On glamourising anxiety


As I write this, it's 3:20 on a Friday afternoon. I should be standing at the school gates seeing off the children but, instead, I'm sitting cross-legged on my sofa in My Little Pony pyjamas. The reason for this is my anxiety. Well, more specifically, my anxiety medication. It's done some weird things to me over the past 24 hours, leaving me fuzzy-headed, nauseous, unable to talk (even to Rich) and too scared to leave my bed until 2pm today. And this got me thinking. 

There is nothing glamorous or romantic about my situation right now. To be totally blunt with you, I have a blood-stained tissue on the sofa next to me as a result of my awful dermatillomania, and cold pizza sits in a box on the kitchen counter. I'm wearing no make up, my hair is unbrushed and my pyjamas are already starting to smell a bit funky. Does that sound cool to you?

Although I really, really appreciate the media, and social, attention that anxiety is receiving lately, it's starting to go a little overboard. I once believed that there was no such thing as too much exposure. Yes, there was a bandwagon of sorts but at least we were talking about it, right? Unfortunately, I now feel like it's gone too far and, judging by my conversations on Twitter this afternoon, I'm not the only one.

Please don't get me wrong here. Of course there are many, many people with anxiety. There are clear indications that it is more prominent in creative minds, which could explain why so many bloggers seem to have it. I understand that the internet is a safe place where people can express themselves in a way they wouldn't be able to in real life, which contributes to the prevalence of anxiety online. I have no problem with the amount of anxiety in social media. My problem is with the attitude.

Let's get this out of the way first- Anxiety (or any other mental health illness, for that matter) is not something to be ashamed of. In no way am I suggesting you hide it, play it down or otherwise minimise the effects of the condition on peoples' lives. But neither is it a badge of honour. I see people almost boasting about it on Twitter and this has serious implications.

Speaking from my own experience, and that of others on Twitter, rather than feel encouraged by this sudden wave of anxiety, sufferers retreat even further for fear of being tarnished with the "bandwagon" brush. They worry that they won't be taken seriously and that it belittles their condition. And who can blame them? When yet another blogger pops up to announce their problems with anxiety, I think a lot of people feel a certain amount of disbelief, even subconsciously. I know I do and that makes me feel like a terrible person. I have anxiety myself and I still have that initial doubt when someone else admits they have it. This is the climate that is being facilitated by the glamourisation of anxiety.

I have suffered from anxiety as far back as I can remember. When I joined school aged 4, I suffered from mutism so it goes back at least 22 years. My dermatillomania started 15 years ago, and when you're constantly ripping your skin off to the point of gushing blood, being physically unable to stop until it "feels right", I think it's safe to say you definitely do have the condition. Yet I've only recently started feeling comfortable discussing it. Why? Because over the past few months, I've received a formal diagnosis for both, as well as long-term medication and counselling. It's awful, and I hate it, but now I feel like I can prove my mental health problems. I can sit on my high horse, safe in the knowledge of my prescription, and look down on those who claim to have the conditions. 

This is not how I want to feel and it is not the way mental health problems should be approached. Awareness and publicity is fantastic. The more the better, I say. But why are we glamourising it? Why are we making it cool? The latest thing is to wear a red button as a symbol of your anxiety. That literally turns it into a fashion statement. Some anorexia sufferers wear red bracelets as a sign of solidarity. Can anybody imagine some cool teen idol promoting that, supported by an eating disorder charity? And yet it's exactly the same thing. Why is it not ok for eating disorders but celebrated for anxiety?

Please, if you have problems, get help. Talk to someone, speak to your doctor, look into counselling. By all means share your experiences and help others. But if you can objectively consider your words and think that perhaps you're exaggerating, perhaps you're just trying to fit in, perhaps you want people to think you're brave, find other ways to do that. It's not a fashion statement. It's not cool. It's not glamorous. It's a life-debilitating condition that affects more people than just the sufferer. 

31 comments:

  1. I have such conflicting opinions over this I still don't know where I stand :( this post is really well written by the way, something I find impossible to do when talking about complicated subjects.

    I sometimes don't wish to admit to it, maybe because it's being glamorized but perhaps we are just looking for something to blame it on? We are so used to society not accepting mental illnesses that when we find somewhere where everyone is being more open with it, we are still unsure about it and we latch onto something that we can blame for not coming forwards.

