It’s not always easy to know when your level of anxiety is “abnormal.”
There are four D-words mental health workers use in assessing whether or not a certain behavior or emotion is normal.
Danger. Deviance. Distress. Dysfunction.
When it comes to anxiety, the last two are particularly helpful. If you need help with your anxiety, you would probably say that your worry causes you a lot of distress in your life, and/or that it keeps you from being able to function fully in your various life roles.
That was certainly the case with me.
Anxiety frequently filled me with such fear that I was unable to enjoy time with my family. Often I could not concentrate on my work and so it felt like I was living life on half the resources other people had available to them. I didn’t realize how much I needed help until recently because the solutions I was trying were often effective, or partly so, for considerable periods of time. I also didn’t realize I needed help because I did not really understand just how anxious I really was most of the time.
I was anxious enough most of the time that I felt it in my body.
My heart rate was often elevated above what is normal for me.
I felt almost constantly like I had butterflies (the size of eagles) in my stomach, and I usually did not know why. Have you ever given a speech and been so nervous beforehand that you were shaking and felt like you were just going to come unglued? That’s what it feels like to live with anxiety.
Perhaps comedian Steven Wright describes it best: You know that feeling you get when you lean back too far in a chair, and for a second you think you’re going to fall backwards, and then at the last minute you catch yourself? I feel like that all the time.
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