Diminishing Mental Illness Stigma Understanding anxiety

I don't need to use my words to be heard.

More often than not, people suffering from anxiety are at a lost for words when asked how to explain their symptoms. It’s practically indescribable, especially if you’ve never experienced it first hand. So, instead of using words to relay the feelings of those affected by anxiety, here are a few visual representations.

Others' View of the Tattoo vs. Her Own View of the Tattoo
"Anxiety feels deafening and it suffocates the flames of life you have left. It paralyzes you to the point you can't do anything sufficiently. It causes the whole world to stop mid spin."
"Anxiety isn't an easy subject to talk about. Not many people understand what it is or how to deal with it. In my own personal experience, I have had many people tell me 'to get over it' or 'it's not that big of a deal' or the worst is 'why are you acting like that.' The truth is when you have anxiety you sometimes don't know what is the cause of your attack or how to control it. Many times I've been frozen, to the point where breathing wasn't even possible. Sometimes you feel like every one is staring at you and you are the topic of their conversation and walking into a room full of peoples takes ever bit of energy out of you. And then there's the times where you just cry, over everything. But with all of that, I have learned to put on a fake smile and try to hide my anxiety because it seems to be easier than trying to explain it to people who just can't understand it because they simply haven't gone through it themselves. The only way I managed my anxiety is to talk to those closest to me who do suffer from it and support each other through the daily struggles. Anxiety isn't something to joke about. It is serious and it has affected my everyday life."
"I had my first panic attack [the] summer before my senior year and to this day that time frame was probably the worst I've ever gotten. [It's] when I first reached out for professional help. But anxiety affects me in the sense that it hinders my day to day routine sometimes, where I'll feel fine for one moment and the next I'll just feel my heart pounding or feel this huge rush of panic for no apparent reason."
I've had extremely bad social anxiety since like birth and it sucks. Growing up was hard because I could never get close to people or make connections, I just always assumed people never wanted anything to do with me. I couldn't answer question in class because I couldn't handle if the attention was on me for a second. Ordering food was hard too. If I woke up and had a zit or felt ugly I wouldn't go to school because I felt like everyone would know and everyone would judge me for it. I had few friends because I could not talk to people. I hated being at any kind of social event like school dances or even field trips and on the rare occasion I got invited to birthday parties or something. I'd make up excuses [as to] why I couldn't go. I got worse as I got older because I'm also very against hospitals and a lot of modern medicine so I refused to ever get treatment for it and then ended up turning to drugs for a long time. But now I'm at a point where I've learned a lot better and kinda understand that people just aren't that worried about others as we sometimes think they are, like no one is focusing on me all the time."
"Anxiety for me feels like a terrible worry that I cannot get out of my body. I always want to just explode so the stress and pain can go away. Almost all of the time I cannot pin point whats causing me to feel this way which makes it very difficult to access the situation and calm down."
"When my anxiety takes over I feel out of breath, weak and I can't control my emotions. Sometimes I just want to shut down. Living with anxiety fells like a constant worry that something is wrong (when everything's perfectly fine) or that I won't be good enough for something. I tend to overthink things way more than I should and freak out about things that people who don't have anxiety say to me, 'it's not that big of a deal calm down.' Many people can't tell that I have anxiety from the outside because it comes from within. Overall, I've come to realize that my anxiety can't control who I am or how I act, and after all of this time I am strong enough to overcome it."

My Story

Junior year is when it all began, but I was petrified. Petrified to tell someone. Petrified of disbelief. Petrified of being labeled. I swallowed my feelings. Until one day I overflowed with anxiety. About a year later I found myself crying in my mother’s lap admitting defeat. I begged for help. Someone to talk to. Pills to numb the pain. I hadn’t slept in weeks yet I was scared to leave my bed every morning. No phone call ended without “I love you” out of fear of never speaking to that person again.

That was the route of my anxiety. Fear of losing my loved ones. An overwhelming amount of tragedy experienced as a kid had haunted me. The very unexpected and sickening death of my biological grandmother. The death of my maternal grandmother. The diagnosis of my parental grandmother’s terminal cancer. The diagnosis of my best friends cancer. The loss of a family friend. It seemed like I was losing loved ones left and right. I was consumed by the fear of bad luck and fatality.

I couldn’t breathe. My body would shut down. Any time, any place. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t in charge of myself anymore. My anxiety was.

I knew I was stronger than all of this though. I needed to take control of this irrational fear and myself. I wanted to get better because I knew I could. I started going to therapy, even twice a week. I got medicine. Medicine that finally allowed me to close my eyes at night. I began to figure out where this was all coming from, to stop it at the source.

I’m so proud to say that not even a full two years later from when it all began, I have made almost a full recovery. I’ve stopped going to therapy. I’ve began weaning off of my medication. I haven’t had a panic attack since June 2016. It’s so important to know that you are so much bigger than a mental illness. A no one should ever be ashamed of something out of their control. It can happen to anyone and it doesn’t make you any less of a person. Speak up and get help. There is no need for shame. It gets better, I know it. I promise.

Anxiety is not something you can just "snap out" of.
Having anxiety does not mean you're weak.
The overwhelming fear is not avoidable.
No, anxiety is not "normal."
People with anxiety are not incapable of improvement.
Anxiety is a big deal. Do not undermine it.


Reasons for costs include: Emergency room visits, private physician visits, increased severity of medical problems caused by mental illness, such as asthma, arthritis and diabetes

stig·ma /ˈstiɡmə/ (noun);a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

Society is overwhelmingly allowing of judgement without knowledge. Adults in the US are struggling and refusing to speak out. Those who are speaking out aren't getting the proper help and treatment. There is a huge misconception about people with mental illnesses, including anxiety. But with truth comes enlightenment. There is nothing to be shameful of. Just because you don't understand what anxiety is like does not mean you are in the right to discredit other's feelings. Nothing is "wrong" with someone who has anxiety. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Educated yourself. Learn the facts and truths. Stop assuming. Stop judging. Stop shaming. STOP THE STIGMA!

For people who are scared to speak up about their anxiety, or even those who have gotten treatment but are looking for a way to continuously improve their mental health here are some self coping mechanisms. You have the power to take back control. Remember, even if you're working on yourself on internally, you are not fighting alone.


  • Lowers Heart Rate
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Promotes Clear Thinking
  • Increases Metabolism
  • Improves Cirrulations
  • Promotes Detoxification

Benefits of Exercise

  • Combats Health Conditions and Diseases
  • Controls Weight
  • Improves Mood
  • Boosts Energy
  • Promotes Better Sleep

Negative effects of alcohol

  • Alters Brain Chemistry
  • It's a Depressant
  • Poor Night of Sleep After Drinking
  • Hangovers

Negative effects of caffEine

  • Raises Blood Pressure
  • Causes Insomnia
  • Causes Headaches

****Caffeine is known to cause anxiety without any predisposition. Imagine what it can do coupled with a PREEXISTING condition.

benefits of laughing

  • Relaxes Whole Body
  • Boosts Immune System
  • Triggers a Release of Endorphines
  • Protects Your Heart
  • Relieves Stress
  • Enhances Resilience

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