Lyme, NH psychiatrist, Dr. Barbara Wilson, offers the Mountain Valley family a “daily dose of support” – My Version of Anxiety isn’t your Version of Anxiety!

In a previous life in outpatient psychiatry, I would frequently see patients who are struggling with social anxiety. A recurring comment from them was “every time I walk down the street it looks as though people are staring at me and are angry with me. I can see it on their faces.“ My reply to this would be, “have you ever considered the possibility that they are all constipated? “ In truth, it was likely far more probable that the majority of the people are walking down the street constipated versus thinking about how much they don’t like a person walking past them with whom they’ve never met.

And while I still stick to my “constipation hypothesis,”ᵀᴹ another possibility is that a lot of people are also walking around anxious. Their minds are racing, they’re not sleeping well, their necks and shoulders sore from the constant tension. Perhaps, they are also carrying the burden of their children’s anxieties or their grandparents’ anxieties or their coworkers’ anxieties or their patients’ anxieties. Perhaps their anxiety is constant; from the minute they wake up until the minute their head hits the pillow it is a whirlwind of “what if‘s” and “how do I plan” and “what might be.” Perhaps their anxiety sneaks up and bites them in the butt. One minute they’re doing well, staying focused, and dealing with the problem in front of them and the next they are scattered, emotionally labile and instantly exhausted. Perhaps they don’t think they have any anxiety at all and are confused by the new onset of jaw clenching, eye twitching, and headaches.

More often than not, anxiety is something that starts deep inside and rarely makes it to the surface for others to notice. However, in the new prolonged, uncertain reality that is COVID-19, my guess is that more anxiety is coming to the surface than ever before.

? How the hell do I know? I say that not because I don’t experience it but because it’s different for everybody. For me I eat less, I’m more irritable, and even more forgetful than my baseline walking advertisement for Vyvanseᵀᴹ. For you, your brows may furrow more, the corners of your mouth may turn down, and you may not be as good of a listener to your friends as you were before. You may even walk right past a friend, not because your eyesight is poor and 6 feet away makes them blurry, but because you are so lost in your own hamster wheel of thoughts and emotions you haven’t looked up to see the world around you.

I bring this up for you today because we are all guilty of jumping to conclusions as to why someone may be behaving the way they are. I’m giving you permission tonight to abandon my “constipation hypothesis”ᵀᴹ and assume that whatever behavior you’re seeing is likely their anxiety on the surface. And instead of starting your conversation with “is everything OK? “ or “what’s wrong?“ just assume you know what’s wrong and say “you know what, I’m feeling super anxious, too.“ It sounds like a funny way to start a conversation AND it instantly articulates the sentiment “       .”

You’re doing an amazing job. Has anyone told you that? Well I just did.

Dr. Barbara Wilson is a physician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. To ready more of Dr. Wilson’s Daily Doses, follow her on Facebook at