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What Anxiety Really Looks Like

It’s one thing to talk about anxiety and it’s another thing to see it – the tense facial muscles, the wide eyes, and the fear that those eyes carry.

Anxiety, which is rooted in fear, is a psychological state that many people around the world struggle with, and yet, don’t reveal to others. Most people reveal a side of them they want others to see.  They show their happy, joyful, and I-have-it-all-together side. Most people don’t want to others to know what’s really going on underneath.

But, one woman from the United Kingdom did just that.

Amber Smith revealed to the world what she looks like when she’s filled with fear and terror. The post shows the striking difference between Amber when she’s looking glamorous and Amber when she’s afraid, lost, and confused.

The Facebook post got an enormous amount of “shares” and “likes”, and many online news sites are writing about it, such as the New York Daily News.  What’s the reason for the viral spread of this story? It’s because this is real. This is authentic. It’s a genuine story of pain and not covering pain up with what others want to see.

And Amber Smith talks about this in her post. She clearly highlights the stigma against mental illness and how too many people want to turn a blind eye to it – even including those who are struggling with it themselves. She wrote:

They say that 1 in 3 people will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their life. 1 in 3! Do you know how many people that equates to worldwide?! And yet I’ve been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there’s still people that make comments like ‘you’ll get over it’, ‘you don’t need tablets, just be happier’, ‘you’re too young to suffer with that’

Amber is right. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 43 million people have a mental illness – whether they’ve been diagnosed or not.  As you can imagine, when people are feeling the kind of terror that Amber’s eyes are communicating in the bottom picture, they turn to all sorts of unhealthy coping mechanisms – such as substance use, gambling, sexual addictions, overworking, or self-harm – if they are not getting the professional help they need.

Amber Smith finally wanted to do something about it. She and other users of social media have tried to take on the social stigma of mental illness in the past. Perhaps if enough of us who are willing to accept the pain of mental illness and addiction – versus judging it – we can grow our capacity to be with suffering both in ourselves and in others.

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Vantage Point Recovery is a lifestyle management and recovery center in Thousand Oaks. We share mental health tips and other helpful information on the Vantage Point Recovery Blog. If you need help or support mental health awareness, please connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.