How To Tell If Your Anxiety Is Normal, According To Women Of Reddit

We all get anxious from time to time, but how do you know whether or not you're feeling a normal amount of anxiety or if you have an anxiety disorder? According to WebMD, there are several different types of anxiety disorders. Panic disorder involves feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning — or in other words, panic attacks. Someone who suffers from social anxiety disorder may feel overwhelmingly self-conscious about everyday social situations. And generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive, unrealistic worry and tension, often unprovoked. One way WebMD notes that doctors can diagnose anxiety disorder is by assessing how much anxiety symptoms interfere with a patient's daily functioning. However, a website can't perform the duties of a trained mental health professional, so if you're wondering if your anxiety is normal, you should see a doctor.

Even though the internet can't diagnose anxiety disorder (and a recent study found that online symptom checkers are wrong most of the time anyway), if you are worried that your level of anxiety isn't normal, it might help to talk to people you know who have an anxiety disorder and hear their experiences. That might have been the motivation behind this Reddit thread that asked the women of AskWomen how they realized their anxiety was not normal and required professional attention. The answers are really eye-opening and give really good insight into what living with anxiety disorder is like.

A lot of commenters expressed difficulty dealing with college life, especially in the dining hall. User milkradio wrote, "I lost a lot of weight in my first year of college because I just wouldn't go to the dining hall because of the anxiety of it all. I couldn't bear the thought of going alone and picking out meals and sitting by myself, etc." Another commenter said she ended up dropping out of college because if she missed a class she would just never go back — she was too afraid of how the professor might react to her missing class. It makes sense — college is a huge transition — but it's extra unfortunate given that many colleges offer mental health services.

While it's great this woman got treatment for her anxiety, user thebloodofthematador points out that things like chest tightness and difficulty breathing could also be symptoms of a heart attack, and that if your doctor immediately diagnoses you with anxiety, you should get a second opinion. "There are multiple documented cases of women dying from heart attacks because that's what their symptoms were actually signifying, but their doctors dismissed them as being anxious or having a panic attack," she wrote. Scary, but important to know.

This story has a happy ending, at least: The OP later commented:

2 years after that "head on the door" point and I've moved to a country halfway across the world on my own to live in a house of strangers who I now call my friends. I still struggle with anxiety constantly, and am shy when with people at first especially in groups. But now I don't let it keep me down and I can control it better.

So if you do have anxiety, just know that with the right help, things can get better.

Believe it or not, a lot of commenters identified with this vicious cycle.

Anxiety can have physical effects that feel very real — it's kind of scary how the brain can do that.

That is a very interesting metaphor, but a useful one.

As with many mental health problems, people who suffer from anxiety disorder are often shamed and told to "stop being lazy" or to "just get over it." But as user fyred_up wrote, "Please don't think [anxiety is] something you have to get over yourself. Going to a professional doesn't make you weak or a quitter or anything of that sort. You don't have to live like that." Mental illness in general is something we have to stop stigmatizing, and anxiety disorders are no exception.

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