Mental Illness Unemployment Statistics Were High Before COVID-19 Hit

Unemployment rates among adults with a mental illness are alarmingly higher when compared to a neurotypical adult.

Mental Illness Unemployment Statistics Were High Before COVID-19 Hit

The truth is that up to 80% of adults with a serious mental health condition are unemployed in the U.S. Unemployment rates among people with a brain disorder are significantly higher when compared to a neurotypical person. According to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, unemployment rates continue to decline despite the national employment rate rising.

The shocking truth of unemployment & how it relates to mental illness

What do you do for a living? It astounds me how often people ask that question. It’s one of the first questions that comes up when meeting someone new. Maybe I just notice it more now because I dread having to answer. I’ve become so self conscious about the answer to that question. I can no longer respond with an impressive corporate role that people regard as prestigious. I no longer work for a fortune 500 company that everyone recognizes. Now, i’m just – unemployed.

Approximately 60 percent of the 7.1 million people receiving public mental health services nationwide want to work, but less than 2 percent receive supported employment opportunities provided by states.

National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI)

Mental Illness & Unemployment

I can see the look of shock and disdain on people’s faces when I tell them. The interrogation that follows is brutal and I feel the need to explain when they ask; really? why not? what do you do for money? what do you do all day? I can feel the judgement radiating from them as I sheepishly try to explain myself. Then comes “the help” as they offer suggestions on job types, companies, and solutions that I should try to help get me back into the workforce.

People can be so focused on the job we each hold, as if our job defines who we are and our worth in society. They also tend to judge those of us who are unemployed, as if we are all just lazy and don’t want to work. Which just isn’t true. I desperately wish I was able to go back to work, to another job with benefits, to another corporate role, to not waste my degree i’m still paying for. But I can’t, you see. I’ll tell you why:

Did you know that unemployment often goes hand in hand with mental illness? The shocking truth of unemployment & mental illness is that it is more common than people realize.

10 Reasons Mental Illness Unemployment Rates are High

1. My illness is unpredictable.

Some days, I can function just as well as neurotypical brains . Other days, not so much and some days, not at all. I never know what type of day it will be when I wake up each morning, and that’s unsettling to me. How can I plan ahead or consistently show up every day?

2. Inability to maintain stability for long enough to work contributes to unemployment.

The longest I have maintained stability between episodes is < 3 weeks which is followed by 2 weeks of hypomania/depression/mixed moods. The mixed moods are the hardest for me. I’m both depressed and manic at the same time. My mind is racing with things I want/need to do, but my body refuses to cooperate. It’s a battle between my physical and mental being. It’s agonizing to have a hyperactive brain at the same time as being depressed. When the hopes/wants of mania are stunted by a weak body the racing thoughts turn from LET’S DO ALL THE THINGS to you’re a piece of shit that doesn’t do anything. My mind turns on me and irritability turns into aggression towards myself and sometimes others caught in the crosshairs.

3. Stress and lack of a consistent sleep schedule make my illness worse.

Stress & lack of treatment/selfcare are what led to my career ending mental breakdown. I can feel the way stress is impacting my health as my brain starts to deteriorate often leading to weeks or even months recovering. After the breakdown it took 2 years of pain, sickness, unemployment and stress for me to return to a healthy brain.

Did you know that unemployment often goes hand in hand with mental illness? The shocking truth of unemployment & mental illness is that it is more common than people realize.

4. I am sometimes unreliable due to my illness.

I can’t consistency maintain future commitments because of how often my moods fluctuate. This is one of the hardest challenges I face with having a chronic illness. On hypomanic days i’m the bell of the ball. My brain floods me with endorphins, high energy levels and confidence as I strut around thinking of how great I am. I’ll talk to anyone, over sharing with them at a rapid pace until they just look at me, speechless. I answer the phone when my friends call, I make it to our brunch date.

But when i’m depressed, everything changes…

I’m exhausted, living in a body no better than a shell as I wait out the darkness – alone, in solitude. I’ll cancel plans, not return calls, and go days into isolation from the world only to emerge from the shadows having to clean up all the messes my hypomanic episode made. I go through the list of people i’ve disappointed or upset and try to make amends, but after awhile – it can be too much for people. Which I get. But just can’t help.

5. I have anxiety and panic disorders.

Sometimes (often weeks) I don’t leave my house. Anxiety controls all my thought patterns, and I immediately assume the worst in people, or doing an activity. Consistent and public panic attacks would hit me at work, including in front of Managers & Supervisors. Which led them to the assumption that I was a child unfit for my position, crying as an excuse for working untraditionally when I was just too sick & too depressed to even brush my teeth that day. Stress, bipolar, & anxiety feed into my panic attacks making them worse, and last longer.

Statistics on unemployment and mental illness. Did you know that unemployment often goes hand in hand with mental illness? The shocking truth of unemployment & mental illness is that it is more common than people realize.

