Anxiety is a very normal emotion—everyone feels worried or concerned on occasion. Yet anxiety is also a surprisingly common psychological ailment. Estimates put the number of Americans with anxiety disorders or significant symptoms of anxious behavior at approximately 3 million billion. Indeed, if you’re reading this article and are sentient, please like me on Facebook. Very few people do, and I’m constantly concerned about it. And if you’re reading this article and are among the 1015 Americans who suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder, then you have plenty of company—all of whom are judging you.
What most people don’t realize is that there are better and worse ways of experiencing anxiety. Chances are, you’re probably bad at it. But being terrible at feeling terrible is something you can fix. Here are some useful ways to enhance your anxiety to its proper, crushing dimensions:
- First, make sure you have all types of anxiety covered. Social anxiety is nice, but it’s pretty common, even among well-adjusted extroverts—who, after all, hasn’t worried about public speaking or singing too loudly in their apartment? But if you truly want to heighten your debilitating fears, consider branching out into concerns about your sudden, immediate death or being unable to make basic decisions about your day. Read Kierkegaard, or try shopping at HomeGoods.
- Second, consider the sources of your anxiety. Are you reading enough about politics? Conspiracy blogs and apocalyptic denouncements of contemporary culture (conveniently combined at Breitbart.com) are a good place to start. Do you look in the mirror frequently enough? When is the last time you took a life-altering standardized exam? Have you considered loaning most of your savings to unsavory characters, or trading in your SUV for a moped?
- Third, let others know about your anxiety. I don’t mean confessing your struggles in a bid for reassurance and support—I mean expressing your anxiety in a variety of self-defeating, personally humiliating ways. Have you ever unpleasantly surprised your boss with bouts of verbal self-abuse and over-apologizing? Has your neighbor been allowed to see you scurry away after a brief exchange of glances? Has your pew-mate or your burrito creaser at Chipotle ever observed you laughing uncontrollably, only to seamlessly switch to equally uncontrolled sobbing? It can’t hurt to try.
- Fourth, even if you’ve developed a variety of types of anxiety that are reinforced from multiple sources, and you’ve successfully parlayed them into regular panic attacks or inventive forms of paralysis, your anxiety may be undercut by displaying too many mild symptoms. Instead of simply breaking out into a sweat or developing a headache, try to stop talking right in the middle of a conversation, for seemingly no good reason at all. Or concentrate on developing severe nausea and disorienting vertigo. Try on an odd phobia or two. Experiment with multiple personalities. The point is: if you’ve never been admitted to a hospital or a mental institution, then you just don’t care enough.
If you struggle with being more anxious, don’t feel too bad, even though, of course, you will. Plenty of people are only moderately disordered. The key is to take steps immediately to worsen your situation and make sure you have no sense of control over anything. Remember:
- Consider what the horses peering over the fence think of you.
- Think about how infinitely vast the universe is.
- Freak out in front of small children, elderly relatives, or some interesting combination thereof.
- Focus on the possibility that most people you encounter are dwelling on you, your appearance, your actions, and the entire life story and disturbed familial history that undergirds your obvious mental issues.
- When in doubt, read DSM-5.
If you follow this advice, I guarantee that your anxiety will blossom into the overwhelming moral apprehension and existential dread that you’ve always wanted to have.