    The more I think about it sitting where I am right now, yes a lot of bloggers seem to have anxiety, but over the last year and a bit I've realised it's so much more common than people think. So maybe they all do have anxiety, maybe they don't though, I totally see it from that side too which is so confusing!! Some bloggers seem to churn out the same generic posts about their anxiety, I feel horrible just writing that :/ and so I've never properly written about mine because I don't think it'll be taken seriously and to be honest why would I want to!? I briefly mention it sometimes because it's a huge part of my life but it's not something I want to make a big deal of. Maybe if other bloggers treated it like that we wouldn't have this situation. Yes, mental illnesses are a big deal cos they fuck shit up so much but I prefer to try play it down, otherwise it just increases the anxiety!

    I don't even know where I'm going with this comment! I'm going to carry on behaving how I do about it, mentioning it if it's relevant on my blog, for example in my happy list posts if I've made an achievement in regards to overcoming it I'll put it in! But I don't want any sympathy! In real life I am very open about it, I live with three other people so they got a nice surprise when they got to know me better :P xx

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    1. It's so difficult to address and it took me ages to articulate my thoughts in a way that out across what I was thinking.

      It's clear from your comment that you have the same thoughts as me. I don't for a moment doubt anybody who claims to have anxiety. Perhaps it is more common than we always thought and I'm so glad we're talking about it now, I really am. I just hate to think that there are young girls out there (not always, but predominantly) who feel like you have to have anxiety to fit in.

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  2. Before i started blogging, I felt quite alone. I struggled for years with anxiety and panic attacks and it really was and up hill battle, constant. Then, I managed to get help (surprisingly through the job centre,a course that's no longer available).. things became easier. It was also encouraging to read blog posts, tweets, from others that were feeling the same. I have read some really inspiring and motivating blog post that made me realise that i wasn't 'weird' and anxiety is something many people struggle with. My friends don't read blogs or watch youtube and if they were to read something about Anxiety or mental health, it would be in the paper or the news. I still think mental health issues are not talked about enough or commonly spoken about in the 'press'. Enjoyed reading your post and hope you're feeling better and the anxiety medication helps you.

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    1. This is the huge positive of discussing anxiety: We realise that we're not alone and it can be very encouraging. I don't see much about encouraging people to get help though, which is perhaps where we should focus our efforts.

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    2. completely agree. glad you are sharing your experience with us. so little is said about what help is available and how to move forward x

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  3. Could not agree more with every word of what you're saying, I loved reading this post of yours! I've suffered anxiety for as long as I can remember, but in the past 4 years, problems at home really triggered it off and it's a battle to just even leave the house most days. People seem to throw around the term lightly, because everyone anxiety in certain situations, it's perfectly normal. But I feel like that line between what's normal and what sufferers have to deal with has been lost. Before I leave the house I have to plan how and when I'll get home, I've collapsed in public places with panic attacks, some days I only make it to the end of my street and I have to turn back home, but you just have to keep going because there isn't that option (especially as I've tried both CBT and medication, neither of which have been overly helpful.. plus I'm ironically too anxious to try new medication like doctors want me to). I used to have such big hopes and dreams for myself, and now I'm happy if I just leave the house without being in a state of anxiety and panic. A tough reality, and not something I'm very proud of. It's a constant fear and like you said, it's certainly not cool. I'm all for publicity, as those who suffer to the point where it affects their lives need help, but I completely agree that it's been glamourised into something that people seem to wear like a badge! I feel like it's become some sort of competition, and people are automatically going to doubt you and what you're saying. I mean, the other day I was feeling particularly anxious and panicky when I was on my own, and something that always helps distract me is twitter. I mentioned feeling anxious from a nocturnal panic attack (something I suffer from badly), and I was instantly met by tweets from people saying that I wasn't having a panic attack and quite frankly that I was just making it up (because they clearly knew the situation...) - which I think really says it all, sadly.

    I really hope you're feeling even just that little bit better soon! : )

    Amy at The Girl in the Bowler Hat
    xxxx

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    1. I totally agree with your comment about the competition! It almost seems like people are trying to "out-anxiety" each other. I can't believe people would play down your symptoms without having any idea of what was happening. I worry that this is the consequence of such prevalent anxiety- nobody is believed now and that really upsets me.

