Anxiety is a cruel creature that can take over your life without you even realising it.
It can control everything from your day-to-day decisions to your career paths to your relationship choices.
And if you don’t know you suffer from it, it’s impossible to control.
This post focuses on generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), as that’s the kind of anxiety that most people refer to when they talk about anxiety.
Generalised anxiety disorder can—and in most cases, does—plague your everyday existence.
There are many other kinds of anxiety though, including social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
We’ll look into all of these in future blog posts, but for now, let’s dig deeper into generalised anxiety disorder…
How to write anxiety
Anxiety manifests itself in different ways in different people, which is part of why I’m writing this guide.Anxiety manifests itself in different ways in different people. Click To Tweet
To make matters more confusing it’s possible to suffer from anxiety and not suffer from panic attacks.
A panic attack is exactly that—an attack. It’s only short-term (even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time).
Anxiety, meanwhile, slowly trickles into your mind and takes control.
It’s so subtle that sometimes you don’t even notice.
Anxiety goes hand-in-hand with depression, so it’s highly likely that if you have one, you’ll have the other, too.
This isn’t always the case, but in most people there’s an element of both.
However, there are some overlaps between symptoms of anxiety and depression, so it’s also possible to misread them.
Sufferers can also develop OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) as a way to deal with their generalised anxiety.
Key psychological symptoms
- Doubting every decision, which often makes it impossible to make any decision
- Overanalysing every decision
- Short-term memory problems
- Lack of concentration
- Always fearing the worst
- Dwelling on the negatives
Key physical symptoms
- Joint pain, particularly around the neck and shoulders
- Dry mouth/constant thirst
- Fidgeting—someone with anxiety probably won’t be able to sit still and will bite their nails, rub their hands together, play with their hair, pick at their cuticles…you get the idea
- Chewing on their lips
- Nervous twitches
- Shortness of breath
- Exacerbated asthma
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Increased heart rate
- Pins and needles
- Trouble getting to sleep/staying asleep
- Needing to pee more or less
- Your stomach doing swirlies
- Lowered immune system
- Using drink or drugs to cope
Treatment for anxiety
Treatments vary depending on the level of anxiety and the person offering the treatment.
Most doctors these days agree that facing your fears is the best way to deal with anxiety.
This is because when you are exposed to a stimulus (and probably have a panic attack), your anxiety will eventually plateau. Then, it will begin to go down.
Exposing yourself to stimuli like this over time helps you to realise that it’s not as bad as you thought it was.
Some believe that meditation and mindfulness are also great treatments for anxiety—there’s a big movement towards it right now.
Beta blockers can be prescribed as a treatment as they decrease the heart rate by blocking hormones like adrenaline. They cannot be used on people with other underlying conditions such as asthma, though.
Antidepressants can also be used to ‘take the edge off’ anxiety.
Anything can trigger anxiety, and it can start at any age.
It’s thought that there’s an element of genetics to anxiety, but there’s no concrete evidence to prove either way.
Children can suffer from anxiety as well as adults—in fact, the number of children suffering from anxiety has gone up in recent years.
The current political climate is thought to have caused children—and many adults—to feel unsettled and anxious, but there can be far smaller triggers, too.
My anxiety developed because I moved somewhere new and didn’t have the confidence to go out on my own, so I spent large portions of my day alone.
Because I was home alone so much, I became more and more afraid of leaving the house.
This anxiety then segued into other aspects of my life, too.
Something as simple as sending an email can cause a day’s worth of overanalysing and second-guessing.
Anxiety can control and take over a person’s life if it’s given the chance to.
This makes it an effective way to create a character that sticks to the status quo at the start of your novel.
As your novel progresses, the character can learn to deal with their anxiety.
However, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever be completely over it.
Much like with every mental health problem, there is no magic bullet.
Once it’s in your life, it will always be a part of you.
If you found this useful…
I’ve also written guides on:
- How to write panic attacks
- How to write about grief
- How to write a psychopath
- How to write a sociopath
- How to write ADHD
- How to write about stress
- How to write depression
If there’s another mental health guide you’d like me to write about, get in touch!