(Courtesy Beth Evans)
Feeling nervous on your wedding day is something that most people will tell you is completely normal. For some, though, feeling highly strung is a near constant experience – so what kind of nasty cocktail will be created if these two particular brands of tension are combined?
Having a chronic anxiety disorder is quite different from the regular kind of occasional nervousness that most people are accustomed to. For an anxiety sufferer, overwhelming feelings of panic, dread, worry or tension are always present – if not in the foreground of their lives, certainly lurking in the background, threatening to emerge at any moment.
Generally speaking, mental health problems, including anxiety, are often misunderstood. Some dismiss them as “all in your head” – but what they don’t realise is that sometimes your own head is the most terrifying place possible, and the fact that any physical symptoms (heart racing, shallow breathing, dizziness, sweaty palms) are merely a result of that doesn’t make the entire experience any less traumatic.
You may wonder how it is I can describe all this in such detail. The truth is, it’s not because of extensive research, or from conversing with sufferers, or watching documentaries on the subject (although I do all these things anyway). It’s because I myself have suffered from an anxiety disorder for over a decade.
Since I have a magnificent talent for considering every conceivable thing that could go wrong with anything ever (neurotic much?), the possibility that I might feel highly anxious or even experience a full-blown panic attack on my wedding day is something I’ve worried about for sure. The trouble is that feeling even just a little nervous about anything can easily spin out into terrible anxiety.
Turns out, I’m not the only one with such concerns. Anxiety disorders are more common than one might think; in fact, a 2006 study* reported that 16,6% of all people have suffered chronic anxiety at some point in their lives. If we take world population to be approximately 7 billion, that means that over a thousand million people worldwide are anxiety sufferers.
The real question is, how can we control excessive anxiety on days of important events? Perhaps the wisest strategy is to prepare a long-term solution beforehand – at least, if possible – for the sake of greater overall stability. Most people do this through the use of therapy or medication or both.
Learning coping mechanisms is generally considered to be the most effective way to tackle anxiety long-term, but it takes a lot of hard work and mental resilience on the part of the anxiety sufferer to do just that. When this method falls short, medication can be a back-up strategy so long as the anxiety sufferer is familiar with the medication and follows the advice of their doctor carefully.
Having a supportive base of family and friends is also extremely helpful, so if the wedding day could potentially trigger a serious bout of anxiety, it’s important to keep these people informed so that they can provide the support needed to get through.
Once a bride has assembled an arsenal of defence against those dreaded anxiety attacks, there’s no reason why her wedding day can’t be everything she hopes for and deserves: a joyful and special occasion.
*Somers JM, Goldner EM, Waraich P, Hsu L (February 2006). “Prevalence and incidence studies of anxiety disorders: a systematic review of the literature”. Can J Psychiatry 51 (2): 100¿13. PMID 16989109.