Anxiety: Situational vs. General

This is a topic that I’ve put off for a long time. Since high school, I’ve dealt with anxiety from a situational aspect. This means that when put in certain situations where I wasn’t comfortable or had bad experiences with, I would feel anxious, just like anyone could. But lately I’ve found myself moving into the realm of general anxiety, which is alarming for me because I didn’t realize it was happening until I was already dealing with the symptoms.

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., and it currently effects up to 18% of the population according to the ADAA. Anxiety and depression often come hand in hand, but luckily I haven’t faced depression despite the fact that many of my peers have struggled with it.

Anxiety as a whole has always been a touchy subject for me. In high school, it felt as though many of the people around me would over-exaggerate their feelings, claiming they had “anxiety”. Whether it was about a boy, or homework, or how “busy” we all thought our lives were, I always felt frustrated with how easily they threw that word around. Because little did they know, I was trying to cope with a full fledged version.

Looking back with a different understanding of this illness, I know that I could’ve been completely wrong about those people. They could’ve had anxiety of a very different degree than what I had. Anxiety doesn’t discriminate, and it can be measured at many different levels.

Flash forward to college, and I became much more aware of who I was and the path I was on. I became increasingly aware of the way I distanced myself from others, and how I was often more comfortable being the one who stepped back from situations. I enjoyed observing, and “people-watching” more than being involved.

But despite these realizations, I kept challenging myself to push through that trapped feeling. I challenged myself to lead conversations, speak up in class, execute verbal presentations and memorize speeches. I always though it was rather ironic that a communications major would struggle with such things, but there I was.

A huge part of my anxiety was deciding that I wasn’t going to “suffer” from it the way that many people categorize us. Was I going to struggle? Hell yes. Was I going to simply cope with it sometimes? Absolutely. But anxiety is like a wave most days. When the waves come in, they’re strong and unavoidable and present. But when they recede, we have an opportunity to breath, and learn again.

Flash forward to today, a seemingly bad day for me and my anxiety as I try to work around some new symptoms that decided to pop up. I’ve had trouble falling asleep lately, and actually sleeping through the night. I thought it was just a phase (we just got an amazing new bed!) and that it would eventually subside, but it’s been a month. Then last night I woke up from the strangest dream that I was in high school again, running frantically from some faceless individual.

I woke up at 4:30am when Kyle and I were going to wake up at 5:00 for the gym anyways. But I felt cold. It was like I was frozen with fear over something that wasn’t real. I knew it wasn’t real. But I just laid there as though I was paralyzed. I know that everyone has nightmares from time to time, and they can be absolutely horrible. But my body’s reaction to it is what put up the red flags for me.

Now I have this lump in my throat that just won’t go away, and these random hot flashes that come out of nowhere. And it’s left me wondering, “why now?”. I have a wonderful relationship, a stable job that I enjoy, an active lifestyle, a supportive family.. I’m so far from where I was and who I was in high school. Why is it that when everything is going right, my mind sees something wrong?

I know that anxiety can lessen or worsen as we get older and life changes. But as we get comfortable with our routine, why does anxiety still persist? I guess I always thought that stability was the key for controlling my mind a little better, but my recent experiences have proven otherwise. I’m really hoping to get a handle on this, and learn different ways to cope with it in the future.

Have you experienced anxiety in your life? How have you coped with it personally? What advice would you give to someone dealing with anxiety?


2 thoughts on “Anxiety: Situational vs. General

  1. Amanda, I’ve never had anxiety, so I don’t know if this story is at all relevant, but maybe it could be analogous. Some years ago I was in the process of deciding whether or not to end a serious long-distance relationship. Like you, I also had a “great” life, and while it looked like the relationship wasn’t going to work out, it was a good one. Nothing bad was going on. I didn’t think of myself as being overly stressed” or that things were out of control (although it always hurts to end a serious relationship, and it can be hard to know what’s right to do).

    I began experiencing lower back pain and thought I’d pulled something while lifting, but it wouldn’t go away. I was a ballet dancer in high school and this didn’t fit the pattern of minor activity-related aches and pains. Minor stuff like vacuuming would make it flare up and limited my mobility. I saw a doctor and did special stretches. Nothing worked. A couple days after I finally decided to formally break up and move on, I noticed the pain was gone. I’ve been pain-free for five years.

    My theory is that there was more stress going on inside me than I realized, and that in my case the tension built up physically in my back. Even though you are much more mature than you were in high school (and perhaps no longer react as clearly emotionally to things that used to trigger your anxiety), and you know rationally how to handle life to keep yourself balanced, maybe your body is reacting “irrationally” to triggers that your mind “consciously” thinks it is able to handle “rationally.” Hence the physical feelings of anxiety and the bad dreams.

    If you are facing the deployments of two of the people who are closest to you in the world, perhaps your subconscious and your body are playing tricks on you. That doesn’t suggest any solution, and as I said, I have no experience with anxiety or medical knowledge, but maybe you have more internalized stress than your conscious self knows. If this is totally off-base, never mind. 🙂 Best wishes and prayers!


    1. Hi Kathryn, thanks for reading and for your thoughts. I know that stress can manifest without the person even realizing it, and I’m starting to wonder if that what’s happening to me. I’ve been researching different ways to combat the issue, like meditation, yoga, etc. I’m hoping that I find something that works for me that I can integrate into my daily routine. Health is extremely important to me and everyone, so I just want to resolve it in any way I can.

      It’s definitely comforting to know that someone else has experienced physical discomfort due to stress, because I was starting to feel like I was imagining it haha. Thank you for reaching out!


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