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    15 Things You Should Know About Anxiety, From A Person With Panic Disorder

    The symptoms of a panic attack can interrupt your day-to-day life in the most unexpected of ways.

    Hello my fellow anxious — or maybe just curious — souls. My name is Alexa, and I was diagnosed with panic disorder* in 2014. Because I've been managing my anxiety for about seven years now, I've learned a thing or two about coping with triggers and symptoms. So, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to answer questions our readers have about anxiety, panic attacks, and panic disorders — from my own experience.

    1. Q: What does having an anxiety attack feel like? –aahdz1015

    A person holding their hand to their chest

    2. Q: How does this affect your day-to-day life? –sparklyglue78

    3. Q: How should people help you when you have a panic attack? –La Peligrosa

    4. Q: Is there a pattern, or do [panic attacks] really come without particular triggers? –romycoers

    A neuron firing

    5. Q: How do you get diagnosed with anxiety, if one of the things that makes you most anxious is doctor’s offices? –Anonymous

    6. Q: How do you help yourself when you’re out in public alone and feel an anxiety attack creeping on? I used to love grocery shopping and now can barely walk into one without my heart rate skyrocketing and feeling light-headed. –courtneys44b51aa14

    How to ground yourself using the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety:

    Twitter: @mindowl_org / Via Twitter: @mindowl_org

    A: When you're out in public and feel anxiety creeping in, my therapist suggested the 5-4-3-2-1 method:

    Step One: Name five things you can see around you. It can be anything. A tree, a girl holding her mom's hand, an ant on the sidewalk — anything.

    Step Two: Name four things you can touch around you and, if you can, touch them and notice their texture while you list them.

    Step Three: Name three things you can hear. A car, crying, laughing, whatever is around you.

    Step Four: Name two things you can smell. Really sniff. Is there a bakery nearby? Maybe there's a car whose exhaust pipe needs fixing.

    Step Five: Name one thing you can taste. Do you have a stick of gum in your pocket? Does the grocery store have samples? Does anyone have a mint?

    Acknowledging each of these things will help ground you by centering your thoughts and calming that ever-beating heart.

    7. Q: Is the feeling of a panic attack or the fear of a panic attack worse? –romycoers

    A person looking out a window with a mug in their hand

    8. Q: How have you dealt with this pandemic? –Anonymous

    9. Q: I have anxiety, but I was wondering what you do before you go to bed to get your mind to stop panicking? –camerasapprentice

    View this video on YouTube

    YouTube: Meditation and Healing / Via youtube.com

    A: I'm just going to drop the above three-hour clip of meditation music for anxiety and say you're welcome, because this has gotten me through more than a couple nights of restlessness.

    10. Q: Is it common or possible to have anxiety without panic attacks? –db85

    A person holding their hands together

    11. Q: I was recently diagnosed with anxiety and I’m now on some medication. I feel so awful about it and I’m afraid to tell anyone outside of my parents. I just continue feeling like there is something wrong with me. Do you have any advice? –Anonymous

    A THREAD: Free and affordable therapy options for the cheap, poor and broke.

    Twitter: @AlexaLisitza / Via Twitter: @AlexaLisitza

    A: For anyone experiencing anxiety, my first advice is always to seek professional help through a therapist. They can help you identify triggers, provide techniques for management, and get you to identify any underlying causes that may extend outside of the biological. Some therapists even offer sliding scales, meaning they adjust their rate to your income. Flip through the thread above to find affordable therapy options.

    Outside of professional help, my advice would be to remember anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, and there are over 40 million adults in our anxious bae family. Anxiety is nothing to feel awful or embarrassed about. The fact that you went to get diagnosed shows that you're already on the road toward getting your anxiety under control and you should be so incredibly proud of that. Now, move at the pace you're comfortable with.

    I didn't fill in anyone outside of my partner and family until four years later and, when I did, it opened the gate for them to share the mental health issues they'd also been struggling with, and now we're all there for each other. Letting people in can make your personal community stronger, and those who love you will want to support you.

    12. Q: How do I even get a partner [when I have] anxiety? –alyyyy66

    Two people cuddling in the grass at a park

    13. Q: CBD does NOT do it for me. Have you tried anything "natural" that works? –jaxe46fddfb3c

    Two bunnies in the grass with the caption "My stress relievers"

    14. Q: Do you have any favorite apps for guided meditation and breath work? –jaxe46fddfb3c

    15. Q: Will it ever go away? –mantarayyy_jenna

    What other questions do you have about anxiety? Or what management tips do you have for our anxious fam? Let me know in the comments!