6. My energy levels fluctuate from day to day.

Imagine you’re trading a spoon for each task you need to do that day, you have unlimited spoons, unless you’re sick. Maybe those days you get 2,000. Tasks: Get out of bed. Pick out an outfit. Get dressed. Brush your teeth. Shower. Blow Dry hair. Let the dogs out. That would be 7 spoons, 1 for each action.

Each morning I wake up, I get a different amount of spoons ranging from 10 – 2000 depending on my mood (hypomanic / depressed / stable). Now imagine waking up one morning with 10 spoons – you have work, and can’t call off work, what do you use them on? To conserve my energy I’ll skip things such as showering (3 spoons. Yes, the value of my spoons is different than the value of your spoons) not drive to the grocery store (yes, driving counts as a spoon) not go to work (which requires 400+ spoons). Could you work full time on 10 spoons a day for a week each month? Me either. That’s why 80% of individuals with a mental illness are unemployed.

Bipolar disorder is associated with high rates of unemployment and job-related difficulties. A survey by the National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association showed that approximately 60% of individuals with bipolar disorder were unemployed, even among patients with college degrees. Additionally, 88% of the respondents reported occupational difficulties. Data from a large registry of patients with bipolar disorder also demonstrated an unemployment rate of about 60%.

bowden md, l, c., (2005). Supplements and Featured Publications, Understanding Bipolar Disorder: Impact on Patients, Providers, and Employers, Volume 11, Issue 3 Suppl

7. I have an eating disorder

I don’t eat unless it’s something easy like a granola bar, fresh fruit, or a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Most days I skip lunch, starving myself during the day because I don’t have the energy or will to make food for myself. My medication also has the side effect of suppressing hunger, so often times I just forget i’m supposed to eat. Logan prepares dinner when I’m low on spoons, which is most days. Since I haven’t eaten all day I binge eat my dinner. while also cutting up the entire plate of food into tiny bite size pieces, usually leaving a few bites or more left on the plate.

8. My medication has bad side effects, including a tremor and gastrointestinal problems.

The most disabling side effect I have are gastrointestinal issues. Some medications give me constipation, severe stomach cramps, nausea, amplifying my GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). These symptoms often prevent me from completing tasks that day, or doing fun activities which is very restrictive. On average I spend at least 1-3 hours throughout the day sick with nausea. I get headaches and migraines (which I also have medication for). Then there’s the dry mouth where my lips stick together when I talk and you can literally hear the dry mouth in my speech. Try giving a speech or leading a meeting with cotton in your mouth, you’ll get it. I developed a tremor in my hands from one of the medications which made it extremely difficult to maintain my photography hobby, so I was prescribed ANOTHER pill to help with the tremors.

Social stigma is an underestimated contributing factor to unemployment in people with mental illness or mental health issues.

BMC Psychol 8, 36 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-020-00399-0

9. I have regular appointments with my mental health professionals.

In order to maintain stability and keep my disorder from further deterioration it is crucial to keep and show up for my appointments. A missed appointment with my Psychiatrist can cause medication delays, worsening side effects, and a hit to my progress in getting well. We meet once a month to do a med check, or more if my medication treatment plan has changed.

My Therapist is literally a lifesaver. I didn’t start seeking help until I was suicidal, even though the signs of suicide showed for months prior. My session times vary from week to week depending on my mood. In the beginning when I first started seeing my therapist I was on a 2x/week appointment schedule that lasted almost 1.5 years. Today I see her on an as needed basis.

Did you know that unemployment often goes hand in hand with mental illness? The shocking truth of unemployment & mental illness is that it is more common than people realize.

10. I have to sometimes go to the hospital.

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you understand what I am about to explain. Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere, and without warning. They can be triggered by unexplainable events, making the panic attack that much scarier. Once you’ve had one, it’s very possible you may live in fear of having another. My panic disorder has gone as far as avoiding places or people where previous attacks have occurred.

Panic attacks feel like you’re dying. When they happen during a bipolar episode, the consequences are complete loss of control of body and mind. Mine are so severe that they have put me in the hospital 3+ times in the past few years.

Annual prevalence among U.S. adults, by condition:

Major Depressive Episode: 7.8% (19.4 million people)

Schizophrenia: <1% (estimated 1.5 million people)

Bipolar Disorder: 2.8% (estimated 7 million people)

Anxiety Disorders: 19.1% (estimated 48 million people)

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6% (estimated 9 million people)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2% (estimated 3 million people)

Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4% (estimated 3.5 million people)

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MENTAL ILLNESS (NAMI)

Unemployed mentally ill are not lazy – they’re warriors

Most of us very desperately WANT to work, but fighting for our lives everyday is a full time job in itself, and can prevent that. I wrote this article in hope that I can explain some of the reasons I and many others are unemployed.

