April’s My Mighty Month Challenge Will Help You With Your Spring Cleaning

For many, spring means growth and new beginnings. Perhaps this is why people typically do a big “spring cleaning” at this time of year. As great as starting fresh cleaning-wise can be, when you live with a mental or physical illness, sometimes just the thought of cleaning anything can feel too overwhelming to accomplish.

Maybe you live with a chronic illness and chores like scrubbing the counters and mopping the floors exacerbate chronic pain and fatigue. Maybe you have a mental illness and can’t get yourself out of bed to feed yourself — much less clean anything. Or maybe you use a mobility device and have trouble finding adaptable methods of getting things done around the house.

If the idea of cleaning makes you overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

“This is a big struggle for a lot of people,” licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) Tammy Merlo told The Mighty. “So first off, kind of normalizing that a lot of people struggle with this is important.”

Because we all need a little help and encouragement when we are struggling, we made April’s My Mighty Month challenge about spring cleaning. 

Cleaning up your space usually doesn’t happen in just one day, which is why we’re giving you daily cleaning suggestions to repeat throughout April. Our “Spring Cleaning Suggestion Guide” is organized by kitchen, personal tasks, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen (because isn’t this one the hardest?), laundry and living room. As a note, these suggestions are meant to help you plan your own schedule and aren’t a list of things to accomplish all in one day. Feel free to pick one or more tasks you feel you can accomplish that day! We’ve also included a blank downloadable calendar if you want to fill in your own cleaning schedule.

Below the cleaning guide and calendar, you’ll find Merlo’s tips for navigating cleaning when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your mental or physical health.

Download and print the Spring Cleaning suggestion guide here. Download and print the blank April Spring Cleaning calendar here.

Now that you have the cleaning suggestions and calendar at your fingertips, how can you find the motivation to clean? Here’s what Merlo suggests:

1. “Dig where the ground is soft.”

Merlo said it’s important for her clients to know how to set themselves up for success. Rather than setting a long list of unrealistic expectations for yourself, Merlo said: “dig where the ground is soft.”

‘Dig where the ground is soft’ means start with something that’s doable, [something] you can succeed in. And I think that when you start making headway or having success, it kind of breeds itself and maybe also makes you motivated to do the next thing.

2. Focus on Cleaning an Area That’s Important to You

Merlo emphasized how picking an area of the house to clean that is important to you can help with motivation.

Start small. Pick one area of your house or apartment that feels doable to you, like maybe the area that feels most important to you — whether it’s the kitchen, doing the dishes and cleaning the counter, changing or making your bed. You know, an area that’s gonna make you feel good. People have different areas of the house or apartment that are important to them. Picking an area that is important to you makes you feel good when it’s neater or cleaner.

3. Make it Adaptable to You

When you live with a physical or mental limitation, Merlo recommended making use of adaptive products to get things done.

There’s a lot of little things that make cleaning a little less daunting like Swiffers and I know people who sometimes use a toilet brush to clean the shower — obviously a clean toilet brush — rather than getting on their hands and knees and scrubbing it with a sponge. There’s a lot of great stuff out there these days that can make cleaning a little bit easier.

If you are looking for specific product recommendations, check out our piece, “24 Products That Can Make Cleaning Easier if You Have a Chronic Illness or Disability.”

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

If you are struggling with cleaning, Merlo shared it is more than OK to reach out for help.

I always remind my clients it’s OK to ask for help from friends or family members or anybody who might be able to just make them feel like they’re not alone in this and give them some company while they are sorting through things.

5. Have Self-Compassion

Above all else, Merlo said to have self-compassion — this is so important in times when you are struggling.

Be really kind to yourself and be affirming of what you are doing. Like I said, it’s a challenge for a lot of people to keep things neat and clean, especially in our busy world today. So I think just really acknowledging anything that you can get done, rather than beating yourself up about it.

Mighty stories you might find helpful this month:

Want to make April a Mighty Month? Join us on Facebook at My Mighty Month, and don’t forget to tag any social media posts with #MyMightyMonth. You can also sign up for our My Mighty Month emails, (select “Mighty Monthly Challenges” from the newsletter options), which include tips and reminders designed to keep you motivated. 

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Finding Support as the Partner of Someone With Cystic Fibrosis

Although Ashley and I met in June of 2015, it wasn’t until we told each other “I love you” and began talking about moving in together that I learned she had cystic fibrosis. I had suspected she had some health condition long before, but I never suspected Ashley had CF because I didn’t know what it was. After she told me, I knew our relationship would change, although my feelings for her didn’t. What changed was I became the partner of someone with CF.

