Anxiety is a natural, and necessary part of life. Without it we would never feel pressured to get something done. There would be nothing lighting a fire under us to keep us moving. So, anxiety is a good thing. In fact, stress can be divided up into two components: distress – the negative kind of stress we all know and no so much love. And Eustress. Eustress is a good kind of stress; it is motivating. Without it we would get nowhere. But what happens when stress and anxiety begin to take over every inch of our life. We become paralyze by anxiety and so it keeps us stagnant in a constant state of worry and panic that no matter what we choose to do, something terrible will happen.
This is called an anxiety disorder- and there are several types: panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and phobias. Having an anxiety disorder is totally different to experiencing anxiety. But so often we fail to realize the difference. We may experience a great deal of anxiety. For example, as military spouses we are constantly faced with anxiety: where is my husband? Is he safe? When will he get home? But unless the anxiety we feel from that uncertainty becomes crippling, we don’t really have an anxiety disorder.
And if we don’t begin to learn the difference between everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorders than those who need more help, will never go get it. In today’s society we have so normalized feeling anxious. We have anxious children, and we talk about being anxious over this or that. And for most people after the stressful event is over our anxiety is gone. But what about the rest of the people, the ones who are so anxious they can’t leave their house, even though from the outside it looks as though all things are clear? If we don’t talk about what it isn’t normal, then we will never know when we need help and how to get better. And it is so important to know when to get help; because anxiety disorders are 100% treatable.
This is not to make your fears and worries any less valid. Being a military spouse is hard and full of anxiety provoking events and we can learn to cope with that. In fact, if you are interested in learning more ways to reduce anxiety, I wrote a guest post here are my Top 10 Ways Military Spouses Can Reduce Anxiety.
Unfortunately, because of military life, military spouses are more likely than their civilian counterparts to being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. While anxiety disorders are treatable, we must recognize the difference between experiencing anxiety and having an anxiety disorder. So what are some signs and symptoms that you might be experiencing more than just anxiety?
The anxiety you feel…
- … prevents you from leaving you house;
- … prevents you from being able to make decisions;
- … causes you to become isolated;
- … avoiding all situations associated with anxiety (e.g. you quit running because the elevated heart rate reminds you of the way you feel when anxious);
- … excessive fear or anxiety that is disproportionate to the event;
- … evidence of avoidant behaviors- becoming isolated;
- … last for more than six months;
- … and, you find yourself fearful and worried even when nothing is wrong.
These are signs that maybe you need to get further help to manage your anxiety because it is more than just the normal stress we feel from day to day.
What to do if you think you have an Anxiety Disorder?
So now that we know what to look for, where do we turn when we believe we need help? Thankfully the military has lots of resources to help family members get the help they need. And most of these resources are free and confidential. One of my top recommendations are the Family Life Chaplains. These chaplains, unlike the unit chaplains, are trained as family counselors. Not only that but there is the added benefit of more confidentiality because they are removed from husband’s unit as they are centrally located typically to serve all units on a post.
If you are uncomfortable seeing a religious leader, Military Family Life Consultants (or MFLCs) are another wonderful, free, confidential service that is provided. They are independent contractors and are licensed clinical social workers or counselors. They don’t bill tri-care so no records are kept. These are the two I am most familiar with- however there is also behavioral health doctors who can help, especially if medication is required to manage your anxiety. Family Advocacy Program (FAP) also has many resources for families, but these do vary from post to post.
However you decide to seek help, no that you are not alone, so many military spouses struggle with anxiety, I mean it is hard not to with all the decisions we have to make for our families day in and day out.