Khloe Kardashian sits in front of a green screen, hair and make-up done perfectly, in the ‘diary’ section of her family’s TV series, she open’s her mouth, and once again I hear ‘it’s causing me major anxiety’, or something similar to that. All I can think, is that it is this kind of normalising of a mental health issue that ensured that I didn’t go to the doctors for a year and a half after I started thinking that my sadness, obsessive behaviours and nervousness were above a line which enabled me to live a normal life.
Khloe Kardashian may have the actual mental health issue ‘anxiety’, in fact, her sisters Kim and Kendall have both spoken about it in that way. However, she is an example of the way ‘anxiety’ the emotion, which we all experience in stressful situations, is equated the meaning of, ‘anxiety’ the mental health issue which has serious impacts on its sufferer’s lives. Khloe rarely if ever defines or speaks seriously about suffering with anxiety, and so it can be assumed that the form she is referring to is the emotion we all feel, but giving it the weight of an actual mental health ‘disorder’. This isn’t a problem which finds its roots in Khloe or the Kardashians, but is a trend in our contemporary popular culture. It’s in the viral tweets we send around, the updates we send to our friends about our day.
Feeling anxious and having anxiety are two different things, similarly to feeling sad and having depression. But it is the way that people talk about feeling an everyday emotion and equate it with the seriousness of those suffering from panic attacks, unable to leave their homes that causes a problem. When talking about the emotion, it is different to say ‘I feel anxious about this’ implying a certain situation, than to say ‘this is giving me anxiety’, implying you have a health issue. But as we’ve begun to finally be more open about mental health issues, we’ve also blurred the lines between what is a problem and what is a natural feeling. We make jokes and memes about anxiety and depression as though they are things we all feel everyday instead of serious conditions for which we should be getting help.
For me, living in this world where everyone I know was having their ‘anxiety triggered’ by small stressors, it meant spending years without the help I needed. My personal experience of anxiety is expressed through crippling migraines, insomnia, and at my worst, not panic attacks, but constant, milder physical feelings of panic and terror which I can’t seem to escape. It took until I was so paranoid of everything that I was hearing sounds I knew weren’t there for me to realise this wasn’t just anxiety, the emotion, that everyone has and everyone jokes about, but something more sinister and serious.
If you have any mental health issues of any severity, talk loud and proud about it; and if you haven’t, talk loud and proud about the experiences of others. We need to be open about our health for our own, individual happiness, but also to help others relate to us. However, although these boundaries are incredibly blurred sometimes, there are differences between someone feeling anxious or sad about a situation, and my anxiety or someone else’s depression. Equating the emotion to the condition trivialises how I feel and makes me much LESS likely to seek help. So sorry to Khloe, who was picked out as an example of the problem here, but if you have anxiety, be honestly open and serious about it, and if you don’t, maybe chose your words more carefully next time.
Written by Katt Skippon
There is a problem here in the limited scope you have given for the use of the phrase ‘having anxiety’. Anxiety can be used in the same way as anxious, as a way of describing a feeling or emotion. If something causes you ‘anxiety’ this does not necessarily imply you have an anxiety disorder.