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Anxiety - to tell, or not to tell?

This page created 21 October 2013
 
By Priya, ADAVIC Volunteer

Unlike a broken arm, where you might bare your arm in a cast for the world to see, anxiety can often be a private experience. For example, the sweaty palms, racing thoughts, racy heart, and tense shoulders (just to name a few) are all symptoms that may not be directly obvious to others. Yet these symptoms can often be detrimental to the quality of life for the sufferer. For instance, anxiety may prevent you from attending social situations, fulfilling work requirements, trying new things, and just generally, enjoying life!
 
Given the personal nature of anxiety, the question of whether or not or how much to share with people can be a difficult one. For various reasons some people do not share their experience of anxiety with others. However there are many people who do share their experiences of anxiety with others, and find this process beneficial. The choice varies depending on the individual and situation. Like any personal decision, the choice of whether you share your experiences of anxiety requires various considerations. In this article I will discuss some of these considerations in telling people about your anxiety.
 
What is the type of relationship you have with the person you are confiding in? Considering who you are sharing your experiences with will influence how in depth your sharing will be.
 
Time

How long you have known the person will help determine whether you share your experiences.  For example you may feel more comfortable sharing with someone you have known for a longer time; however this is not always the case. Sometimes you meet someone and feel instantly connected with them, and this instant connection may influence the sharing of your experiences.
 
Strength of the relationship

Consider the quality of the relationship so far. For example do you have a close relationship? Is the relationship supportive of differences? Have both you and the other person shared personal information with each other? Although it is not possible to know the right answers to these questions, just considering them will help make the decision clearer.
 
Context of the relationship

The context of the discussion may influence how in depth you go about your anxiety. For example if you are confiding in someone in the workplace, it might be important to go into less detail than if you were telling a close friend. Confiding in people within the workplace can often be difficult to do as you do not want people to think you might not be able to complete tasks. One way to approach this is to initially test the waters like commenting “I get anxious speaking in public”. Depending on how the person reacts to this information, you can then decide whether to reveal more.
 
Your own relationship with your anxiety

The first part of revealing to others that you experience anxiety also depends on whether you accept it yourself. For example if you are not aware of your anxiety (including its triggers and symptoms) then it may be difficult to accurately describe to people how you are feeling. On the other hand, if you are lost and feeling confused about your anxiety, just speaking to someone you trust can help your thoughts and feelings become clearer.
 
If you do decide to share your experience of anxiety with someone you care about like a partner, a close friend or a relative, it can often feel like a load is taken off your shoulders. Sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings can often be a big relief, especially if you have been trying to hide it for a long time. Similarly, by sharing what you are feeling with others, you can enlist the support of those close to you. Support from those closest to you is important, especially when going through a particularly challenging time. Support can also help you in your efforts for recovery. You may even find that by making yourself vulnerable and honest by revealing your anxiety, people may relate to your experiences of anxiety. Also given that anxiety can often make people feel isolated, reaching out to others can help you realise that you are not alone.
 

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