Anxiety and worry are not the same

It has come to my attention that some people seem to think that the words worry and anxiety can be interchangeable.  Nope.  They aren’t the same at all.  One is a fleeting thought, while the other is a debilitating mental illness.

Yesterday, I read this post which told the story of one woman’s experience with untreated post natal anxiety.  Eva has also shared her story here on my blog.  The post also went on to discuss the impact that a Facebook post could have had on an anxious new mum.

I haven’t seen the post in question myself, but the excerpts I read were quite alarming.  The post made the declaration that all mothers felt anxious.  It then went on to say that this anxiety was proof that you understood the worth of your baby.

It’s possible that this post came from a place of support, that the author wanted to offer a place of solidarity.  However I worry that these words, and the assurance that anxiety is something everyone feels, will prevent some new mothers from seeking help.  I am concerned that someone who is dealing with the irrational thoughts that anxiety brings, will see those words and feel like they don’t need help after all.

It appears that with the rise in awareness around depression and anxiety, people have now begun using these words flippantly.  Sadness is not the same as depression and worry is not the same as anxiety.  However these words still seem to be interchanged frequently.

Worry is a natural response to something that makes you fearful, a new experience or something stressful.  It is often a fleeting feeling, like butterflies in your stomach before you start a new job.  Worry is not a prolonged feeling, and doesn’t impact on your ability to live your life.  anxiety is not worry

Anxiety on the other hand is a prolonged state of stress.  Anxiety is a set of irrational beliefs about yourself and the world around you.  It is not like having butterflies in your stomach, it is like having a punch to the stomach.  Anxiety becomes a problem when it impacts your ability to live your life and interact with those around you.

When Mr 6 was a newborn I didn’t struggle with anxiety.  I struggled with depression, despair and a complete lack of confidence in my ability as a loving mother.  I often thought that I wasn’t the right mother for my son, and that he would be better off without me.  If I had read that post in those early days it would have been another failing with which I could beat myself with.

I didn’t feel anxious about my son.  Therefor my irrationally negative mind would have told me that I failed to see his worth.  It would be one more example of how I was failing him as a mother.  I would not have felt supported by that post, I would have felt ostracized.  I wonder how many other women read that post and felt the same way?

Staying mentally well, especially when the hormones of being a new mother are in play, is so important.  Telling women that every single mother experiences anxiety, when the word you are looking for is worry, could lead to some women not seeking help when they so desperately need it.

It’s important to talk about our experiences as new mothers, but it’s also important to be aware of the impact those words can have.  Be mindful that when you are trying to create an inclusive space, that you aren’t draping a blanket over very real issues.

Worrying that the jumpsuit you dressed your baby in isn’t warm enough is normal.  Being too scared to leave the house in case your baby is killed, is not.  One of those scenarios is worry, the other is an irrational thought created by anxiety.

It does awareness a disservice when the names of serious mental illnesses are used for regular human emotion ranges.  It is already so hard to get society to take mental illness seriously, please don’t further discredit people’s experiences by telling them that everyone feels depressed and has anxiety.

Did you suffer with anxiety when your baby was born?

Do you think that an increase in awareness has created a flippancy around mental health terms?

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