Photo courtesy of Kristina Atienza Atienza shared her experience with anxiety.
Photo courtesy of Kristina Atienza
Atienza shared her experience with anxiety.

When someone has a cold or just doesn’t feel well, their friends and family worry and offer support to help them heal. But when someone says they have a mental illness, much of that concern seems to disappear. About one in four people over the age of 18 suffer from some form of mental illness, yet for an ailment that affects many, hardly anyone talks about it.

Mental illness includes much more than the diagnosed disorders of social anxiety, panic disorders and phobias. People can suffer from undiagnosed illnesses like anxiety from stress caused by academics, relationships, finances and family issues.

Social worker and King’s College counselor Tina Arendash explained that a mental illness like anxiety is not as uncommon as people might think.

“Anxiety is probably one of the most prevalent disorders on college campuses,” Arendash said. “It’s a lot more common than students realize. Some people are hesitant to talk about it because they think ‘people will think something’s wrong with me’ but that’s definitely not the case.”

An issue like anxiety doesn’t only affect a person’s mental health; it also has very real, physical consequences that can result if a person doesn’t learn to address their anxiety in a healthy manner. Frequent headaches, muscle tension, chest discomfort and nausea are all possible physical effects of untreated anxiety. The stress of anxiety can even lead to a negative impact on academics if people cannot focus or study.

Arendash emphasized the importance of talking to someone about anxiety if you are experiencing it. “All people, at some point of their life, deal with anxiety and stress. A lot times, after students learn to talk about it and manage their anxiety effectively, it definitely sets them up for success for the rest of their life,” she said.

Mental illnesses don’t go away when a person becomes popular or famous. Mental illness is very common and YouTube personality Kaitlyn Alexander deals with this disorder. Alexander lives with social anxiety but chooses to use their growing popularity to help increase awareness of about the illness.

“It’s a scary topic,” Alexander said. “It’s not something that there’s an open forum about because it is deeply personal. It’s hard to talk about it because no one does but if you have anxiety, talk about it. Find someone you can talk to.”

Choosing to talk to anyone, especially a professional, can make all the difference in a person’s life when living with anxiety. But sometimes, just even getting the courage to say anything feels like an impossible task.

I have lived with anxiety since I was ten years old and there was nothing more terrifying to me than even considering the possibility that I had a mental illness. Even though my anxiety was a result from a tough childhood, I was still absolutely terrified to tell anyone about it. I was more okay with forcing a façade of normalcy than finding the answers to why my mind was destroying me from the inside out. It also didn’t help that I believe people would brush me off as going through a phase or just seeking attention since I was still young. So naturally, I just refused to get help and pretended that my anxiety wasn’t real.

If I was brave enough to talk about it when I was younger, maybe my life would have been different. Maybe I’d be at a different school, maybe I wouldn’t be in my major, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten tattoos, maybe I wouldn’t have a fear of losing people, maybe I wouldn’t have low self-esteem, maybe I wouldn’t have turned to self-harm as a solution and maybe I wouldn’t have attempted suicide multiple times. But out of all the maybes that could exist in the world, I know this: Getting help was one of the best decisions of my life.

As much as I believed that my friends could help me, I realized that if I truly wanted to get better, I needed to talk to someone who had the proper resources to help me figure everything out. Although it took me until I got to college to get the strength to decide to get help, I know it saved me from just becoming another statistic. I know that since I have decided to open up about my anxiety, I have learned how to live better, love myself for who I am and most importantly learned that I am not alone.

There is no guarantee for what kind of day you’ll experience when you wake up in the morning. But life is a beautiful thing and some things you just can’t do alone. Getting help for things like anxiety doesn’t make you weaker, it allows you the chance to become strong enough to truly live the life you deserve.

If anyone is experiencing anxiety and would like to talk to someone, please feel free to email me at kristinaatienza@kings.edu. I may not be 100% better or a professional in any sense, but I know how important it is to talk to someone who understands you when things get rough.

Other simple tips to help manage any stress are as easy as going for a walk, exercising, watching a funny movie / TV show or even talking a friend.

Untitled