anxiety, noun: a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
anxiety comes in all shapes and forms. anxiety can be anything; from a simple emotion, which we all face from time to time, to a serious disorder which interferes with your ability to lead a normal life. the typical anxiety can be split up in three categories.
there is the panic disorder; which comes without any warning and strikes you suddenly. this would usually be described as a panic attack. I have never suffered from one myself, but I've seen close friends go through them and it can be absolutely terrifying. they often feel like they are having a heart attack, with symptoms like chest pain, sweating and the feeling of choking or not getting enough oxygen. panic attacks are an awful thing to go through, if your friend is suffering from one there are several things you can do to help them:
1. stay with them. leaving them alone will not help at all. try to keep your friend calm and be understanding.
2. if possible, get your friend to a safe place. panic attacks often happen in crowded situations, so a quiet place is often very helpful.
3. don't make assumptions over what your friend needs, they will probably tell you very clear if you just ask!
4. you can help your friend with simple breathing exercises that you can do together or physical exercises such as lifting your arms above your head, so they can concentrate on something other than their panic.
then there is the social anxiety. people suffering from social anxiety often fear situations that involve any kind of social interaction. but there are a lot of different kinds of social anxiety. it often results from the fear of being judged and the fear of the unknown. I feel like this is a growing phenomena because we interact with each other more and more online which makes it harder to actually talk to people in real life. the worst nightmare of so many millennials: being at a party and somehow losing the only person you know there, leaving you in a crowd with strangers. I wouldn't say I suffer from social anxiety, but there are definitely situations where I feel uncomfortable and would rather be at home. while I love attention from a single person in a deep conversation, I absolutely hate being in the spotlight surrounded by many people. however if you suffer from social anxiety, not going out of your comfort zone will definitely only worsen your situation and social skills.
the third from of anxiety is the phobia. there are thousands of different types of phobias and the term is often used very loosely. phobias are normally intense fears of a certain object or situation. (but there are also types of phobias that are not fear: homophobia and transphobia for example doesn't mean you are scared of anything; you're just an asshole.) I was never really suffering from any phobias throughout my life, but developed one phobia about two years ago. I am the most anxious when I'm flying. I used to love being on planes but it somehow gradually shifted to terrifying me. I fly several times a year, but it doesn't really seem to get any better. I know all of the statistics, I know I'm most probably not doing to die, but as soon as the plane takes off, my hands get sweaty and my heart beats a lot faster. I mostly fly alone, which doesn't really help. when I flew back to berlin from NYC this past march, I even made a complete stranger talk to me because of the heavy turbulences. and I've tried pretty much everything, all the red wine and sleeping pills might make me want to pass out, but I am so scared that my body won't let me sleep at all. the only thing that helps me a tiny bit is this app my friends suggested me, called "pacifica". it helps me focus on my breathing and tales my mind off my fears with calming podcasts. so if you see me ever on a plane, I am probably listening to breathing instructions and ocean noises on my phone. my phobia doesn't really interfere with my normal life yet, but I definitely start to worry a day or two before flying.
if you suffer from any anxieties, the most important thing to keep in mind is that what you're feeling is not going to last. while the causes of anxieties are still pretty much unknown, they are not the result of weakness at all. some sources even say that it might be linked with intelligence. but if you feel anxious regular without any apparent causes you should definitely seek counselling and support.
if you haven't already, check out the pacifica app, this is not sponsored or anything, the app really helped me get through some difficult situations where I felt very anxious. this is especially helpful if you are alone in that situation (like on a plane) with no friend to support you.