It’s upsetting when people judge me and assume I just don’t try. Because that’s simply not true. I have been employed since I was 13 years old. Babysitting, ice cream parlor, pet shop, retail worker, cashier, receptionist, restaurant host, server, cook. From 14 – 31 years old I have been either part or full time employed. In highschool I worked 2 afterschool jobs – going right from school to one then the next 5-7 days a week. In college I was enrolled in 4+ classes each semester while working 2 jobs 5-7 days a week and still graduated with honors holding a Bachelors in Science with a concentration in Occupational Health & Safety, I held on to each of these jobs until I was ready to move on – never getting fired.

Unemployed does not equal unqualified

Senior year of college I was an intern with a fortune 500 company. After graduation I was offered a full time position where my career took off. Every couple years I was getting promoted to a higher position with a larger salary. My free time was spent traveling the world with my friends, visiting a new place 1-3x a month. I had a 6 figure salary, and could afford to travel anywhere I wanted in the world with no concern of being able to pay my bills that month. In my final year of my career I was promoted again.

Can Stigma Prevent Employment?

The short answer is yes—stigma does prevent people with mental illness from getting a job. But why?Well, people with mental health conditions are typically held responsible and blamed for their behavior and symptoms. Simultaneously, they are perceived as unable to make decisions for themselves. This causes people with mental health conditions to be perceived as “unsuitable” for the workforce.

Greenstein, L. (2017, october 16). Can stigma prevent employment. nami

My mental state was fragile and teetering towards collapse before the promotion and added stress. At the same time I was learning my new role & managing a team for the first time – I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, panic disorder, anxiety disorder, ADHD, & lingering PTSD. A few months later, between therapy 2x/week, finding a psychiatrist (it is NOT EASY) experimenting with medications, testing, and regular doctor appointments – I had 3 mental breakdowns in less than a month. Ending my career at 31 years old.

Tomorrow is a new day

I won’t stop trying to do what I can when i’m able. Trust me – I wish I could work full time again and go back to my life before becoming unemployed. But when my doctors are telling me I have to choose between my job and my mental health – I’ll choose my health every time. After almost 2 years of recovery I know now what I need to succeed in my chosen profession, but unfortunately the U.S is decades behind understanding how to make accommodations in the workforce for the mentally ill.

So the next time you hear that someone is unemployed and hasn’t worked for awhile – please don’t be so quick to judge them. Help us break the stigma of what “unemployment” means. It doesn’t mean someone is lazy or just doesn’t want to work (I understand this may not be true for EVERY case). Because there is a great possibility they simply can’t, not won’t.

I hope you enjoyed this article and it providing you with an awareness about how having a mental illness may affect jobs & unemployment. Drop a comment below and share your thoughts with me and other readers!

Don’t forget to pin it and share with your friends & family!

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The Truth About Anxiety Disorder

Have you ever experienced an anxiety attack? Read about my personal experience with having an anxiety disorder and what it’s like to have an anxiety attack.

The Truth About Anxiety

Learning the truth about Anxiety Disorder can help you and your loved ones. Understanding how they feel is so important when helping your loved one get through it. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel extremely worried or feel nervous about these and other things—even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. People with GAD find it difficult to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily tasks.

– National Institute of Mental Health

Each of us worries. Being late, public speaking, break ups, relationship – you know, life stuff. Most people get through it, and your nerves settle as you breathe that sigh of relief. You can feel your anxiety leaving your body, and putting the event behind you. That sign of relief. I crave it so much. Because the truth about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is that when you’re living with the mental illness, that sigh of relief you feel? Well, it never comes for us.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst. They worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes.

– Mental Health America Association

What are the signs and symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?

GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. People with GAD may:

Children and teens with GAD often worry excessively about:

Adults with GAD are highly nervous about everyday circumstances

Children and adults with GAD may experience physical symptoms that make it hard to function and that interfere with daily life.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My story of what an anxiety attack feels like.

In March 2019 I was diagnosed with the mental illness’ Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder II and Panic Disorder (yep, they’re two separate illnesses).

It’s been a long hard journey, and it’s only just begun.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My illnesses are chronic, which means they will be with me my entire life.

Incurable diseases, of my brain.

The same brain that controls our movement. The organ which processes all of our thoughts and sensory information like sound, touch, sight, feels, and smells coming in. NCBI states that the conscious and unconscious actions and feelings are also produced here. Our brains are responsible for keeping our bodies alive and functioning in the world. Speech, listening/hearing, our intelligence and memory all rely on how our brains function. Do you see how having a brain disease might impair one’s abilities?

It’s called an invisible illness for a reason. No one can see it, except me.

