Last updated: 7th April 2014
From first glance “What does anxiety feel like?” is a pretty straightforward question. I mean, what does anxiety feel like? To different people, anxiety can feel like hundreds of different things. We’re all individuals with varying coping mechanisms when it comes to life’s glorious ups and downs, and in turn we respond differently to one another depending on the situation we find ourselves in.
For example, asking someone who works in a fast paced high pressure office environment “What does anxiety feel like to you?” will result in a different answer compared to perhaps asking someone else who only experiences said anxiety when taking part in a certain activity that rattles them, like flying or public speaking, or perhaps a fear of blood tests like I used to have. Or maybe they can more readily answer “What does fear feel like?” or “How does stress feel?” or even “What does nervousness feel like?” as anxiety, fear, stress and nervousness are very closely linked feelings.
Ultimately, there are no wrong answers.
What does anxiety feel like to me?
What is anxiety like? I’ve suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since my early teens, though at the time I wasn’t aware that that is what they were. Think about it.. How does anxiety feel to a 15 year old when everything is so stressful to begin with? With that said, what does stress feel like? It was only when I was 21 and went through a particularly stressful period that my general anxiety as well as overwhelming panic came to the surface, and I started having panic attacks at night almost every night.
Looking back on that time, as well as at a handful of events that have triggered significant anxiety since then, I’ve come up with two lists: What does anxiety feel like mentally? and What does anxiety feel like physically?
Mentally, anxiety feels like… (In no particular order)
- An immense impending doom feeling that you can’t shake
- You’ll never be happy again
- You’re going crazy
- An overwhelming drive to do something without knowing what that something is
- You’re shrouded in a dense fog
- All of the color has been drained from your life
- You’re never going to feel normal again
- Something inside you has gone haywire, bouncing off your insides
- You’re having a heart attack
- You’re dying
- It’s the end of the world
- Things don’t seem real
- You no longer have any appetite
- Indifference to things you once cared about
- You’re going to feel like this forever
- Your mind is betraying you
- You could die at any moment
- There’s nothing you can do
- Fear that you’re losing control
- Heightened self awareness
- Feelings of depersonalisation
- Emotions don’t make sense anymore
- Excessive worry – about everything
What does anxiety feel like to others?
Whilst my responses above are largely the kind of thoughts that ran through my mind during anxious times, asking others what anxiety feels like brings up a lot of physical sensations as well.
Physically, anxiety feels like… (In no particular order)
- A pain/tightness in your chest
- Nervousness, like you’re going to be sick
- Upset stomach/diarrhea
- Trembling or shaking hands
- Restlessness and the inability to sit still
- Altered breathing, usually fast and shallow
- Sweating uncontrollably
- Dry mouth
- A uncomfortable warmth, feeling flushed
- Rapid heartbeat, often pounding in your ears
- Confusion and not being able to think straight
- A pins and needles sensation in your arms and legs
- Headache and general tension
- Teeth grinding/bruxism (jaw clenching)
- Tearfulness and crying
What does anxiety feel like to you?
Above I’ve covered what anxiety feels like to me, and to others, and what anxiety feels like physically as well as mentally, but really, the lists could keep going. Everyone is different and when putting into words what anxiety feels like to you, there are no wrong answers. Symptoms of anxiety in some, might be completely different in others.
Please share your response to the question ‘what does anxiety feel like’ below in the comments!