A few months later, we got engaged, looked at forever homes and talked about trying to have a baby someday. I began to educate myself about CF, and Ashley began to open up to me about it. She realized we were a team and I would be by her side for every second of the fight, no matter what.

husband kissing wife on the forehead

Just when I thought I was starting to finally wrap my head around all this CF stuff, Ashley got really sick and was hospitalized with an infection. We thought we had turned a corner, but unfortunately, the infection wouldn’t let go. After a month-long fight in the intensive care unit (ICU), Ashley passed away three weeks shy of her 30th birthday. It felt like we went from lying on the couch watching TV together to her funeral in the blink of an eye.

Looking back, the signs of a decline were there. She was getting more infections, losing weight and having a harder time doing the things she was accustomed to. During the last month of her life especially, her struggle had become a topic of daily conversation. I can see these signs in hindsight — and could see some of them at the time — but in the moment, I always thought she was OK and we’d get through it.

It’s because of how healthy she seemed to be that I took my cues on how she was doing from her. She said she was OK, and I accepted that. I still did not know enough about CF or living with someone with CF to know or deal with it any better than I did. Perhaps I was also a bit afraid of knowing the answers to certain questions. I wish I had asked some of these things sooner. She was forthcoming with me, but I think she had always felt like CF was her problem and wanted to deal with it herself, which meant refusing to let it govern her life or her relationships. That’s the type of person she was.

Ashley was an amazing woman. She lived her life on her terms and not CF’s. She accomplished a great deal in her short time here with us and brought joy and happiness to so many. I wish we would have had the future we planned, but I’m grateful for the time we had, and I’m a better person for having known her.

That month in the ICU was the most difficult time of my life. The months since have not been much easier. Thankfully, my friends and family, including Ashley’s family, have been a great support. I also began seeing a counselor and have joined — and actively engaged with — numerous online groups geared toward CF and spousal loss in general, all of which have been extremely helpful during the grieving process. Unfortunately, there is not a lot out there in terms of support for spouses of those with CF specifically, but I hope organizations like Project CF Spouse will change that. It’s a nonprofit that works to educate and support spouses of people with CF. I don’t know if Project CF Spouse would have prepared me for all I went through with Ashley, but it’s clear to me that CF spouses are in a unique situation, and we can benefit from the wisdom and experience of others like us. I also decided to put all of my energies into helping to create a nonprofit organization in her memory, which is called the Breathe for Bea Foundation. Our website is dedicated to honoring her legacy while also providing support to individuals and families in Massachusetts and Rhode Island battle Cystic Fibrosis.

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21 Photos That Show What It’s Like to Be Young and Chronically Ill

Chronic illness doesn’t care how old you are. It can strike at any age and can be just as severe at 25 as 85. And yet, so many people (including some doctors!) seem to not understand that it’s still possible for you to be young and live with a chronic illness. Even if you don’t “look sick,” you could still be taking several medications, enduring frequent doctors’ visits and hospitalizations and be in a lot of pain.

We wanted to raise awareness of how many people out there are actually young and chronically ill and reveal what it’s like to live a “young and chronically ill” life. We asked anyone in our Mighty community who’s been told they’re “too young to be chronically ill” to share a photo that represents their life. It’s time for people to understand that age and appearance don’t mean you can’t be affected by illness.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “Here I am, taking a nap during my wedding reception at age 28 because I had a migraine. People say that age is just a number when it comes to romance… Why can’t they feel the same when it comes to young people with chronic illness?” — Ami C.

woman sleeping on couch

2.My blood pressure got too low and I had to stop and sit in the middle of the store. I had my service dog apply deep pressure therapy to help with the blood that had begun to pool in my legs.” — Shelby K.

woman sitting on floor of store with service dog

3. “When I was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis I experienced muscle aches, fatigue and of course moon face (from the prednisone). When I would complain from how the stress affected my flare-ups or the functionality of my body that day, people would make comments that I’m too young to feel that type of pain. Also how I’m at an age where I should still feel youthful even with this type of diagnosis. I didn’t feel youthful, I didn’t feel that energy and because of my diagnosis I will never feel 100 percent again.” — Gretchen Q.

two photos of young woman

4. “Constant struggle with fatigue, pain and much more. I hear that comment all the time along with disapproving looks from older people. Like they don’t believe me.” — Sindy L.

