Living with an anxiety disorder is extremely difficult, and it’s the most common type of mental disorder in America. Sadly, despite the large number of people suffering from anxiety disorders (general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias) it’s still highly misunderstood.
Two of the misunderstandings are that one, the anxiety or panic is something you can just turn off. Two, that if you have an anxiety disorder you must not trust in the Lord. It’s understandable that people have these misunderstandings if they’ve not lived it themselves; however it’s therefore important to educate ourselves and try to better understand and empathize.
People are correct that we are to trust in the Lord, there are many verses that talk about it.
“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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? -Matthew 6:25-27
However, there are different types of anxiety. There’s anxiety when you have something coming up in life and you don’t know how it will turn out; when you’re in immediate danger; and then there are anxiety disorders, where your brain sends out false signals and makes you anxious or panicked for seemingly no reason. When the Bible addresses anxiety it seems to be talking about thought centered anxiety, the type where you’re worried about something, whether it be finals, your job, et cetera.
It’s perfectly normal to have stressful days or events, but we need to learn how to deal with these thoughts to live a healthy life and get things done. However the other forms of anxiety are different. If someone has a gun in your face you’re going to be anxious, and that anxiety causes adrenalin which will help you block out pain and act quickly, helping you get out of danger.
There are many things that may contribute to an anxiety disorder, “scientists currently think that, like heart disease and type 1 diabetes, mental illnesses are complex and probably result from a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and developmental factors.” (source) With an anxiety disorder you may not even have conscious thought as to why you’re anxious, you just have an overwhelming feeling that you have to escape the situation. Your heart feels like it’s beating a million miles a minute, you can hardly breathe, you feel like a brick wall is crumbling down around you, and the whole time you know it makes no sense but you have to escape. Though nobody is pointing a gun in your face your brain is yelling at you that you’re in danger and to escape. All the logical thinking in the world won’t help.
Please, instead of getting angry or throwing Bible verses at those with an anxiety disorder try to help them. Imagine what it must be like to have someone walk up behind you and touch you on the shoulder cause a complete meltdown in your brain, where you feel as if you’re in grave danger. The best way to help those in these situations is to be empathetic and listen to their needs. If certain situations cause an attack try to find ways around those situations, and if they can’t be avoided try to help find ways to ease as much of the anxiety as possible.
I have a phobia of going to the dentist, and obviously that can’t be avoided. I have someone back in the room with me so that they can help me communicate. I also use calming essential oils and wear headphones with my favorite music. It’s still awful, and I have stress-induced atonic seizures, but each of these things greatly help me.