Relating it to their most extreme fears or phobias may be a good way to try to reach some kind of common ground.A common misconception about post-traumatic stress disorder: that it's only really a "thing" for people who've seen action in combat.Unfortunately, when it comes to explaining the concept of anxiety disorders to the uninitiated, that variety — and some common misunderstandings about what "anxiety" really means in its disordered state – can confuse some well-meaning but ill-informed people.
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Letting them into this reality — even just a bit — may help them better support you.
A good graph will make its story quickly and clearly and how you annotate it will be a major part of telling that story.
But an anxiety disorder is very different, as it's as if those basic impulses mushroom out of the realm of rational worry into something more complicated and uncontrollable.
People with an acute form of anxiety (like, say, acute social anxiety — a disorder where every social interaction is fraught with fear of disaster and the potential for paralytic terror) often come up against the idea that anxiety is just "worry;" in other words, that it's something that could be controlled if they would just "calm down" and "stop working yourself up." The thing to emphasize when explaining your experience is that, generally, anxiety is not a choice.
I react very badly to loud noises; another friend with the condition can't deal with enclosed spaces.
The notion of "slipping back" — of a piece of stimulus putting your body back into the situation of trauma just for a second like a terrible time machine — might help make it clearer to the person that you're speaking with.
The mental health organization Mind and the National Institute of Mental Health both have good resources that get into the nitty-gritty in intelligible ways.
But if you do want to try to help the people in your life who do not have anxiety disorders to try to better understand your experience, here are a few tips for explaining anxiety to people without much experience of it as a serious problem.
It's a serious experience and should be taken seriously.