black and white photo of woman's face closing eyes

5. “Even though I am extremely fortunate to be living an active and ‘healthy’ life, it can be easy for people to forget that a congenital heart defect (CHD) requires lifelong, specialized care. To look at me, it’s not obvious that I’ve had two open heart surgeries, four cardiac catheterizations, and countless other tests and procedures along the way. Each year, my annual checkup with my adult congenital heart disease cardiologist is like a journey into the unknown, as complications or new issues with CHD can arise even when a patient is feeling asymptomatic.” — Ken W.

man riding bike on path

6.It means a lot of times my young children have to be involved with a lot of my appointments, ER trips and bad days. While it makes me feel guilty at times, it’s also comforting to see how loving and understanding they are (sometimes more so than the people who say I’m ‘too young to be chronically ill!’).” — Bonnie P.

woman sitting on hospital bed with two young kids on chairs next to her

7. “This was one of the last years I was able to play softball before my medical issues took it away. I was in a boot when I didn’t play and my body gave out often. As soon as the game ended, my teammate would carry me on her back.” — Sarah B.

women being carried by her teammate on sports field

8. “Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 17. I am 31 now. It’s tough, but I am so grateful to The Mighty for raising awareness!” — Aaron V.

man in infusion chair giving thumbs up

9. “Chronic fatigue. #lupussux.” — Saira H.

woman's face lying in bed

10. “Trying to put on makeup and function despite not feeling well and recovering from having my head and neck fused. I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Chiari malformation. I am told regularly that I’m too young for this joint pain.” — Megan M.

woman wearing neck brace

11.The first time I ever had a trigeminal neuralgia attack, I was at the Detroit Zoo, age 3.” — Miranda K.

collage of photos of little girl

12. “Being chronically ill means that you have a bag packed with everything you’d need to make a nice stay out of your hospitalization: toiletries, cute PJs, journals and fun colored pens, books to read, puzzle books, iPod and headphones, yummy smelling lotion, favorite piece of jewelry to keep you feeling fabulous and makeup because we all know we feel better when we don’t feel like a troll. It’s how I hospital!” — Gwendolyn C.

woman selfie in hospital bed

13.My attempt at getting outside air. I have Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia and I take an immunosuppresant. My immune system is compromised, so I’ve been stuck inside dealing with vertigo from a sinus infection. I’ve had up to four sinus infections a year due to being immune compromised.” — Elizabeth J.

view of backyard pool from inside

14.Fibromyalgia and chronic pain means quality time with family almost always occurs on a comfortable couch.” — Flores A.

woman lying on couch with baby

15. “I am 31 and every time I see a new doctor I am told I am too young to have this many issues. It is beyond frustrating. Here is me waking up from my annual endoscopy which I have to get because my immune system attacks my stomach lining.” — Kayleigh B.

woman lying in hospital bed

16. “I was 24 in this picture. I’ve never been someone to nap, but sometimes you just can’t make it 10 hours into the day.” — Casey M.

woman sleeping on couch next to dog

17.I’ve had ankylosing spondylitis since I was 17, Crohn’s since I was 22, and neither respond to any medications currently available or I am severely allergic to them. I had to leave work and apply for disability at 27 (still waiting!), and I had a colectomy and ileostomy done this past December; I turned 30 in January. I now point out that the average age of onset for AS is in fact 17, and Crohn’s often presents in the teens and 20s, but either illness and many more can happen to literally anyone at any time. I also point out the CDC estimates approximately one-fourth of Americans have or will have a disability by their 30s, sooo… shove it.” — Samantha A.

woman showing stoma bag

18. “I’m always accompanied by my service dog, from the mundane grocery shopping to doctors and hospital visits to big trips she comes with to keep me safe and healthy. I’m young, I don’t look sick, but I rely on her daily.” — Bay H.

collage of photos of woman in different travel destinations with service dog

19. “I have my Apple Watch set up to notify me if my heart rate gets above 120 while not doing anything. This is just moving around, working on homework in my bed. Gotta love postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).” — Carlow D.

heart rate tracking app screenshot

20. “Having to use an electric cart in stores at 21. No, I’m not a kid using it for the fun of it. Yes, I can stand to get things off shelves if I have to.” — Bernadette J.

sitting on electric grocery store cart

21. “‘Sorry puppy, not enough energy to take you for a walk again today. Maybe tomorrow.’” — Dion M.

man lying on couch next to dog

Full Source: disableddatingclub.com

Accessing Good Maternity Care While Living With Chronic Illness

The most difficult part of my journey was conceiving and coming off medication. It was a testing time coming off methotrexate and reducing painkillers. I had a supportive rheumatologist who respected our decision to have children and she supported me to reduce medication. She also referred me for further tests with infertility specialists and I was referred to pre-pregnancy counseling.