Helpful Resources

*Trigger Warning*

Content in this article contains first hand experience of generalized anxiety disorder, mental illness, and suicidal idealization which some readers may find triggering or upsetting. If you need support at anytime, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, or the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOM

The Truth About Anxiety

Learning the truth about Anxiety Disorder can help you and your loved ones. Understanding how they feel is so important when helping your loved one get through it. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel extremely worried or feel nervous about these and other things—even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. People with GAD find it difficult to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily tasks.

– National Institute of Mental Health

Each of us worries. Being late, public speaking, break ups, relationship – you know, life stuff. Most people get through it, and your nerves settle as you breathe that sigh of relief. You can feel your anxiety leaving your body, and putting the event behind you. That sign of relief. I crave it so much. Because the truth about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is that when you’re living with the mental illness, that sigh of relief you feel? Well, it never comes for us.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst. They worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes.

– Mental Health America Association

What are the signs and symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?

GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. People with GAD may:

  • Worry excessively about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their worries or feelings of nervousness
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Feel restless and have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel easily tired or tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable or feel “on edge”
  • Sweat a lot, feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot

Children and teens with GAD often worry excessively about:

  • Their performance, such as in school or in sports
  • Catastrophes, such as earthquakes or war

Adults with GAD are highly nervous about everyday circumstances

  • Job security or performance
  • Health
  • Finances
  • The health and well-being of their children
  • Being late
  • Completing household chores and other responsibilities

Children and adults with GAD may experience physical symptoms that make it hard to function and that interfere with daily life.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My story of what an anxiety attack feels like.

In March 2019 I was diagnosed with the mental illness’ Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder II and Panic Disorder (yep, they’re two separate illnesses).

It’s been a long hard journey, and it’s only just begun.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My illnesses are chronic, which means they will be with me my entire life.

Incurable diseases, of my brain.

The same brain that controls our movement. The organ which processes all of our thoughts and sensory information like sound, touch, sight, feels, and smells coming in. NCBI states that the conscious and unconscious actions and feelings are also produced here. Our brains are responsible for keeping our bodies alive and functioning in the world. Speech, listening/hearing, our intelligence and memory all rely on how our brains function. Do you see how having a brain disease might impair one’s abilities?

It’s called an invisible illness for a reason. No one can see it, except me.

Helpful Resources

*Trigger Warning*

Content in this article contains first hand experience of generalized anxiety disorder, mental illness, and suicidal idealization which some readers may find triggering or upsetting. If you need support at anytime, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, or the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOM

The Truth About Anxiety

Learning the truth about Anxiety Disorder can help you and your loved ones. Understanding how they feel is so important when helping your loved one get through it. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel extremely worried or feel nervous about these and other things—even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. People with GAD find it difficult to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily tasks.

– National Institute of Mental Health

Each of us worries. Being late, public speaking, break ups, relationship – you know, life stuff. Most people get through it, and your nerves settle as you breathe that sigh of relief. You can feel your anxiety leaving your body, and putting the event behind you. That sign of relief. I crave it so much. Because the truth about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is that when you’re living with the mental illness, that sigh of relief you feel? Well, it never comes for us.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst. They worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes.

– Mental Health America Association

What are the signs and symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?

GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. People with GAD may:

  • Worry excessively about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their worries or feelings of nervousness
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Feel restless and have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel easily tired or tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable or feel “on edge”
  • Sweat a lot, feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot

Children and teens with GAD often worry excessively about:

  • Their performance, such as in school or in sports
  • Catastrophes, such as earthquakes or war

Adults with GAD are highly nervous about everyday circumstances

  • Job security or performance
  • Health
  • Finances
  • The health and well-being of their children
  • Being late
  • Completing household chores and other responsibilities

Children and adults with GAD may experience physical symptoms that make it hard to function and that interfere with daily life.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My story of what an anxiety attack feels like.

In March 2019 I was diagnosed with the mental illness’ Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder II and Panic Disorder (yep, they’re two separate illnesses).

It’s been a long hard journey, and it’s only just begun.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My illnesses are chronic, which means they will be with me my entire life.

Incurable diseases, of my brain.

The same brain that controls our movement. The organ which processes all of our thoughts and sensory information like sound, touch, sight, feels, and smells coming in. NCBI states that the conscious and unconscious actions and feelings are also produced here. Our brains are responsible for keeping our bodies alive and functioning in the world. Speech, listening/hearing, our intelligence and memory all rely on how our brains function. Do you see how having a brain disease might impair one’s abilities?

It’s called an invisible illness for a reason. No one can see it, except me.

Helpful Resources

*Trigger Warning*

Content in this article contains first hand experience of generalized anxiety disorder, mental illness, and suicidal idealization which some readers may find triggering or upsetting. If you need support at anytime, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, or the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOM

The Truth About Anxiety

Learning the truth about Anxiety Disorder can help you and your loved ones. Understanding how they feel is so important when helping your loved one get through it. Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel extremely worried or feel nervous about these and other things—even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. People with GAD find it difficult to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily tasks.

