How To Tell The Difference Between Normal Anxiety And An Anxiety Disorder

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By Laura K Smith

The signs have always been there.  Though not as eye catching as a neon sign or obvious as a billboard, I suppose there have always been signs.

The signs are usually only noticeable to those who know me well, really well.  It may be as innocent as a click, click of my nails as they flick against each other; or the way I hold my hands and slowly wring them, oh so slowly, so as not to be obvious.  Internally though my heart is beating anything but slowly and sometimes, it feels as though it skips a beat and causes me to lose my breath.  Internally I begin sweating so profusely I could and will soak my shirt and I try and take deep breaths because it feels like I have none left.

If you look close, you may notice my chest, neck or ears are flushed.  A physical reaction I can’t hide with a smile.

Outside I smile and laugh it off.  The perfect poker face.  As long as I smile no one knows what is going on inside.  Make eye contact, nod reassuringly, and everyone believes I am fine.

Behind my smile my mind races down every possible worst scenario in any given situation.  I push these thoughts out by keeping busy.  I never say no.  Keeping busy means I won’t be left alone to think.

Outside, others see a perfectionist.  An overachiever.  A person who seems so put-together.  I smile again, remembering it’s the the perfect poker face, and their words serve to persuade me that they are in fact true.

When I’m alone though, it all creeps back in.  Like a shadow crawling up my back I start to feel fear, uncertainty and that’s when I know….

I suffer from anxiety.

I’ve never said those four words before.

“I suffer from anxiety.”

I don’t like them, and yet I feel relief from writing it down.

Maybe those four words will set me free.

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