      I'm so sorry that you're having such a tough time and I really hope you manage to find some treatment that helps you. I totally understand being too anxious to try new medication.

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  4. I remember you touching on this in a post in the past and i'm sure I commented then too saying similarly what i'm about to but yes, though i enjoy reading about others battle with the anxiety, though i know what i feel i and what i go through I've never felt the need to wear it on my sleeve, personally i'd rather not wear it at all if that makes sense... I wouldn't even be able to say it unless I had a doctor confirm it...so I keep it to myself.

    I do hope you feel better soon.

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    1. I totally understand! People react in different ways and for some it can be a very private battle. Just know that there are always people to help you if you need it.

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  5. I'm really, really, really glad you wrote this post.
    .. just typed a really long comment and deleted it haha cos I just can't put it all out there but you have a valid genuine point and I feel the same and I'm glad I'm not the only one who has felt that addressing the issue more commonly has actually had a negative effect on me personally (also a positive one, I have come across some posts about this topic that have proved incredibly inspiring and motivational, if emotional) but I sometimes feel that it makes me less inclined to be able to talk about something debilitatingly difficult when it is used in such blasé, oh-everyone-has-that contexts.

    ... I think the point I'm trying to make is, I know where you're coming from, thank you x

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    1. You raise a really interesting point here: The prevalence of anxiety in blogging can be both positive and negative. I think the issue is in how it's addressed. As I say, I'm very happy for the increased discussion about the illness but I'd love to see more proactive posts on the matter- Who to talk to, self-help guides, ways to relax. I'll also admit that I've not written anything proactive so that does also apply to me!

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  6. Amen, Becky! I am glad someone that suffers from anxiety is talking up about this subject. When I started seeing this new fashion-trend led by certain bloggers, it made me so wary and uncomfortable of the impressionable teenagers that might be taking it too far. When I was younger and newly diagnosed with depression, it was when it was very 'cool' to be seen as emo or whatever, and as such, it made people not take my illness seriously, and I was dismissed so many times because people thought I was just jumping on a bandwagon, and that is what makes me so nervous about the whole thing. I'm torn between being so glad its making people have a conversation about mental health, and also hating the fact it could be hiding or glossing over serious anxiety sufferers.
    Really happy someone has made a post about this, though! x

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    1. The emo thing is another really good point! I suffered terribly with THAT emo stereotype (you know the one) and I went to such great lengths to hide it. I remember Gerard Way actually speaking out at MCR gigs saying "You don't need to do this to fit in" because that's how it was being perceived.

      I would LOVE a prominent blogger to do the same thing and say "You don't need to have anxiety to fit in but, if you do have it, please get help",

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  7. I wish it wasn't that the fact that people can talk about it is glamourising it, yet I totally get what you mean. I used to not tell anyone about my anxiety, and it's only in the last year that I've been open about it, both online and offline. I appreciate that so many bloggers are opening up about it and talking about their experiences, but on the other hand... I don't know. I really don't know. There are always going to be a few people that say they have it when they don't, and there's obviously nothing we can do about that. I still feel weird when I tweet about being particularly anxious, but it's just a part of my day to day life... and isn't that what Twitter is all about?
    I don't think I've really encountered people who are overly glamourising it. I can totally imagine situations where it would happen, but I can't say I've experienced it first-hand. The thought of it upsets me though because, as you said, it's a very serious disease. It's tricky because mental illness is such an obscure thing to track/see/talk about. Either way - thanks for posting this. It was nice to read what you think about it.

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    1. I agree with your comment Natalie - it's great that people are talking about anxiety as it's one of those conditions that people don't understand enough about. Many people don't feel it's something worth talking to their doctor about - therefore never getting a diagnosis. But it does feel like it becomes glamourised when lots of people talk about at the same time. While everyone with anxiety suffers at different levels, there are going to be some people who over-claim. But I don't think that should stop people from talking about it.

      Thanks Becky for writing your view (especially the last paragraph). Hope you feel better soon.