At the time, I underestimated the importance of the pre-pregnancy counseling, it helped put a plan in place for when I did get pregnant and they made it clear that I would be consultant-led with regular hospital appointments and check-ups.

At first, my maternity care was based with the Community Midwife as my GP arranged the first appointment. I had made it clear to her that I would be consultant-led and asked about the referral process to the consultant in question. She was very dismissive of this and instead I was assessed by a consultant at the Health Center who deemed me as “green” pathway and not a high risk. This didn’t sit well with me and my gut instinct told me I would have to push for more support.

I chased up the hospital referral for pre-pregnancy counseling and after many phone calls, I finally was given an appointment for the consultant at the maternity unit and was prescribed a low dose of aspirin as required for pregnant women with chronic conditions.

This was a turning point for me during my pregnancy and I’ve been seen every four weeks by consultant and midwife with regular growth scans. The maternity support I have received has been consistent with an assigned midwife and consultant who are aware of my conditions. I’m now 29 weeks pregnant with a clear plan in place with the view of being induced at 37 weeks.

woman taking a selfie and showing off her pregnant belly

If you are pregnant with a chronic illness, have a plan in place and ensure you receive the right support and don’t be afraid to ask for more support.

Full Source: disableddatingclub.com

Why I Illustrate My Dark Thoughts

I’ve been living with mental illness for as long as I can remember.

And mental illness brings many weird thoughts into my head. So I draw them to make people understand what things can be like in the head of someone struggling with a mental illness.

I hope these drawings will help you remember you are not alone.

Full Source: disableddatingclub.com

The 17 Coziest Socks and Slippers for People With Chronic Illness

There’s nothing like sliding your feet into a cozy pair of socks or slippers when you’re dealing with chronic illness and pain. Something about a good pair of socks just makes you feel comforted and warm. If nothing else, a fun pattern can bring a smile to your face if you’re stuck at home or in the hospital.

Of course, you could just grab a pack of socks the next time you go shopping, but we wanted to know which brands are the best for people with chronic illnesses, who could use some extra comfort and style on those tough flare days. We asked our Mighty chronic illness community to share which socks and slippers they love the most. Here are their recommendations.

1. Pact Apparel

pact apparel black and white striped socks

“I love Pact Apparel! They have the softest socks with cute patterns, and the socks are breathable because they’re mostly organic cotton. They keep me warm without sweating and suffocating my feet,” said Sarah Langer.

Buy the socks featured above for $10 from Pact Apparel.

2. Bombas

bombas red ankle socks

“Bombas! The ankle socks. They are super soft, light compression and don’t bind/cut into me when my feet or ankles swell. So comfy!” said Melissa Adomaitis.

Buy the socks featured above for $12 from Bombas.

3. UGG

ugg dakota slipper

I know they’re a little on the pricey side, but I cannot live without my UGG moccasin slippers. They’re comfy as heck, can be worn outside if need be, and they last years!” said Shannon Fahey.

“Only UGG slippers keep my very cold feet warm, and nice soft wool socks,” said Melody Blefari.

Buy the slippers featured above for $100 from UGG.

4. Earth Therapeutics

earth therapeutics aloe socks in black

The super soft socks that have aloe lotion infused in them feel like cashmere on my feet,” said Jenny Williams Sarver. “They have cute animal characters matching to what season or holiday.”

Buy the socks featured above for $8 from Ulta Beauty.

5. Oofos Recovery Footwear

oofos green flip flop sandal

“Oofos recovery slippers are amazing! They have good support and are support cushy. I have Lyme and MSIDs. One of my co-infections, Bartonella, gave me horrible foot pain before I started antibiotics. It was like walking on bare bones, like there was no padding in my feet whatsoever. Horribly painful. Even when I had not had any exercise. Just walking around the house in socks, I was in pain. Those Oofos slippers were a life saver!” said Sabine Bischofberger. “The only thing I could wear that gave me relief and made standing on my feet bearable. They make clog style slippers, flip flops, shoes and other styles. They are designed for runners to wear post-marathon, so you know they give the right kind of support.”

Buy the sandals featured above for $49.95 from Oofos.

6. Yomandamor

yomandamor gray socks

“Yomandamor women’s bamboo socks. Amazing! Will never buy anything else ever again,” recommended Laureen Pickering.

Buy the socks featured above for $15.50 (six pairs) from Amazon.

