Why So Serious?

*Sarah Khan looks at how the media undermines a condition as serious as anxiety.

It’s 2019 and no one’s a stranger to social media. Living in the era of digital has done great things for us as well as some not-so-great things, one of which happens to be the trend of exaggerating.

But social media alone isn’t the only one playing a part here. The digital space aligned with pop culture creates dramatic and glamorized renditions of relationships, situations, and even medical conditions that are far from reality. And in no time, people start identifying with the farfetched trends, often thinking, “that’s so me,” or in recent times, “relatable AF.”

Just like the stereotypical concept of romance, pop culture has a lot of things backward. It might be in the form of a gripping read or an entertaining show, but not all of it is relatable, especially when it’s concerning mental health, particularly anxiety.
In the US, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults aged 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.

Although highly treatable, only 36.9% of anxiety disorder patients receive treatment.
In Bangladesh, 69 lakh people suffer from anxiety. And the rising stigma of ‘talking about one’s feelings’ have led to countless damages in previous years, resulting in isolation, self-harm and of course, suicide. Needless to say, the condition isn’t as cutesy as it seems on the internet.

Sure, you have a bunch of artists, actors, comedians and social media celebs talking about it, discussing their own experiences with a hint of sass and humor, but anxiety varies from person to person, and it’s not always as light and airy as it may be portrayed in the media.
You may find loads of webcomics on anxiety and social awkwardness, and sure they are funny and often times relatable, but it doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone who can relate to that has anxiety or is permanently socially awkward.

What’s a one-off situation for you and me is, in fact, a never-ending nightmare for many out there.

Common indicators of ACTUAL anxiety have a lot to do with upbringing and personal experiences; the following issues will tell whether or not you truly have anxiety.
Anxious people are always worried. “Did I turn off the stove?” “Am I going to get the job?” “Will I be able to finish my presentation?” are among a few random questions that irk them. What’s worse is they can’t explain as to why they feel this way. They dread it but at the same time cave into it; kind of like being torn between heaven and hell.

Worries are just the tip of the iceberg; imagine having irrational fears every two minutes and not finding a way to stop? Anxiety takes shape based on past history; that includes how an individual was raised and whether or not they’ve been under strict supervision or been abused emotionally or physically by parents or guardians.

This manifests into their later lives and influences their interactions outside the family. Anxious people with little luck on the family and personal frontier are always scratching the surface of their beds, trying to figure out what the future has in store for them. And often times, they find it impossible to believe that they are deserving of good things. So coming to snap conclusions about ending up alone, never being loved or being disowned by a family are feelings that are most likely to crop up.

Exhaustion is the highlight of their days; so naturally, finding a way to press the snooze button on their anxiety is another struggle.

We’ve all had our days of irregular sleep; whether it’s from pulling an all-nighter, binge-watching 10 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, the ridiculous amounts of coffee we’ve had at work or just dead stressed from the pressures of adulthood.

An individual with constant anxiety will give you a run for your money because not being able to rest or relax is their default setting; that too against their will. So naturally, not being able to control the myriad of emotions keep them tossing like a salad from dusk till dawn.

Additionally, their troubles increase tenfold when their productivity is compromised. At times, they find themselves sitting through a nine-hour shift without feeling the motivation to even lift a finger.

Why? Maybe because they aren’t able to explain why they feel so vulnerable. One could also factor in the possibilities of some trauma that keeps them distracted at all times.
Not long after that, many individuals caught in the clutches of anxiety find their mental condition slowly seeping into their immune system. The result? Chronic indigestion. In case you’re thinking, “sure, I get gassy too,” think again.

Chronic indigestion or gastritis isn’t just belching and flatulence, rather a number of things. It’s a serious autoimmune disorder. In the wake of mental stress, your nervous system goes haywire and sets off your digestive system. Aside from indigestion, constantly having gas trapped in one’s throat is an indicator that you may, in fact, have anxiety.

However, these are among a few problems from the many different genres of anxiety, just to give an idea of what it means to always be on edge.

Having laid all of that out, I’d like to address that anxiety is very real and it takes a toll on anyone who’s had it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-running problem; a person who’s developed anxiety in a month is as volatile as one living with anxiety for more than decades.

An anxious person is a prisoner of his or her own mind. So to dub, one’s self as ‘having anxiety for the sake of humor can really batter an already battered population
even more.