      Charley x

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    2. It's really difficult to address because I'm so glad it's being talked about and I'm sure it's really helping a lot of people but at the same time I know it's making it harder for others to talk about for fear of being seen as following a trend.

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  8. Hey, thanks for writing this. I have generalised anxiety and depression, but I hardly ever mention it on my blog because I don't want to be seen as yet another blogger who's decided to get on this particular internet bandwagon (I also don't have the safety of a diagnosis to back up my claims, because I'm too anxious to get to a doctor, ironically).

    But diagnosed or not, it's a very real problem for a lot of people, and I can't help but find the whole red button thing kind of demeaning...some days I find myself crying at work and having to explain myself, other days it's too hard to leave the house. It's cost me friends, gotten me made fun of, destroyed any social life I ever had and isolated me to the point where I can hardly even talk to people online anymore. And people really think this is the latest cool thing? How disappointing :(

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    1. I totally understanding feeling too anxious to see a doctor! It was 22 years before I saw a doctor about it and even then I nearly cried and went about explaining it in a very roundabout way. He was a fairly new doctor who I really clicked with so I felt much more comfortable talking to him about it. If it had been someone else, who knows when I would have?

      I fully understand how you're feeling and the impact it can have on your life. It's horrendous and yet there almost seems to be people who want it.

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  9. Fantastic post, Becky!
    I'll be honest, I have never been formerly diagnosed with anxiety (ironically I'm too anxious to see a doctor about it) but I'm 100% that it is exactly what I've been suffering with since about the age of 12. As a child I was shy and a little awkward but once I started high school anxiety hit me full force. I struggled to go to school most days and had a number of absences every year, I wouldn't go out with my friends and would pull out of my now husband's family events last minute because I couldn't face it. Back then my parents took me to the doctor but I didn't know that anxiety was even a thing and no one ever diagnosed me. To be fair they did give me medication that, unbeknown to me, is also used for anxiety so maybe they thought it could be that but just didn't say.
    Anyway, I'm in two minds about how often anxiety is spoken about, especially in the blogging community. Whilst I do think it has been glamorised to a degree if others hadn't spoken up about it I doubt I would have recognised that it's what I have. I would have continued to think I was just "weird". I talk about it only because I don't want there to be a stigma and as I suffered from it for over decade before I realised what it was, thinking I was odd, I don't want anyone else to go through that. The truth is there is nothing nice about having anxiety. It isn't some cool badge that you get to wear. It can be utterly crippling, it stops you from experiencing so many things and often living a normal day to day life.
    Debi x

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    1. I remember reading a few years ago that anxiety is horrifically underdiagnosed because so many sufferers are too anxious to seek help. I know I was for decades. As I said in a comment above, it was only when I started seeing a doctor who I felt very comfortable with that I was able to open up.

      I'm also in two minds. It's wonderful that it's being spoken about and I know it's really helping some people, which is great. But at the same time, it's possible to go too far. Just looking through the anxiety hashtag on Twitter brings up videos of selfharm that are also hashtagged #Zalfie and that really concerns me, especially where so many young teenagers are emotionally involved.

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  10. This is a wonderful post, Becky. Completely agree with everything and fair play to you for opening up and starting a conversation on this particular subject.
    Seeing so many bloggers popping out of the woodwork to chat about their anxiety should be a good thing, and it is wonderful to have awareness and to know that you're not alone, but yes - it's definitely gone a wee bit overboard.

    You are completely right, anxiety is not one bit glamorous; I spent two hours last night at 4am, lying awake worrying about the storm outside and thinking that the wind was going to blow the roof off above my window and that the lightning was going to come into the house and strike everyone dead. Lightning (and being struck by lightning) is one of my biggest fears. I got so anxious and scared that I curled myself into a big, crying, worried ball with the pillow lying on my face and the duvet pulled up right over my head to try and block out the sound. Of course, the pillow on my face then made me feel claustrophobic, which didn't help.
    But would I write all that up on my blog? No. because I feel ashamed to admit these things as I then always have the thought in my mind, "Oh, what if everyone thinks I'm a big fraud, rambling on and jumping on the anxiety bandwagon just like everyone else is doing?" so I keep it to myself and remain feeling like a big, anxious freaky weirdo who worries too much. It's a very vicious cycle.