7. Indigo Reading Socks

indigo brand reading socks with text design

“The Reading Socks from Chapters/Indigo! So fluffy and cozy!” said Chloe Deraiche.

Buy the socks featured above for $17.50 from Indigo.

8. Smartwool

blue and green geometric smartwool socks

“I love Smartwool. They are soft and keep my feet warm,” said Tiffany Turcotte.

Buy the socks featured above for $19.95 from Smartwool

9. Glerups

glerups red felt slipper

Cindy Harrigan said these felt slippers with a calfskin sole are the “best things ever.”

Buy the slippers featured above for $95 from Glerups.

10. Snoozies

snoozies slippers in green floral ballet slipper style

“They’re soft but it depends on the style (the ballet slipper style is my personal favorite), they have a little bit more of a structured bottom (still soft though) and they’re machine washable!” explained Hannah Ritchie.

Buy the slippers featured above for $14.99 from Amazon.

11. Bioworld

wonder woman socks with cape on back

“Bioworld makes excellent, comfy geeky socks with just the right stretch,” said Cyn Brunelle. 

Buy the socks featured above for $5.79 from Amazon.

11. Legends

legends brand pink striped socks

“Legends socks are colorful, bright and cheery. They have extra cushion soles on the bottom of their socks. That cushion feels really good,” said Sarver. 

Buy the socks featured above for $10 from Legends.

12. Brookstone Nap Socks

brookstone nap socks in blue stripe design

“Nap Socks. My husband buys me some every Christmas and sometimes for Mother’s Day. They are so soft and fuzzy and just amazing,” said Megan Monique.

Buy the socks featured above for $19.99 from Brookstone.

13. Bobs by Skechers

bobs by skechers slippers with dog print

I live in my Bobs by Skechers! A. They have doggies all over, B. They’re memory foam! Nothing better!” said Lara Ekblad.

Buy the slippers featured above for $37.95 from Zappos.

14. Joe Boxer

joe boxer socks

“I love Joe Boxer ankle socks, they’re very soft. I’m not sure of the brand of slippers that I wear but I love the ones that look like boots,” said Esther Erb.

Buy the socks featured above for $10.99 (pack of 10) from Kmart.

15. Sock It To Me

sock it to me socks turquoise with cats

“I love Sock It To Me knee socks! The fun designs and soft socks always make me smile. They aren’t too heavy or too light either. Just perfect and quirky looking,” said Amy Perry Archibald. 

Buy the socks featured above for $12 from Sock It To Me.

16. The Buffalo Wool Company

buffalo wool company

“Buffalo Wool Company! When my toes are frozen, my buffalo wool socks make ’em toasty in minutes. Instawarm. I have their gloves, too,” said Jaque Valentine.

Buy the socks featured above for $32 from The Buffalo Wool Company.

17. Heat Holders

heat holders socks

“Heat Holders 2.4 tog rated socks are fab for people with bad circulation. They also make hats, gloves and tights now too,” said Alice Emerald.

Buy the socks featured above for $15.99 from Heat Holders.

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7 Types of Anxiety Disorders – Explained by Real People Who Have Them

When someone says they “have” anxiety, what does that really mean?

Well, it could mean a lot of things, but generally, people who “have” anxiety experience it in a way that affects their daily lives, functioning and overall happiness.

While of course going through stressful life events can be anxiety-inducing for anyone, people who have anxiety typically fight it no matter what’s going on in their lives. This doesn’t mean they don’t have good days — it just means good days, or what could be considered low-stress situations, can still make someone with anxiety… well, anxious.

Of course, past events can contribute to current anxiety, and changing your situation can always help reduce anxiety and improve happiness. But people with anxiety typically need more tools in their pocket to get through whatever day-to-day challenges they face.

When anxiety affects your life this much, you may meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. While everyone’s struggle with anxiety is valid even if you don’t get diagnosed (you can, for example, go to a counselor without ever getting a diagnosis), for some people, a label is a helpful tool.

Maybe a diagnosis puts you on a path to proper treatment. Maybe it makes you feel less alone, because now you have a name for what you’re going through. Maybe in order to get accommodations at work or at school, you need documentation, and an anxiety disorder label helps explain the challenges you face.

Here, we wanted to put a human face on anxiety disorders and explain what living with them is really like. Because people who live with anxiety disorders are more than a list of symptoms — they’re people facing real challenges, and understanding what you’re going through is an important step in tackling anxiety head-on.

Here’s a list of anxiety disorders — including quotes about what it’s like to live with them:

1. Generalized Anxiety DisorderA woman worrying in bed

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about everything from money, health, family, work or other issues. People with GAD are always anticipating disaster or expecting the worst, even when there’s no evidence they should be concerned.