– National Institute of Mental Health

Each of us worries. Being late, public speaking, break ups, relationship – you know, life stuff. Most people get through it, and your nerves settle as you breathe that sigh of relief. You can feel your anxiety leaving your body, and putting the event behind you. That sign of relief. I crave it so much. Because the truth about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is that when you’re living with the mental illness, that sigh of relief you feel? Well, it never comes for us.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst. They worry excessively about money, health, family or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes.

– Mental Health America Association

What are the signs and symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?

GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. People with GAD may:

  • Worry excessively about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their worries or feelings of nervousness
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Feel restless and have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel easily tired or tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable or feel “on edge”
  • Sweat a lot, feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot

Children and teens with GAD often worry excessively about:

  • Their performance, such as in school or in sports
  • Catastrophes, such as earthquakes or war

Adults with GAD are highly nervous about everyday circumstances

  • Job security or performance
  • Health
  • Finances
  • The health and well-being of their children
  • Being late
  • Completing household chores and other responsibilities

Children and adults with GAD may experience physical symptoms that make it hard to function and that interfere with daily life.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My story of what an anxiety attack feels like.

In March 2019 I was diagnosed with the mental illness’ Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder II and Panic Disorder (yep, they’re two separate illnesses).

It’s been a long hard journey, and it’s only just begun.

The symptoms of anxiety disorder get better or worse at different times, depending on times of stress levels. Anxiety is like a physical illness, during exams at school, or during a family or relationship conflict.

My illnesses are chronic, which means they will be with me my entire life.

Incurable diseases, of my brain.

The same brain that controls our movement. The organ which processes all of our thoughts and sensory information like sound, touch, sight, feels, and smells coming in. NCBI states that the conscious and unconscious actions and feelings are also produced here. Our brains are responsible for keeping our bodies alive and functioning in the world. Speech, listening/hearing, our intelligence and memory all rely on how our brains function. Do you see how having a brain disease might impair one’s abilities?

It’s called an invisible illness for a reason. No one can see it, except me.

Helpful Resources

*Trigger Warning*

Content in this article contains first hand experience of generalized anxiety disorder, mental illness, and suicidal idealization which some readers may find triggering or upsetting. If you need support at anytime, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK, or the National Postpartum Depression Hotline at 1-800-PPD-MOM

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Mental Illness Travel

10 Achievable Bipolar Wins Worth Celebrating

3 Comments
Learn how the small wins along your bipolar journey are worth acknowledging and celebrating. Learn how to live, and not just exist.

My journey with bipolar started in November 2018 during my first therapy session i’ve ever attended. Along the way I’ve learned about my bipolar disorder, and other health conditions that I have such as panic disorder. More importantly,  how celebrating the small wins along the way is worth acknowledging. I learned how to manage and cope with my bipolar episodes of depression and mania. More importantly, how to live – not just exist with them. Needless to say – it has been quite the ride and there have been some crashes along the way. Just ask Logan, it’s never a dull moment. Which I’m sure some of my fellow mental health warriors can relate to. Despite how difficult living with a disability and all that it comes with it is not everything has been terrible. Even though my brain tries to trick me into thinking so.

My therapist taught me to celebrate my “wins” each day, no matter how small or how big they are. In the beginning of my mental health journey, some days I would celebrate small victories like showering or cleaning my apartment. Now almost two years later (WOW time has flown). I wanted to share some of my recent wins I am celebrating this month.

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Learn how the small wins along your bipolar journey are worth acknowledging and celebrating. Learn how to live, and not just exist. #bipolar #success #disorder #disability

10 Bipolar Wins I’m Celebrating

What are some of your big wins for this past month? Comment below to share your victories!

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Learn more about Bipolar Disorder

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Mental Illness Travel

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

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My story about what a panic attack feels like, to help people understand the severity of the mental illness and how it affects my life. Including the travel limitations it can inflict.
Peru; November 2017; 7 days; 2 panic attacks

What does a Panic Attack Feel Like?

I wanted to write about what a panic attack feels like to help people understand the severity of the mental illness and how it affects my life. Including the travel limitations it can inflict in addition to the every challenges. Writing this post about what happened to me was difficult, and it brought out a lot of emotions as I was writing. But it’s time to talk about it, I can no longer stay silent and hide my chronic illnesses out of fear of judgement, prejudice, or discrimination. I struggle everyday to win the internal battle my mental illnesses raging within me.

I debated if I should start integrating mental health into my travel blog for over a year, when I was first diagnosed. Times are changing, faster than anyone ever could have predicted. The travel industry has collapsed these past few weeks with the COVID-19 virus wreaking havoc on the world, and the uncertainty of the future has many of us scared. Which is why I think now more than ever, it is so important to start these conversations. Understanding each others differences, and working together to overcome the adversity will lead us into a brighter future. My name is Chelsea, I have Panic Disorder and this is my story.