    I think the high exposure of anxiety in the blogging world is quite dangerous and it definitely has had a negative impact on me in that I definitely do not want to discuss it for fear of being seen as a fake or someone following the crowd. Which is such a shame, really, because I think talking about mental health issues and feeling comfortable talking about them is so, so important in getting yourself better, even if you are only writing a few lines down onto your blog to get the feelings out and try to understand them yourself. It's so hard to open up and tell people in real life about these things, that online should be a safe space to vent your feelings - whether those feelings are good, bad or indifferent.

    Anyway, hope I didn't cause any offence to anyone or anything and apologies for the rant. Thank you, though, for writing this post and opening up about your unglamorous situation; your honesty in that sentence has made me feel a whole lot better and less alone as I often find myself in a big messy, sweaty, unkempt heap, when everyone else seems to be able to look fabulous/get themselves together super quick and continue on while in the middle of an anxiety attack, and there's me in my pyjamas trying not to burst into tears. You are fabulous.
    I hope you feel better soon with your medication. Big hugs :) x

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    1. I can totally understand your anxiety in terms of the roof being blown off and lightning coming into the house. I've had exactly the same fear before and it's horrendous. I hope you're feeling ok today. You definitely don't need to feel ashamed but I absolutely have the same fears of feeling like a fraud, just jumping on the bandwagon.

      I know a lot of people have felt a negative impact from the prevalence of anxiety in blogs. I've seen a LOT of people whinging about "oh, another anxiety post" and it's this attitude that is being fostered.

      I can absolutely assure you that I am a disgusting mess when I'm in the grips of anxiety, so please don't feel like everybody else is able to pull themselves together and look amazing.

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  11. This, absolutely this. I have been contemplating a similar post on my blog, but about OCD. It's almost the norm now to claim to be totes anxious and 'OCD', all because they get a bit nervous or tidy their room and like right angles. The awareness is great, but now a days it seems like you're not really cool unless you claim to have one or the other. These are serious debilitating illnesses and I feel, like you, that real, serious sufferers are less likely to come forward now that it's the 'in' thing to have. The 'awareness' has definitely gone too far and become glamorisation and I just hope that people who are seriously suffering still manage to get the help that they need.

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    1. Oh the OCD thing drives me mad! It's not something I have any experience with (some believe dermatillomania is on the OCD spectrum but I'm not sure if I relate to OCD at all) and it really annoys me when people talk about how they're "SO OCD".

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  12. The point about now you've seen a doctor, you now feel like your anxiety is 'confirmed' is exactly right. I always (and still do) feel embarrased if I admit to friends about my anxiety, mainly because its met with disbelief. Having this confirmed by a doctor made me feel like I wasn't just self diagnosing anymore and people had to believe me.

    I think my issue with bloggers talking about anxiety is exactly this - it leads to a climate of self diagnosis. Far too many bloggers write about their anxiety and don't include the vital advice to contact your doctor. This leads to far too many, who simply feel anxious at normal events, to start believing they have a mental health condition.

    www.jessicainyourear.com

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    1. You hit the nail on the head here- "It leads to a climate of self-diagnosis"! This is exactly what's happening, I think. Everyone feels anxious at times, especially teenagers (who seem to be most exposed to the culture of anxiety at the moment), and sometimes for no reason but this is totally normal. If you see everybody around you talking about anxiety, it's perfect reasonable to think this means you have anxiety, start writing about your experiences with the condition and end up contributing to the cycle.

      I have absolutely no problem with people talking about their anxiety issues. I don't for a second think they should hide them or keep quiet. But I think we need to talk more about why it's important to seek help, rather than just talk about our own experiences.

