health

The hashtag illustrating just how challenging life with anxiety can be.

One of the greatest hurdles for someone suffering mental illness is trying to reach out those around them for help.

Being alone in your suffering is almost worse than the suffering itself – yet, trying to explain how you feel, and why you feel that way, can be an impossible task.

According to Beyond Blue, anxiety in its many shapes and forms affects around two million Australians every year. And for every person living with anxiety is a network of friends, family, lovers, and partners who are trying to understand so that they can help.

But thanks to a clever hashtag on Twitter, we might be one step closer to conveying how anxiety works.

Back in February, writer and marketing director Sarah Fader discussed her experience of anxiety on Twitter. As a columnist with Psychology Today online, she decided to open the floor to her readers to compare and contrast the ‘symptoms’ of anxiety.

what anxiety feels like twitter hashtag
Sarah Fader, creator of #thisiswhatanxietyfeelslike. Image: Facebook.

“I wrote a tweet one day about how I was anxious when people take a long time to respond to my text messages,” wrote Fader in her column.

“I decided to hashtag it with #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike. Then I thought, I cannot be the only person who feels this way. There are so many of us who have anxious minds. I opened up the conversation and invited people to participate in it.”

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There have been thousands of responses so far, ranging from the lighthearted (“Me: 'What could go wrong?' Anxiety: 'I'm glad you asked...'") to the more serious, where people describe in heartbreaking detail just how dramatic the impact of anxiety is on their life.

Many of the responses to Fader’s callout via the #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike hashtag have give insight in the physical reactions that anxiety can cause.

One user describes it as, “When you have a spell & you're breathing so hard it hurts & feel the need to run away & throw up all at once,” whilst others describe feels of chest pain, vomiting, crying, exhaustion, and “an elephant sitting on your chest, all the time.”

Perhaps some of the most insightful comments were the descriptions of anxiety never heard before.

“Your 'Check Engine' light being on even though your mechanic says nothing is wrong. All the time,” said one user.

“Imagine your worst fear. Imagine how you feel when faced with that fear. Now imagine feeling that all the time,” wrote another.

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The overriding theme throughout all of the comments using the #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike hashtag, however, was the everyday battle to simply get through life. From work to relationships, domestic duties to just casual catch ups, anxiety takes away the simplicity to make it a struggle.

Without doubt, anyone trying to understand how anxiety works or how they can help should take five minutes out of their day today to read through the Twitter feed for the hashtag. It’s funny, it’s sad, and it’s a brutally honest and human side to a condition that is most often conveyed through a medical lens.

And for those who do live with anxiety, you should take a look too - and know you’re not alone. Anxiety might feel overwhelming at times, but help is available and there are plenty of people on your journey with you.

For 24-hour crisis support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.