On a scale of 1-10 how severe do you consider panic disorder to be?

Not Severe 1 – 10 Disabling


Hawaii, Feb 2019, 7 days, 3 panic attacks
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What is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is on the severe end of the anxiety disorder spectrum. But on the severe side… My panic attacks personally happen anywhere, at anytime, unexpectedly, and don’t need a “trigger” for the attack to happen. With no warning of the onset, it makes the disorder extremely difficult to manage. So what exactly is panic disorder? what does a panic attack feel like?

An abrupt feeling of terror washes over you when there is no real danger. It’s the feeling that you are losing control of your mind, your body, and yourself. It feels like you’re dying. Your brain is telling you, you’re dying! But it’s not just “feelings”. A panic attack also has physical symptoms, which fuels the panic that you’re dying, symptoms such as:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Severe chest or stomach pain
  • Breathing difficulty, not being able to breathe
  • Weakness, dizziness, confusion
  • Sweating
  • Feeling hot or a cold chill sometimes going from one to the other and back. Or feeling both hot/cold at the same time.
  • Tingly or numb hands & limbs
North Cascades National Park; July 2019; 2 panic attacks
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Quality of Life

Aside from the physical and mental pain that an attack has on your body- after you recover, you’re terrified at what happened. Everyday I fear that another attack will consume me. I often avoid places where past attacks have happened, especially in public places- like an airport. I once sat on an airport bench in LAX for almost an hour during a panic attack. Unable to move, feeling like I would throw up at any minute, with blurred vision. How could I go through TSA like that? I barely made my flight as I pushed through the panic and disconnected mentally from my physical being.

Banff National Park Road trip; September 2019; 7 days; 1 panic attack

For some people, the fear of another attack takes over their lives and they cannot leave their homes. The disorder is more common in women than men and can start to develop as a young adult. Most people can get better with cognitive therapy treatment and medication, but there is no cure. So my question to you reader is this-

On a scale of 1-10 how severe do you consider panic disorder to be?

Not Severe 1 – 10 Disabling

Remember that number.

My Story

The following story, is from my most recent panic attack experience. It was the most severe attack I’ve ever had, lasting for almost 2.5 hours. I woke up the morning after, and wrote down my account as best I could before I no longer remembered. I sat down at my computer with my eyes closed, and went back to the night before, just typing as the words came to me. There were two times where I needed to take a break and stop writing because of the tears that came with it. This is what I wrote, unedited. So … welcome to my head.

**TRIGGER WARNING** The following contains potentially distressing content. Reader discretion is advised.

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

Logan and I had pizza friday, and were watching how to train your dragon we were almost to the end, and there was a scene where the dragons and humans were flying through the clouds, popping in and out of sight. i started to get nauseous, not understanding why, bad pizza? i laid my head back and closed my eyes as i just listened. a few minutes later the nausea got worse, and i began feeling like i was overheating. i had to cool my body temperature down, something wasn’t right. i laid on the bathroom tile, thinking i was going to be sick with food poisoning, still trying to cool down my rapidly growing temperature. it wasn’t working, my nausea and the stomach pain were getting worse.

i go outside onto the deck in the 40 degree cool winter night, and sat in a t-shirt, sweatpants, and no socks while I sit there for what felt like just minutes. Today Logan said it was more like 30-45 minutes. Logan came out to check and see if i was cold, or wanted to come inside. I wasn’t. i was enjoying the cool breeze on my face, and the comfort that the darkness was bringing as I stared out into the nothingness.

this is where my memories begin to fade, and i begin to come in and out of consciousness. i lay outside on the deck just repeating over and over to logan that my stomach hurt and something was wrong. he brought me my anti nausea medication upon my request, and sat outside with me in his winter jacket and outdoor clothing. i lay there helpless, in pain, terrified, and unable to move for fear that if i open my eyes, the nausea will return.

Will it ever end?

now i’m inside on the kitchen floor because I’m freezing and shivering. logan tells me i need to back away from the door because mia (our dog) is outside and she needs to come in. ok i say. nothing happens, i cant open my eyes, all i feel is fear, and pain. something isn’t right i say. on all fours, i drag myself further into the kitchen, trying to make it to the couch.

the pain becomes so bad i collapse and start to cry. just laying there being afraid, of what i didn’t know. i couldn’t get up. it wasn’t safe. my leg started shaking, and it felt as if i was having convulsions from my toes up to my thigh, at the same time the pain in my stomach becomes unbearable and i cry out in pain as i fight through the wave of pain trying not to pass out.

my breathing starts to slow, it’s going slower, slower, more shallow. logan, something’s not right. somethings wrong with me i tell him. i can’t breathe. can you google my symptoms? i think i’m dying. can you find out whats wrong? please, i beg him. the convulsions start again, and i’m gone once more, lost in the pain. the pain of my legs from shaking uncontrollably, the pain of it going up and into my stomach, making it cramp so bad i thought it might be period cramps or kidney stones.

