❖ HOW TO PLAY A CHARACTER WITH AN ANXIETY DISORDER ❖
I’m going to start off this guide with a trigger warning, as I will cover four (4) different phobias and anxiety disorders in this post. As a person with an anxiety disorder, I really don’t like to see anxiety disorders portrayed incorrectly (as I would assume anyone with a disorder would). This guide is to give roleplayers an insight into what people with these conditions go through, to help with their writing. Aside from that, I often see characters with depression and eating disorders, so perhaps these could be a new take on the character with a mental disorder. —ℐℴ
❖ PHOBIAS & DISORDERS INCLUDED ❖
Common factors in all the disorders:
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This is one of the disorders I have, so while I will occasionally interject with my own personal experience, I will also be using reliable medical resources, which you can reference online as well. I promise you that I have read every article out there in an effort to better understand what I’m going through.
The distinguishing symptoms of GAD:
Relapse vs. Normal time (Personal note: People with mental disorders can usually recount their lives in relapse and normal time. Meaning that they know exactly when and why they relapsed, and how long it lasted before they were okay again.)
Now all these symptoms are the worst of it. When a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder relapses, those are the symptoms that go along with it. Relapses typically last anywhere from three to six months, depending on whether or not the person seeks therapy.
However, when a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not relapsing, the symptoms and anxiety are much more mild with very few flareups. They can lead a normal life and can keep their disorder under control.
2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is so widely known today that most people use it synonymously with being an organized person. However this spoken word poem has gone around and put an end to a lot of the frequent misuse because it gives a lot of insight into just how serious the disorder is.
The distinguishing symptoms of OCD:
Distinguishing OCD from perfectionism or cleanliness:
Just because the floor is so clean you can eat off of it or because there’s a lucky object your character has to have, does not mean that you have written an OCD character. If you want the character to have OCD, then the obsessions and compulsions have to get in the way of their quality of life.
3. Panic Disorder
A panic disorder is commonly present with all of these other anxiety disorders, and can sometimes be present with depression and substance abuse, such as alcoholism or drug addiction. Alcohol can be used to dull the panic symptoms for a period of time, which is a good plot for a character.
The distinguishing symptoms of Panic Disorder:
All about panic attacks:
Agoraphobia is both a phobia (yeah obviously) and an anxiety disorder. This means that the situation is so feared that it causes feelings of dread and even panic attacks, so much so that it is often completely avoided. Zoella Sugg has been really open with her own struggles with anxiety and agoraphobia, saying that there were entire months where she barely left her house without feeling like she could have a panic attack. You can watch her video where she talks about her anxiety here if you haven’t seen it.
These are the distinguishing symptoms of Agoraphobia:
A character I really want to see is one who overcomes this disorder, much like Zoella did. Here, I will talk about some different options you can explore with your character. One option is anti-anxiety medication, or benzodiazepines, which you can find further information on here. Another option is CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), which is also used for most anxiety disorders. More info on that can be found here.
--And that's all I have for you! I really hope to see more of these characters out there because anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the world (over 60% of Americans suffer from one or more), yet they are so underrepresented in the roleplay world. Remember, that the best thing you can do to accurately portray a character is to do your research!! Best of luck. xx, Jo