For people living with anxiety, figuring out how anxiety affects you, and the people in your orbit can take a lot of time.
I'd go so far as to say that it's a real process.
Over time you'll learn how anxiety affects you, and you'll learn to avoid certain situations that might be triggering.
There are common situations (large parties, not getting enough time to yourself) that apply to most people who suffer from anxiety.
We talk about these symptoms all of the time.
But there are other ways anxiety affects us that we DON'T talk about, and since the key to treating mental illness is in maintaining an open dialogue, I think it's important that we do have a conversation about some of the less obvious ways anxiety affects you.
1. Anxiety damages your friendships
If you have anxiety, you know how anxiety affects you and your life.
But anxiety affects your friendships too, often in ways you don't see until it's too late.
If you have anxiety, the idea of leaving your house can some days feel utterly overwhelming.
You're doing what you have to do to protect yourself, but in the process, you're snubbing friends and not telling them why.
Anxiety doesn't just affect you, it affects your friends who might confuse your anxiety with negative feelings about them.
I can't tell you how many friendships I have had to perform major triage on because of my inability to explain my anxiety and manage it successfully.
2. Being anxious keeps you from experiencing new things.
Now that my anxiety is relatively managed (I still backslide and have off days), going into a new coffee shop or a cool new shop in my neighborhood is no big deal.
But when you're anxiety isn't managed even small new adventures like this can seem totally impossible.
You might dream of traveling the world, but that's a no go when you can't even check out the new Starbucks knock-off that you hear makes killer scones.
3. Anxiety can hurt your sex life.
When you have anxiety and you aren't managing it, you do everything within your power to keep it a secret.
This means sublimating your own wants and needs and instead directing your energy towards making everyone in your life happy.
This applies even in the bedroom.
Sex can be a great release, but when the sex isn't good for you and you have anxiety, the idea of talking about it can seem damn near impossible.
Don't let your anxiety keep you from having rock and roll worthy orgasms, guys.
I swear, this is half the reason I started therapy and medication.
4. Anxiety makes you short-tempered.
People with anxiety struggle to maintain control in all things.
If you aren't managing your anxiety, the idea of maintaining control can give you the illusion of order and happiness.
But here's the thing, being in control all the time AND being an anxious wreck are an unfortunate combination.
No one can sustain that facade for long, and even the most easy going person will snap at a friend or loved one when this sort of behavior has been going on too long.
One time I threw my phone across the room just because it rang.
Who did I think I was, Naomi Campbell?!
5. Your anxiety may even affect your pets.
Not to sound like a hippy weirdo, but let's be honest, our animals can sense when we are stressed out, or anxious, or upset.
If you don't treat your anxiety you might fool your friends and even yourself in the short term, but it's impossible to fool your pets.
I always know that I need to check in with myself and my anxiety when my cat starts inexplicably howling and pawing my face at strange times throughout the day.