In order to be diagnosed, you need to experience three of the following symptoms on more days than not for at least six months:

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

What helps people live with it:

What it’s like (from real people who have it):

Have you ever been going about your day and suddenly felt the physical urge to run? As fear washes over you, you know you’re in danger and have to escape. Adrenaline surges through your body, your heart starts racing, your breath becomes shallow, the panic sets in. You’re on high alert, ready to beat the danger, prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. But there’s nothing to run from. There’s no one chasing you, burning flames aren’t about to engulf you, you’re not under threat. Your environment says you’re safe, but your mind will tell you otherwise. That is my anxiety.

— Jo Robinson, from “What I Want People to Know About the Anxiety Hiding Behind My Smile

When my anxiety hits, my brain feels like a tornado with a million thoughts swirling around causing destruction and building strength the longer it goes on. To deal with the natural disaster occurring in my head, I will often ‘shut down’ to the outside world. I may appear despondent, uninterested, distracted or reserved. It’s not that I’m not taking in what’s going on around me, but I often can’t respond to it because I am beyond overwhelmed between the thoughts in my head and the reality I’m facing.

— Meghan Hart, from “7 Things You Should Expect When I’m Having an Anxious Episode

The ground is slipping out from under you, and you have to constantly move, regularly squirm and frequently tense your body in order to make it from moment to moment. And quite often, no one around you has even the smallest idea of what you’re feeling. They don’t notice the sudden flinch, or the tension that ripples through your shoulders, or the way you might throw out your hands a little to steady your balance. No one may see you glance down, confused, reorienting yourself as you check that the world isn’t completely gone from underneath you. You’re still here, you’re still part of the scene. You just have to reposition yourself and get your bearings again.

— Wynn Lane, from “A Metaphor for People Who Are ‘High-Functioning’ With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Find out more information:

2. Society Anxiety Disordersocial anxiety

Social anxiety disorder is defined by an intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in a social or performance situation, according to ADAA. It is not simply shyness. People with anxiety disorder often go out of their way to avoid social situations, and experience a signifiant amount anxiety and distress when something can’t be avoided.

It’s also common for people with social anxiety to experience physical symptoms in social situations such as:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Panic attacks

In order to get diagnosed, this distress over social situations must be so extreme, it affects your daily life — including routines, performance at work, ability to complete school or hold a job, friendships, romantic relationships and overall happiness.

What helps people live with it:

What it’s like (from real people who have it):

I am petrified of people and this fear debilitates me from being able to physically send online messages to my friends. I want, more than anything, to be able to textually say hello to my friends. I want to be able to communicate, but I can’t. To some, picking up their mobile phone and typing away to people is an easy task. For me, it is one of the hardest things to do.

— Jazz Frost, from “What I Need My Friends to Understand About My Social Anxiety

It’s about way more than just “being shy.” I’m not just an introvert who would rather be at home with a cup of coffee and a nice book. I’m someone who desperately wants friends, desperately wants to relate to other humans and wishes I could enjoy my time outside of the house without feeling like I need to run away. I may seem shy sometimes, but shy and anxious are not synonyms. They are two different things.

— Benji Y., from “22 Things People With Social Anxiety Wish Their Friends Understood

I wake up dreading a day full of people, with no time alone to rest. I wake up early, but am too anxious to fall back asleep. I get ready, being careful to style my hair and find a nice outfit, nervous my client will judge me, along with my classmates later on. A lot of days I don’t have the energy for this, but this morning, my nervousness compels me to put myself together.

— Anna Lente, from “A Day in My Life With Social Anxiety

Find out more information:

3. Panic DisorderA person being scared by monsters

People with panic disorder experience seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks that interfere with their daily lives. Because of these occurrences, they often live in fear of their next panic attack, and might have anxiety about situations that could set one off. Panic attacks typically reach their peak in 10 minutes or less and then begin to subside.

According to ADAA, a panic attack starts abruptly and includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself).
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

What helps people live with it:

What it’s like (from real people who have it):

I can’t focus on anything except for my scattered thoughts that make me feel like I’m dying. Deep down, I know I’m not, but in the moment it feels like I’m never going to be able to gain control again. That’s the worst part — it feels like I’ve completely lost control. I can’t control my heart rate, I can’t control my breathing, I can’t control my shaky body, I can’t control my thoughts, I can’t control who is around me. Eventually, my hands and feet and sometimes my stomach get very tingly, almost like they’re falling asleep. Another thing I can’t control. I also usually either get very hot to the point where I’m sweating profusely, or very cold to the point where I’m hugging myself tight and shivering. I begin crying; a lot of times I don’t notice it until afterwards, and I usually don’t know why this occurs.

