A long time ago I was told I 'just' had anxiety. My symptoms were in my head. This confused me, since I wasn't scared. After being reassured that there was nothing wrong, my symptoms irritated me more than anything else. I would give myself stern talkings to and force myself to go participate, do something when I was feeling ick. I indulged the avoidance only in two ways...I wasn't crazy about movie theaters (at least, going there with family members who generously treated me to what I now know was actually causing those anxiety symptoms) and restaurants, where the 'anxiety' symptoms sometimes became unbearable and once or twice crossed a line to embarrassing.
Once upon a time, I believed that what I felt was anxiety of some sort. I learned what I could, applied what I read to my symptoms and carried on. Until discovering that I had food allergies, of course, and eliminating nearly all of those nasty 'anxiety' symptoms.
My daughter is 10. She was diagnosed with anxiety issues (The original diagnosis was 'some sort of anxiety disorder') 5 years ago, when she was in kindergarten. Since then, we've worked with multiple doctors and a large handful of therapists/psychiatrists.
I've had to relearn everything. When they called my nausea and cramping a 'nervous stomach' and the hot flashes and faint feelings 'nerves' and the hives and racing heart a 'panic attack'; they did a grave disservice to those who really and truly deal with anxiety.
I know what it's like to experience these symtpoms. But my daughter experiences them along with the sensation that her very life is in danger. She doesn't just feel 'scared'. She goes into fight or flight mode. She doesn't strike out in anger, she strikes out in self defense. It's us who 'don't get it'.
When I look into her eyes during certain 'temper tantrums' I don't see a kid who wants her way. I see a trapped animal, who is looking for a way out.
She's a normal kid. She has real, honest to goodness temper tantrums and breaks down into 'I want my way!' kind of tears. But that doesn't make the other kind, the ones that sent us looking for help, any less real.
I'm also learning that real, full blown, actual clinical "Anxiety" can coexist with something else. I don't know what's going on in her little body, because when we or the professionals try to ask more questions to help clarify, her anxiety takes off. It interferes with her ability to communicate. It interferes with her ability to rationally interpret the signals her body sends out. It might worsen headaches or stomach issues, but it isn't the cause of random fevers. And I really don't know if it's the sole cause of those headaches and stomach issues.
Eight or so years ago, I went corn free and gluten free. I thought that was hard. I thought it was overwhelming. I thought it was the most challenging thing I'd face. But I was wrong. Food allergies are a known target. They are something that you can identify, and work around. They are something you can at least understand and educate others about. Anxiety? That one's still a mystery.