This Is What It’s Really Like to Have Anxiety


Singer Zayn Malik opens up about his struggles with anxiety. (Photo: REX)

Over the weekend, singer Zayn Malik was forced to bow out of performing onstage with Ariana Grande, Tinie Tempah, Years & Years and Clean Bandit due to anxiety. Shortly before the his scheduled appearance on Saturday at Capital FM’s Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium in London, the 23-year-old superstar posted an apology to his fans via Instagram, below.

A photo posted by Zayn Malik (@zayn) on Jun 11, 2016 at 1:28pm PDT

“Clinical anxiety has an interfering effect with daily living, so that it impacts what you’re able to do,” Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and author of Your Best Age Is Now, tells Yahoo Beauty. “It can interfere [with] talking to people, going to your job, and in some cases with phobias — which is a form of anxiety — putting yourself in certain situations, like flying or performing.”

Ludwig notes that there are both biological and environmental components to mood disorders, which affect approximately 42 million American adults, according to statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “So it’s possible Malik was onstage and had a panic attack, and now associates going onstage with the panic coming back,” she says. “There’s often a physiological sensation as well, so it can feel like having a heart attack. Very often people will go to the emergency room thinking they are having a heart attack because of their heart racing and sweating, when in fact they are having a panic attack.”

She finds it “interesting” that Malik has chosen a profession that puts him in the spotlight. However, there’s a chance this issue has only recently manifested itself. “When he started his singing career, he was in the presence of his fellow band mates, and maybe that felt a little bit different,” says Ludwig. “But anxiety disorders can hit during your later teens or early adulthood, so he would fall right into that category.”

The good news for the former One Direction member is that there are numerous treatments available for this common condition. “There are great medications out there that can help a person who has anxiety, both if you’re feeling anxious in the moment that have a short-term impact, and medications to take for long-term impact,” says Ludwig.

A short-term medication would be best suited for someone who feels overly anxious during specific encounters, such as getting onstage, whereas a prescription designed for long-term use is for those dealing with a near-daily generalized anxiety disorder.

“It’s for people who have anxiety most of the time, where they live with a feeling of chronic angst,” says Ludwig. “They can be put on a medication that stays in the bloodstream longer so that they’re better able to handle the anxieties they face throughout the day.”

She also says that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has also been shown to be a highly effective treatment for people suffering from anxiety disorders. In fact, a review published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research concluded that the strongest support for CBT was shown for various issues, including anxiety disorders and general stress.

“For example, this singer may have the idea that people are going to hate him or that he isn’t good enough and the audience will see through him,” says Ludwig. “If he can address this idea in talk therapy, he can realize that some people are going to like him, some people aren’t — it can have very little to do with how well he does — and that he should just go out there and have fun. So if he can work on those issues in psychotherapy, it can be tremendously helpful.”

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