— Bailey Griffin, from “To My Friends Who Are Curious About What a Panic Attack Feels Like

Every part of your body is in overdrive. Your mind, your fears, your heartbeat, your breathing. Except there’s no brake pedal. You have to coast through until it eventually stops.

— Lexie Nooyen, from “What It’s Like to Have a Panic Attack, From 24 People Who’ve Been There

Everything goes in slow motion like the movie “The Matrix.” You can see and hear people, but you’ve officially entered a new physical realm. No one knows you’re there, and no one hears you.

— Norma Fernandez, from “What It’s Like to Have a Panic Attack, From 24 People Who’ve Been There

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4. Specific PhobiasA man looking at a monster

Arachnophobia, ophidiophobia, acrophobia, cynophobia. Everyone has things that make them nervous, but for people who live with specific phobias (like the ones listed above), this fear is excessive and all-consuming, limiting the quality of their lives.

People who struggle with specific phobias might avoid places, situations or objects that might expose them to what they fear, even if there’s a high chance there’s no threat or danger. According to ADAA, “The fear may not make any sense, but they feel powerless to stop it.” Much of the fear revolves around the anticipation of encountering their trigger.

Common phobias include fears of animals, insects, germs, heights, thunder, driving, public transportation, flying, dental or medical procedures, and elevators.

What helps people live with it:

What it’s like (from real people who have it):

I’ve recently been struck by just how different fears and phobias are and how many people assume a phobia is the same as a fear. For me they are on the same spectrum, but a phobia is a whole different level. Mostly we avoid things we fear in a general sense, like death. A lot of people fear death, we would avoid death in a general way, like avoiding poisons or adhering to safety instructions, but it doesn’t typically dictate your life. A phobia, however, takes over everything, every waking moment. Every decision made has to take the phobia into consideration.

— Lizzi Northwood, from “My Phobia Is More Than ‘Just a Fear’

Here’s a fun fact – phobias irrationally exaggerate danger. I am fully mentally aware that I am in no danger when there is a moth in the room, but my body reacts uncontrollably as I am triggered into feeling frightened, uncomfortable and anxious.

— Sally Parker, from “Why You Should Never Make Fun of Someone With a Phobia

People with phobias are not alone, even though that’s exactly how I feel. We don’t choose to have them. They are not an excuse. They’re not something we will “just get over.” They have such a hold on all facets of our lives that people can’t even imagine.

— Kristin Carlson, from “How My Life Has Changed After Developing a Phobia

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5. AgoraphobiaA man sitting on a bubble

Whether it’s because they’re afraid of having a panic attack — or because they’re fighting a specific phobia or trigger — those who develop agoraphobia get so overcome with the anticipation of anxiety, they avoid going anywhere outside of their (limited) comfort zone.

They typically avoid environments they feel like can’t control — like shopping malls, public transportation or concert venues — and tend to stay in places that make them feel safe, like their own homes.

For people with agoraphobia, their world becomes smaller, and they may develop strict routines to ensure they never have to leave their safety zone.

What helps people live with it:

What it’s like (from real people who have it):

When I am faced with going somewhere outside my comfort zone, especially without my husband, I feel frantic. I am terrified I am going to have a panic attack. Panic attacks for me aren’t pretty. Are they ever though? I sob uncontrollably and can’t breathe. My legs go weak until I sit where I once stood. I get dizzy and develop paresthesias which is the sensation of pins and needles and numbness on my face and often one or both arms. The panic attack also often induces an asthma attack. Sounds super fun, right? It’s embarrassing. I feel ashamed. I feel guilty for subjecting my family to this. I have to try to convince myself this is not my fault.

— Bridget Pendergraft, from “What I Wish People Knew About My Life With Agoraphobia

It became hard to even leave the bedroom. I could go days without eating, not because I had no food, but because I couldn’t get to the kitchen — I would freeze before I got out the door of my bedroom. I would be sweating and shaking and crying – all the while I knew it was completely absurd. Finally, I learned to crawl to the kitchen and drag as many things back with me as I could, for fear it might be days before I could manage to go back. In the back of my head, I knew I was going to die. I would run out of food, out of strength, out of time. I knew I was going to die, I just didn’t know when.

