still wonder whether it actually got done, even after you've received confirmation from a reliable source that it's been completed.
2. "What Does My Face Really Look Like?"
Folks with anxiety tend to fall into deep philosophical thought about, well, pretty much everything. We may especially struggle with thoughts about physical appearance because we know what we see in the mirror is not necessarily what others see when they look (or stare) at us. So it isn't uncommon for us to turn over this thought again and again in our heads, wondering how much of the time we look the way we do in photos, and how often we actually resemble a stressed-out alien.
3. "She's Mad At Me Because I Took Too Long To Text Back, I Just Know It"
We're always worried about whether somebody close to us is mad at us for some dumb reason. If my best friend and I are messaging back and forth and she suddenly doesn't respond, I automatically assume that I waited too long to respond, and as a result she is going to end all our years of friendship to trade me in for someone who can type a reply at a more acceptable pace.
4. "What If My Neighbors Can Hear What I Watch On Netflix?"
For someone with anxiety, everything can be embarrassing. It could be the sound of your shoes walking on the sidewalk or what you look like when you bite into a sandwich. One thing we often get really sensitive about is our choice in television shows. What if people find out how much Real Housewives we watch? Can the neighbors hear, and are they totally judging us for it? And so on.
5. "Did That Mole Change Shape??"
As soon as something on our body looks or feels odd, we get nervous about it. Our brains automatically go to the most ominous possibility, which is and always will be cancer. If we're really on a roll, we immediately hop onto one of the many websites that allow you to jump to horrifying conclusions about your health based on very common symptoms, where there are plenty of hokey medical diagnoses to keep us occupied through the night.
6. "The Whole Office Hates Me Because Of How I Sneeze"
Social settings aren't exactly where most people with anxiety thrive. I generally think anyone who claims they like hanging out in a large group of people is just lying through their teeth, but when you have anxiety, these situations can be a special kind of torture. You tend to overanalyze everything you do in social settings, especially in the office. It's a given to speculate about how much your coworkers despise you, but the real fun begins when you start to comb through all the specific reasons they might hate you. Usually, you'll settle on the smallest things, like how high-pitched your sneeze is or how many times you go in and out of the break room in a day.
7. "Did I Leave Out Something In The Apartment That The Cat Could Eat And Die From?"
Anxiety disorders can cause the most innocent of people to produce gory visuals in their heads. Don't beat yourself up about it if you think about death every now and again. It's totally normal! Death happens! But you don't want it to happen to your cat, which is why you think about it every hour on the hour.
8. "Is There Such Thing As Donut Breath?"
If it paid well enough, worrying about personal hygiene could be a lucrative career for anxiety sufferers. We're always concerned with how we smell. No matter how much deodorant we slather on in the morning, we still fret about weird armpit scents. Along with the normal body odors, though, we invent new, specific smells to worry about. Because a box of donuts must have some kind of consequences, right?
9. "My Boss Called But Didn't Leave A Voicemail, So I Must Be Fired"
Thinking about the worst case scenario is second nature to us. All it takes is the tiniest bump in the road to make us presume the most grim outcome. I have this thought pretty much every time my boss doesn't respond right away. And if my editor writes her notes into my articles in all-caps? She hates me, for sure, according to my anxiety.
10. "I'm Taking Way Too Long To Tell This Story, Aren't I?"
The general rules of social etiquette often go way over the heads of most folks with anxiety. And not understanding those rules makes us feel a little freaked out. We get distressed about group conversations and being judged for the words that come out of our mouths. We can be particularly harsh on ourselves when it comes to storytelling. We worry about how boring we are and whether we're totally ruining everyone's time together.
11. "Do I Get Up To Pee Too Often?"
Everyone is watching you. At least, that's what it feels like. Plus, your chair squeaks really loud every time you get up to go to the bathroom. You make it to the stall nearly drenched in sweat from all the worrying and spend the rest of the day tallying how many times you pee.
12. "Nobody Liked My Tweet, So I May As Well Delete My Twitter Account!"
A question I ask myself each day: Nobody thinks I'm funny, so why even bother to exist online? Not being acknowledged for a joke you just cracked can really eat away at you when you've got an anxiety disorder. Humor is one of the hardest parts of social interaction, especially because there are so many unspoken rules you have to follow. It gets so overwhelming that it sometimes feels like it might be better to just throw in the towel.
13. "I'm So Anxious I Give Everyone Else Anxiety"
I get anxious about how anxious I am, and then I lose sleep thinking about how much my anxiety gives other people anxiety. Is my anxiety contagious? Am I passing it on to innocent bystanders and ruining their lives? I'm sure this is not an abnormal thought for us anxious folk. I hope it's not, anyway.
Images: HBO; Giphy (13)