It’s normal to feel anxious, but anxiety disorders can interfere with a person’s life. The better we understand these disorders, the better we can help each other. Learn more about what members can do to help those with anxiety in their ward.
Imagine that a member of the bishopric telephones two ward members to ask them to say the opening and closing prayers in sacrament meeting. Both members feel nervous. One has butterflies in their stomach about saying the prayer but thinks through what to say and goes through with it. The other has an overwhelming sense of dread accompanied by an elevated heart rate and hyperventilation and does not go to church that Sunday. One feels relief at being able to do something difficult. The other has other similar panic episodes over the next few months out of fear of being called on to pray and avoids going to church for quite a while.
This contrast highlights the fundamental difference between most people’s experience of anxiety and the experiences of people with anxiety disorders.
Anxiety Disorders and the Spirit
The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Peace. The Spirit works quietly (see 1 Nephi 17:45). Anxiety is loud and obnoxious, so to speak, making it difficult to feel the Spirit and depend on your faith. Faith is trust in God. The opposite of faith is uncertainty and mistrust. Is it any wonder that anxiety disorders often undermine faith?
One manifestation of the Spirit of Truth is that we are able to think clearly and rationally. Jacob says: “The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13). As we listen to the Spirit, we will know the truth, and the truth will make us free (see John 8:32). In doing so, we can avoid the common error of “looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14). One way we look beyond the mark is to set expectations for ourselves beyond what the Lord has set, tormenting ourselves unnecessarily. By listening to the Spirit of Truth, we can accept the reality of things that we may believe are unacceptable, such as imperfection and weakness.
Faith in the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, combined with hope and charity, should anchor our lives (see Moroni 7:40–48).
Let Us Be One
Anxiety disorders may be a lifelong struggle for some, but with training in how to change distorted perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, they can become manageable. We can all benefit from understanding anxiety better. If family members, friends, or ward members are struggling, we can offer them support and empathy. Alma taught that we need to be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; … willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–11). At the end of His mortal ministry, the Savior’s heartfelt prayer was that we be one as He and the Father are one (see John 17:9–10, 20–23; see also 3 Nephi 19:20–23, 27–29). One of the ways we can do this is to support and comfort those in anguish.