— Jill Alexandra, from “When Agoraphobia Left Me Alone and Housebound for Months

I’m not afraid to leave my house, but sometimes doing regular tasks, like walking down the street to the pharmacy and a little bit farther to the post office, can seem difficult. I know the measurable distance is small and I could easily run home in less than five minutes. However, the closer I get to my destination, the farther it seems to be, especially when I look back to see where I’ve come from. I know when I get there I will be OK, but the space between the two points seems like a wide gulf.

— Emily Atkinson, from “I Have Agoraphobia, but I’m Not Afraid to Leave My House

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6. Obsessive-Compulsive DisorderA woman making a choice

No, it’s not just being neat or hand-washing, but for some, those compulsions are part of the equation. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined by the relationship between obsessions and compulsions. According to the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF), “Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that trigger intensely distressing feelings. Compulsions are behaviors an individual engages in to attempt to get rid of the obsessions and/or decrease his or her distress.”

When people with OCD have obsessions — which cause intense anxiety — they do a compulsion in order to relieve that anxiety. And although the anxiety might go down temporarily, next time that fear arrises, they have to do the compulsion again. The IOCDF explains that for people with OCD, this cycle of obsessions and compulsions becomes so extreme, it consumes a lot of time and gets in the way of important activities that the person values.

What helps people live with it:

What it’s like (from real people who have it):

It’s like being controlled by a puppeteer. Every time you try and just walk away, he pulls you back. Are you sure the stove is off and everything is unplugged? Back up we go. Are you sure your hands are as clean as they can get? Back ya go. Are you sure the doors are securely locked? Back down we go. How many people have touched this object? Wash your hands again.

— Toni Neville, from “17 Quotes That Prove OCD Is So Much More Than Being Neat

Picture standing in a room filled with flies and pouring a bottle of syrup over yourself. The flies constantly swarm about you, buzzing around your head and in your face. You swat and swat, but they keep coming. The flies are like obsessional thoughts — you can’t stop them, you just have to fend them off. The swatting is like compulsions — you can’t resist the urge to do it, even though you know it won’t really keep the flies at bay more than for a brief moment.

— Cheryl Little Sutton, from “17 Quotes That Prove OCD Is So Much More Than Being Neat

For me, it’s an ever-present nagging feeling that something is just ‘not right.’ I can never really, truly ‘make it right.’ I have to learn to live with the all-consuming feeling of mental discomfort.

— Laura McCarthy, from “17 Quotes That Prove OCD Is So Much More Than Being Neat

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7. Post-Traumatic Stress DisorderA man being haunted by ghosts

Although post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t usually grouped in with disorders like OCD and GAD — it’s technically classified as an anxiety disorder. PTSD is when your body experiences anxiety, fear and panic in response to a traumatic event that happened in the past — even years later. According to ADAA, PTSD is diagnosed after a person experiences symptoms for at least one month following a traumatic event.

The disorder is characterized by three types of symptoms:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks and nightmares.
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.

You don’t have to be a combat soldier to experience symptoms of PTSD. People can develop PTSD after a variety of traumatic events, including sexual assault, surviving a car crash and witnessing violence.

What helps people live with it:

What it’s like (from real people who have it):

I’m watching TV. A violent scene that would send me into flashbacks comes on and I disassociate. I’m no longer even “there” to react. I make plans and then spend an hour before thinking of ways to back out because the anxiety of being around people is almost overwhelming. Shopping during busy times makes me dizzy and short of breath.

— Liz Zemlicka, from “This Is What My Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Looks Like

It’s opening your eyes in the morning, pulse racing, with a deep feeling of fear gripping you, despite praying the night before that tomorrow might be the day you wake up and it’s gone. “It’s telling yourself every five seconds of the day that it’s irrational, illogical, no harm will come to you, you are safe, they are just thoughts; but getting hoarse from repeating yourself because your body can’t hear you.

— Laura Hills-Garner, from “This Is My Complex PTSD

Take a moment and imagine your brain was programmed like a broken VHS. It won’t stop playing and it’s projected fullscreen with certain parts of the movie missing, some parts repeating multiple times and there is always static present. Your brain is permanently fixated and specific triggers cause you to exhibit behaviors. However, triggers do not always have to be present for symptoms to occur, racing thoughts substitute. Envision being so overwhelmed that you feel as if you’re having an ‘out of body’ experience. This is what PTSD feels like, at least for me.

— Teresa Silver from “My Secret Life With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Whatever anxiety disorder you have — and however anxiety effects you — it’s important to know you’re not alone, and that it’s possible to live a full and happy life with anxiety.

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