With the rise of mental disorders taking place in youths, many people are starting to open up and speak about their experiences with disorders to help those who are suffering. Linnette Sung is one of them. Having gone through an anxiety disorder before, she decided to start The Make A Difference (M.A.D) Race to raise awareness about mental health in Singapore.
We have a quick chat with Linnette about anxiety disorders and how it’s different from just being anxious.
All of us know what it’s like to feel anxious, whether it’s about pressure from school or work or something personal — but we may not know what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder. How serious a problem can anxiety be?
It can make one dysfunctional – not being able to attend school, work or even step out of the house. That was what happened to me. I was about to enter university and I found myself unable to take the bus/MRT to school, sit through lectures, and stand being in a crowd.
Is generalised anxiety disorder the same as general anxiety?
I think it’s different, as the anxiety level felt is way higher than general anxiety. One who has generalised anxiety disorder feels like the heart is beating way too fast. It’s like when we are going to take our exams, we feel anxious, but I feel like I’m way more anxious than the rest of the other students. It felt like I was going to collapse and have a breakdown.
What happens when you have an anxiety disorder?
I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack and I can’t breathe. My limbs start feeling numb and my breathing becomes irregular. Negative thoughts flood my mind. Thoughts become irrational. For example, I remember telling my mom that if there’s a war, where we should hide. Thinking back, it’s quite funny but when I was in that moment, it wasn’t funny at all.
Does anxiety lead to other mental health issues?
Yes it does. For example, it can lead to depression. When I had anxiety disorder, I felt really depressed. I questioned if I would ever recover, and how I could live. It doesn’t make me feel better and in fact, I became more negative. Thoughts about the purpose of life flood through my mind and I felt that life has lost its meaning. I tried to tell people about it but I was afraid that I would be ostracized.
Do people recover from anxiety?
Definitely. I have recovered from it. It felt like a nightmare when I was suffering from anxiety but looking back now, I felt that it was a growing journey for me. It opened up my eyes to see mental health in a different perspective and now, I’m a strong advocate for the mental health awareness movement. My friends and I started The Make A Difference (M.A.D) Race to raise awareness about mental health in Singapore. We hope to stir up talks about mental health, awareness on what it is, breaking and tearing down social stigma and restoring hope to people going through it.
What treatment options are available?
You can see a counselor or psychologist for therapy.
Are there any coping factors to help deal effectively with anxiety?
Having a strong support group helps in the recovery process. My family was my support. My aunty would bring me to school, wait for me while I had lectures and sent me back. I really can’t imagine going through it without her. I had a few coping mechanisms, such as playing the PlayStation Portable (PSP) when I am anxious, because it keeps my mind occupied from negative thoughts, counting things on the train/bus, breathing techniques, etc. These help to distract me from being anxious and eventually positive self talk helped to wind me off these distractions.