“I’m having an anxiety attack!”
Have you ever heard those words from someone…maybe even coming out of your own mouth? I’ll share a mental health pro’s insider secret with you: Anxiety attacks don’t exist.
Let me clarify: The term “anxiety attack” is not a clinical term. It is a term that someone came up with to describe an experience. You won’t find this term in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (the book that explains mental health diagnoses). Instead, you’ll find terms like anxiety disorder, panic attack, and panic disorder. Although many people use the term “anxiety attack” and “panic attack” interchangeably, they really aren’t the same thing.
But. I completely hear you when you cry out about that “anxiety attack”. Those moments of excessive worry, shortness of breath, changes in body temperature can make you feel like you’re going crazy.
Don’t worry – You’re not.
The National Institute of Health reports that over 18% of adults in American have an anxiety disorder. See? You really aren’t alone. The ongoing symptoms of anxiety that include worrying about everything from family to finances, trouble with sleep, and irritability can all be a part of this type of disorder. But those feelings that I described a moment ago? The ones that include feeling like you’re going crazy? It’s more likely that those are panic attacks. And recurrent panic attacks with fear of having more may mean a panic disorder.
Here’s the thing: all of this is on a spectrum. A spectrum that includes worry, fear, anxiety, panic…and more. The symptoms and their impact vary from mild to serious, and there is great treatment available regardless of where you fall on these spectrums. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
Whether you have occasional panic attacks or anxiety…or if you suffer from an anxiety or panic disorder…there is hope. Whether you’re overly concerned about issues you know have little consequence…or if you are extremely worried about serious happenings in your life…there is hope. Whether you understand what is going on inside of you…or if you really have no clue why you feel like you’re losing it…there is hope. There is always hope.
I love the words of Jesus in Matthew 6. He knew that worry was (and would be) a problem for folks, so he devotes 10 verses to worry:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
What can we learn from this rich passage? I believe we can boil it down to two major points:
- Worry does not solve problems. It does’t give life. It doesn’t meet our needs. It doesn’t help us in any way. In fact, it hurts us. It causes us emotional and physical turmoil. It messes with our hearts, minds, and relationships. It’s useless and a waste of time.
- We must seek God. Seek God first. If we keep ourselves focused on Him, His Kingdom, and His righteousness, He will meet our needs according to His will. No worry needed.
If you are struggling with anxiety, you can learn more and find help here: http://www.adaa.org/finding-help.