These People May Make Your Anxiety Worse
If you're someone who suffers from anxiety, you already know that certain stimuli heighten your anxiety to the max. These can range from certain types of situations to certain kinds of people — because yes, some people can make your anxiety worse. Exactly what the qualities of the kinds of people who heighten your anxiety are will, of course, vary from person to person; however, if you're one of the 40 million adults in the United States who suffers from an anxiety disorder, you'll likely recognize a few common traits between people who simply make our anxiety shoot up through the roof — even if they don't mean to.
This discussion certainly isn't meant to demonize or blame people who tend to raise our anxiety levels; indeed, in our culture, we often struggle simply to recognize the symptoms of anxiety in adults. (These can include flushed faces, shaking hands, phobias, avoiding certain situations, and difficulty concentrating.) Still, potentially awkward topics like the sorts of people who might trigger our anxiety are still so important to discuss, because that's how we raise awareness — which, in turn, helps others be more considerate and aware of their behavior, and how it might affect the people around them.
Here are some of the kinds of people who tend to make people who have anxiety feel worse. If you see yourself on this list, don't panic! Just use it as a starting-off point to see what you can do to modify your behavior and take it from there:
1. People Who Pressure You Into Doing Things
This could be anything from pressuring you to go out on a night you wanted to stay in to pressuring you to drink when you don't want to. No one likes being pressured to do anything, but for people with anxiety, the impact can be especially severe; indeed, according to the Mayo Clinic, social anxiety specifically can correlate with parents who are controlling with their children. Even if you didn't grow up with controlling parents, however, feeling like you ned to react a certain way to gain approval is not a good position in which to be, and no one who cares about you should be making their love conditional in this way.
There are also the added concerns of the actual thing these people might be pressuring you with, on top of the pressure itself: For example, in the hypothetical drinking situation mentioned above, alcohol can have a negative impact on anxiety — and, in fact, alcohol consumption can actually make people with anxiety feel worse according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The pressure from your "friend" plus the effects of alcohol on your anxiety all add up to a very bad time.
2. People Who Don't Respect Your Boundaries
You know who I mean: People who don't respect anyone's boundaries call you in the middle of the night during the work week to talk about their relationship problems and get angry when you tell them you can't talk right then; they come over unannounced and overstay their welcome; they ignore your discomfort when you aren't ready to talk about a sensitive issue. Still, you may keep this person in your life for a reason: Perhaps they're a close friend, a family member, or a co-worker, and you want to stay on good terms with them. That's good! But it could also be contributing to your anxiety.
People who suffer from anxiety often aim for structured, schedules ways to balance an active life with one that allows them for down-time and reflection. People who don't respect your personal boundaries, however, tend to shatter that structure, which can make it much harder for people with anxiety to function on a day-to-day basis. Especially if your anxiety involves a fear of judgment or desire to be liked, it can be especially difficult to let someone know they're crossing boundaries, but it's valid and important to advocate for yourself and your needs.
3. Emotional Vampires
Ah, people who emotionally suck you dry. While you may determine that these people are toxic in your life and you prefer to remove them entirely, it's also possible these friends or loved ones are valuable to you in their own way, inspiring you to continue cultivating relationships with them. Either way, it's important to recognize that you are not endlessly capable of supporting their emotional needs, which will require some boundary setting on your part. As the Calm Clinic points out, spending time with negative people can increase your anxiety because the negative stimuli may feel overwhelming, especially if there is pressure on you to "fix" or change the situation at hand.
4. People Who Make Themselves Unavoidable
According to the Mayo Clinic, many people with anxiety are tempted to avoid things which make them anxious, which may train the brain to create a "fear response" to the anxiety trigger. When that trigger is a person who literally makes themself unavoidable — someone who won't take no for an answer, etc. — it can put you in a constant state of fear: Fear that you'll run into them, and then anxiety at having to deal with them when you do see them. Not unlike many of the people on this list, boundary setting is your most powerful tool in dealing with people who make themselves unavoidable; even if that one co-worker is constantly invading your cubicle, you don't have to engage with them when they're there.
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