Inside Reddit's thriving anxiety-support community
X_hale, 21, apologizes for the wall of text, but she needs to talk to someone who might understand. She’s horribly embarrassed after having a massive panic attack in public at an Oktoberfest event where she, her boyfriend, and her best friend were supposed to be having fun. Instead, it took her six hours to feel normal after acting hysterical in front of all those people. She’s on Effexor, but she’s worried this is a bad sign about the dosage. Can anybody help?
For people with anxiety, leaving the house can be a terrifying prospect. But one doesn’t even need to stand up from their computer chair to get sympathy and support from Reddit’s anxiety-disorder community, r/Anxiety.
One member wants help taking the big step to move out of his parents’ house. Another has found that throwing up usually stops his panic attacks in their tracks. A few want to know when it’s time to find a new psychiatrist or therapist. Some have panic attacks about what to wear every morning, others are crippled by driving-related anxiety.
The subreddit has more than 28,380 members. There’s also an extensive FAQ attached to r/Anxiety that answers everything from “what is anxiety?” to how to know if you need professional help. (R/Anxiety is very clear that the mods are not psychiatrists or psychologists and are not proxies for one.) The forum covers not just anxiety, but also depression, stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and a variety of anxiety-related mental health conditions.
Mental health support has grown immensely online, with examples like Tumblr’s thriving depression support blogs and numerous Tumblr tags for various types of mental illness information and support. Meanwhile, Twitter provides real-time suicide prevention accounts. In real life, it might be hard to find someone suffering from the same symptoms as you are to commiserate with. For instance, Redditor lozzern writes that he feels awkward telling real-life friends that he’s taking time off from work because of depression, because the condition is still so stigmatized.
“It's holding me back from catching up with a lot of people because I don't know what to say,” he wrote. “The real answer is, ‘I've actually been doing nothing all year because I have depression and social anxiety which, coupled with my useless degree and lack of experience, leaves me unable to even start applying for jobs, let alone qualify for any. My mental condition is a struggle on a weekly basis even when I am doing nothing at all.’ Which clearly no one wants to hear in light conversation, let alone at all really.”
This is the type of situation that compounds already existing anxiety. But on r/Anxiety, you have an endless supply of sympathetic ears. All you need is to talk to someone, and, like X_hale, the redditor from the first story, to know you’re not alone. Pretty soon after her post, a user named pastillage offers to recommend her a new shrink, even saying her father and cousin are doctors that may be able to help for a lower cost. X_hale says she’ll private-message her, and pastillage promises to help her find someone who will take her insurance. The magic of the Internet.
There are other successes too—even for aspects of life that people without anxiety might find mundane, and on r/Anxiety, sharing that joy is inspiring to other readers and healthy for the user to celebrate publicly. One member, walkinghard, posted recently about how he told a girl he likes that he has feelings for her, and even though she ultimately rejected him, he felt supremely positive about taking that step.
“I hope you can find some courage in this text, and do something you've been putting off because of anxiety, because I promise you you will feel so much better, even though it probably feels impossible to do, you CAN do it,” he wrote.