Panic Disorder is the worst

Chels i dont know whats wrong, i dont know whats happening. sheer terror brings a cold chill down my whole body, and i begin to shake, and shiver. what’s wrong with me repeats in my head as a loop. i ask logan again, whats wrong with me? …i don’t know sweetheart, did you google my symptoms? not yet sweetie, i don’t know what you want me to google.

i think i have the coronavirus. i think i’m dying. i cant breathe.. i cant open my eyes, all i feel is pain. everything hurts. i think i’m dying. i tell him. my breathing slows again, and i get a reprieve from the pain coursing through my veins. i’m laying halfway in between the living room and the kitchen now. i open my eyes, and look into his for the first time. i think i’m having a panic attack, i tell him. i need my medicine, i don’t want to die. which medicine? he asks.

chels…chelsea… i feel him touch me…which medicine chels? i don’t remember. why is he asking about medicine? whats happening to me i ask him. i think you’re sick honey, he says. i start to cry again, my time has come, i’m not ready to die i cry. I think we need to take you to the hospital, logan says. whats the hospital? i ask. “the fact that you don’t know what a hospital is, makes me certain we need to take you in, you’re sick sweetheart.”

The end is near

this is it. my time has come. i didn’t think i’d die this young. they say death sneaks up on us. am i dying? i ask him. no, no you’re not dying, we just need to get you to the hospital. what’s a hospital? i’m so confused. its where people go when they’re sick. but i’m not sick, i’m’ not i tell him. just let me rest here. just let me close my eyes, i just need to go to sleep. did you get my medicine? no…you still need to tell me what one

babe.. i think i’m having a panic attack, i tell him. can you get me my medicine? babe…i beg him, please. please make it go away. something is wrong. something isn’t right. what’s happening to me? you’re sick sweetheart.. xanax i say. i need my xanax, i think i’m having a panic attack. i feel him get up. which cupboard are they in? the cupboard downstairs. where babe, which cupboard, i’m downstairs, open your eyes. i can’t… the light. please turn the light off. i’m not ready. I’m not ready to leave you. I don’t want to die.

the pain starts. i roll into a ball trying to stop it, but i feel it coming, my legs begin shaking again, and it continues up up into my stomach, into my head. im gone. is it ok to take the medicine with the other one you took? i don’t know. i say. i don’t know. i fall asleep. babe…wake up, take your medicine. where is it i ask? its in your hand, its still in your hand. ok. its ok if i take it? yes, he says, go ahead and take it. ok. i fall asleep.

chels.. c’mon. lets go to the hospital. whats the hospital? what happens there? is it because i’m dying? i have the coronavirus dont i? i start crying, i cant breathe again. Logan tries to calm me, no, no you don’t have the virus. you might have food poisoning. i fade out again. still laying on the floor, i open my eyes not knowing how much time had passed. everything is foggy, but I see his face. chels i think it’s time to go to the hospital. what’s a hospital? i ask him once again. i think i’m having a panic attack. let me sleep. let me just sleep and i’ll be ok.

chels.. you’re sick. this isn’t normal, you can’t tell me what a hospital is. he’s right. what is a hospital. i don’t wanna go there. he gets up and i grab hold of his arm as the terror shoots through me again, begging him to please whatever he does- please don’t leave me. The pain is coming, my eyes water as my legs begin shaking again, i’m so nauseous. he gets up and turns a light on, NOOOO i yell. please no!! please turn it off. It hurts me. Why don’t you try and throw up he says… i cant. i cant do it. why not? its not allowed. i just cant do it. did you get my medicine?

i look into my hand, it’s not there- did you get my medicine? yes chels… you took it awhile ago, it was in your hand. are you sure? I ask. it’s not there. it’s time to go chels. where are we going? the hospital. whats the hospital i ask him again. wait… i’ve asked him this before. i know it. logan- did i ask you that already? yes, a couple times he says. but i don’t remember. am i looping again? i can’t remember anything. it’s just darkness. i try to remember what a hospital is. what it means to be sick. i’m dying. you’re dying, i tell myself. he wants me to go there so they can save me, but it’s too late. i’m fading. i fall asleep.

come on chels, its time. no… no please, let me stay just a little longer. i don’t want to die yet. i open my eyes and all i can see is logan’s face. i look into his eyes, i hear the dogs whining around me, they know too i think. ok.. ok what he says? ok we can go to the hospital. i don’t want to die yet. he helps me get up and i walk for the first time into the living room to put my shoes on. i’m at the door, and the light goes on. panic.

