What is it? GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)–AKA: The worst feeling in the world that I wouldn’t wish against my worst enemy. It shines a new light on worrying, insomnia, and functioning as a capable person in society in general.
Who has it?
Anyone can be affected by this. For some, it’s hormones or thyroid issues. For others, it could be a form of PTSD. The list goes on. Around 18% of people in the United States alone suffer from some form of anxiety disorder.
What you need to know about loving someone with GAD?
1. Understand it’s not their fault
They didn’t choose the anxiety life, the anxiety life chose them. Unfortunately, this was the ugly, dirty card they were dealt in life. Although it may be caused from some of their past, it doesn’t make it their fault. This is a biological problem caused by an imbalance in the body’s chemicals. Last time I checked, you don’t get to choose how your body works.
2. Do NOT tell them to just “calm down”, or “take a deep breath”, or “it’s ok”
If you’ve never had a panic attack or chronic anxiety, then I will never be able to explain it to you properly. Imagine your body going completely numb, but also tingly, throw in some uncontrollable shakes, pain in your chest, and difficulty breathing (and that’s just the physical aspects). The mental anguish is indescribable. If they knew how to calm down, trust me, they would. And deep breathing? Yea right. It may help you go from a 10 to an 8 on the anxiety level, but an 8 is still pretty miserable. And for the love of He who is mighty, do NOT tell them it’s ok. They know it will pass, but in that moment, ten minutes of anxiety feels like a lifetime.
3. Learn what helps them cope.
The best thing you can do for a person suffering from anxiety is to learn what helps them cope. It may be binge watching a show on Netflix, or taking a walk. For some, music is always a good escape, while some people love to get lost in a good book. If chowing down on some junk food helps them, then go grab a Snickers bar and some Ben & Jerry’s. Not only will these remedies help take their mind off of the anxiety, they will know you care enough to learn what helps them in their most frightening times.
4. Give them space when they need it and smother them when they don’t.
When a wave of anxiety hits, people may want to be just left alone because they are either embarrassed, or they want to deal with it independently. No one likes to be seen crying or dry-heaving or screaming because they don’t know what else to do. Other times, however, when they are feeling especially vulnerable, they just want to be held or cuddled or kissed. They want to hear how awesome they are and how, even though it sucks that they have this condition, they are still completely and utterly a bad ass who can take on the world.
5. Don’t be surprised if they put up some walls or are a little overprotective of themselves.
After a while of dealing with anxiety, people learn some of their triggers. This is not to say that there is always a trigger with anxiety, but sometimes there is. So whether it be a platonic or romantic relationship, know that there may be some walls and boundaries put up. These will come down over time, but getting hurt or being put into an unnecessary stressful situation is not exactly a walk in the park for people with anxiety.
6. They aren’t always going to have the energy to go on adventures
Or even go to dinner. Sometimes just laying at home on the couch is all they can muster. Some days they won’t sleep at all, and others they will need a solid 12 hours. Don’t take it personally. They aren’t trying to ignore you, and they don’t think you’re boring. They feel comfortable enough with you to just chill. Take it as a compliment–you calm them down, just maybe keep them out of the public eye for a bit.
7. Know that this will make them stronger.
No one wants to admit they have weaknesses, and crippling anxiety is definitely considered one to most; however, if you’re lucky enough to have someone who has been through this, you know that they are completely compassionate. They know how to handle most crises, because they know what wanting to die feels like–and there’s nothing worse than that feeling. They provide a new perspective on “huge” issues and can help you rationalize difficult situations that makes them almost seem easy.