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  13. I think the problem with anxiety is the same like its been already for a while with depressions. Fear, beeing anxious, feeling sad etc is normal. Feeling sad, scared or anxious for no reason is also normal in most average human beeings. This is just how our minds work. It is when it becomes debilitating and starts to heavily affect your life quality that it becomes a condition. The over diagnosing leads not only to people think they have mental conditions when they dont it also leads to people thinking they understand conditions when they dont.
    When i hear somebody say that they suffer from depressions but then their best friend comes over and cheers them up and everything is fine, i get mad. I do not care a bit what they think for themselves. For all i care they can believe they have every mental or other disease in the world if that makes them happy. The problem is that they will cause other people to believe depression is something you can beat with a nice girls night out and if you do not accomplish it you are beeing stupid, weak or lazy.
    Same goes for anxiety. If it can be fixed by a hug and getting over it for a week, then its not a mental condition. Then its the normal up and downs of regular life and you should be happy about it.
    I have heard one to many times that people suffering from anxiety just get over it and that i should just distract myself and that once i have gotten over it ones or twice it will be fine because they have anxiety or a sister/ friend etc with anxiety and that totally worked for them.
    Anxiety is indeed not glamorous. I have experienced people with severe anxiety and it went as far as that they soiled themselves because they could not get out of their room. People which wanted to kill themselves because they could not handle the anxiety anymore. People which abandoned every form of social contact and any hope of a carreer. I also experienced people which through insane strength and lots of help and sometimes medication somehow managed to led a life which others consider normal.
    So ye, when i hear somebodies big reveal that they suffer from anxiety because sometimes they do not feel like going out or because sometimes they feel a bit anxious it makes me angry because they are belitteling the fight and struggle people have led and are leading. Mental illness does not bring you friends or compassion. And you do not help awareness by advertising it as such. Awareness is helped by seeing real examples of anxiety to make people aware that this is not solved with a hug, a girls night out and some distraction but its a mostly life long illness which deserves a bit more respect. Do not get me wrong. Every emotion is a valid one. Everybody should be allowed to speak about their feelings. But there is a difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder.

    I also believe though that it is a problem of terminology. Obviously there are severe and less severe forms of anxiety and they can differ as much as the difference between having sometimes a bit of pain in the foot and missing a limb.

    I guess for me the final point is that this would be all a bit less of a problem when people would stop to believe they would know the solution to other peoples issues or be able to judge how people deal with their own issues.

    But sorry i am rambling. I am really sorry that you feel this way and i hope medication will start to work out better for you and that you will find a way to live with your disorder in a way which restricts you in your life as little as possible.

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    1. I completely agree with your comment! I think there's a lot of self diagnosis going on here by people who can identify a small number of symptoms in themselves. Of course anxiety can be suffered at different levels but I think there's a lack of understanding of both severe sufferers and normal every day people who have anxious moments but don't suffer with the illness. I hope I explained that right without causing offense as this is an illness very close to me x

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  14. Thank you so much for writing this, Becky. I was diagnosed by my GP as having agoraphobia & 'severe anxiety with depressive' symptoms 8 months ago, and the fact that people have trivialised such an upsetting condition drives me up the wall. We don't all the have same experiences, and it grates on me how so many would rather self diagnose than speak to a GP, and this is coming from someone who sat in my GPs waiting room in floods of tears for several appointments before finally asking for help. It really isn't a trend or a fad, and I hope that more people read your wise words, Becky! Hope you are feeling better this week ♡

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  15. Dear Becky. Thank you, thank you for writing this! Ever since I was diagnosed with depression five years ago (after having suffered from it in years but I refused to realize I was ill), I have realized just how often mental illness is being glamorized or being used incorrectly. Mental illness is not a trend and should not be treated lightly. It is horrible and it kills. So thank you for writing this post. I hope you are feeling better.

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  16. I definitely agree with what you say about glamorizing anxiety. It is a prominent issue in the world, but one thing to keep in mind is that the word "anxiety" is kind of relative. It has different meanings for everyone, and I think that's kind of what the problem is. People will throw around the word "anxiety" when all they mean is that sometimes they get stressed (like EVERY other person in the world!). However, for the rest of us who actually struggle with panic attacks and other quirks that anxiety typically includes, it holds a much different meaning. And a stronger one at that. Personally, my main mental health issue is depression, which I have yet to discuss on my blog. My medication helps calm my anxiety, so I haven't recently experienced the major anxiety symptoms I used to have. However, it's still there and it's still an issue. Thanks for writing this post, I really enjoyed it. I love your blog!

    www.leatherandlipstickkv.com

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I read all comments and appreciate every single one, even if I can't always reply. If you have a question or need a reply, feel free to tweet me @BeckyBedbug- I always reply to tweets!