no. no no no no no. turn it off. turn it off i say. i’m on the couch in a ball, with my eyes closed and the pain coming back full force. please shut them off, they’re hurting me. there’s going to be lots of lights at the hospital he says… the lights won’t hurt you. the darkness feels good. whats the hospital? i ask confused. that’s where we’re going he said, put your shoes on ok? ok. i can do that. i get up and put my shoes on. the light turns on. i crumble to the floor right where i stood. crying, begging, please no.. please just please keep the light off. it hurts me. it’s killing me.

that’s why we’re going to the hospital logan says, where are your cards? where are all your medical cards? on my desk. are they all here he asks? yes, those are them. WAIT. no… no i say. we can’t go. i dont have insurance. i can’t go to the emergency. call an ambulance instead. but i can’t go to the hospital. he tries helping me up again to go.

no… no. am i sick? i ask again. yes… you’re sick sweetheart. so this isn’t normal? no.. am i sick like grandma Quida was? i ask him, am i going to be with her now? the light scares me. i’m not ready. i’m not ready to go towards the light. i can’t leave you. no… you’re not sick like grandma Quida he said.. you’re just sick, and need a doctor.

What is normal?

i’ll go upstairs i say. i’ll go upstairs and sleep in the bed. is that normal? yes..that’s normal. but i think we should still go to the hospital, he said. the lights. no… no i’m not sick, i promise. if i make it upstairs, do we have to go to the hospital?

if you make it upstairs and fall asleep/start feeling better, we don’t have to go. ok. ok..ok. i can do that. “can you turn off all the lights?” they’re off sweetheart. no… no there’s still a light i can see it. “that’s a candle, you won’t be able to get upstairs in the dark.

panic. i can’t… i can’t go. please make all the light go away. the blinds too. the windows. the candle. all the light. i won’t make it up there unless it’s gone. i start to fall asleep again. they’re off – he says. it’s dark now.. can i help you upstairs? i open my eyes, its dark. it’s safe now.

yes. yes, can you help me upstairs? i’m in bed now. “is this normal?” i ask him. is what normal? me. me being in bed like this and going to sleep. that’s ok? yes he says. i can go to sleep? yes. What will happen? i won’t wake up will i. panic. i don’t want to die. i want to wake up. “you’ll go to sleep, and then wake up” he says. he’s lying. i know i’m dying, he’s too scared to admit it. “will you stay with me until i fall asleep?” yes. i’ll stay.

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i woke up this morning and every inch of my body hurt. an aching hurt, like when you over do it at the gym. something bad happened last night, and i just want to sleep. i’m so tired. i’m exhausted. i can’t keep my eyes open. logan brought me some coffee, and laid with me, rubbed my back – and i began to relax again, falling back to sleep. i’m awake now, fully alert. remembering and recounting what happened. i think it’s important to write this down. it needs to be shared.

it wasn’t just me that was terrified, and cold with fear. Logan watched me, helped me, took care of me, and saw what happened to me. he watched for hours, as the loops, pain, terror, and death consumed me. he watched, and could do nothing to stop it. i can only imagine what it must have been like for him. its not fair. its not fair to either of us. for me to live with these brain diseases. this was one of the worst panic attacks i’ve had in months. it came out of nowhere – blindsiding me. slowly taking over control of not just my body, but my mind. until eventually, i wasn’t there anymore. me. chelsea. my essence. it just wasn’t there.

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So i’ll ask you again – on a scale of 1-10 how severe do you consider panic disorder to be?

Not Severe 1 – 10 Disabling



If you or someone you know struggles with Panic Disorder, or other mental health illnesses- talk about it. Don’t be afraid, it’s time.

My younger sister is reaching the same age that I was when my mental health took a decline, and became unbearable. I recognize the pain in her eyes, the confusion, and the desperate need for help. I sought help, but it would be 7 years before I received the correct diagnosis, and treatment.

A month before my panic attack, my sister was in the hospital, when I spoke with her partner he explained what happened. Memory loss. Unable to speak. Unable to move. Pain. Paralysis. She was cleared from the hospital a few hours after her arrival. Diagnosis? Panic attack. She is now receiving the help she needs, and her mental health is improving as we fight this hereditary illness together.

Working for GM; 7 years; 30+ panic attacks; 3 hospital visits
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Don’t keep the pain locked inside to consume you.

Being sick is not your fault. It doesn’t matter if it’s the flu, depression, panic disorder, or cancer- you did not choose this, to be sick. Don’t let others make you feel ashamed, or like “it’s all in your head”. Those people are ignorant, and you know the truth. Keep fighting, it won’t be this bad forever, and the world needs you.

xx

Recommended Read: “My Guide To Managing Multiple Mental Illnesses” by Beyond the Blues

Nevada; February 2020; 5 days; 0 panic attacks
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Pin this post to help others struggling & help create awareness for those that don’t understand the struggle that is mental illness.