Here's What Anxiety Actually Feels Like (2023)

StoriesHere's What Anxiety Actually Feels Like (1)10.10.22“It's as if there's a spinning wheel of worry in your mind.”ByZara HanawaltHere's What Anxiety Actually Feels Like (2)

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Everyone experiences worry from time to time, but for people who live with an anxiety disorder, those feelings are often so persistent and so loud, they can drown out everything else. But if you’ve ever struggled to explain what anxiety feels like to someone else, you’re not alone. Because as awful and annoying as those symptoms can be, they can also be oddly hard to articulate.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), anxiety symptoms can range from things like feeling restless, worried, and irritable to having trouble breathing, sleeping, or concentrating. Symptoms of anxiety can also come in the physical form of stomach aches, headaches, chest pain, or other rogue pains. And, for some people, all of this can really mess with your day-to-day life, whether it’s screwing with your relationships or holding you back at work.

To the outside world, the things that cross the mind of a person who deals with anxiety may not make a whole lot of rational sense. They might wonder why you just can’t shake those feelings of dread even when everything in your life seems to be going well. Or maybe they can’t wrap their heads around why you feel intense, debilitating symptoms before an exciting event. Even people who often experience anxiety can realize the flaws in their thinking, but that doesn’t make it go away.

(Video) This is what anxiety feels like

All of this is to say that it’s time for way more understanding and compassion when it comes to anxiety. Maybe then people can stop saying things like, “Just relax!” or “Stop worrying so much!” (which any anxious person can confirm are both deeply unhelpful statements).

So, whether you’re here looking for validation or to boost your own understanding of what it feels like to live with anxiety, pull up a chair. We asked 11 anxious people to answer the question: What does anxiety feel like to you? Here’s what they had to say.

1. It truly feels like the world is falling apart.

“I get this feeling like the world is falling apart and something terrible is going to happen. And in my head I understand that this fear is irrational, but my body feels like it’s the end.” —Anastasia S., 23

2. And it convinces you that you’ve messed up.

“Anxiety more often than not makes you remember some things you did wrong years ago at seemingly random times, makes you check your work multiple times, and still, when you come home you are not sure you did the right thing.” —Luka J., 33

3. It feels like all of your worries are swirling around you.

“Over the years, [my anxiety] has felt different depending on what's going on in my life and how stressed I am. Overall, anxiety feels like there's a low hum in the background of your consciousness that never allows you to slow down your brain. It's as if there's a spinning wheel of worry in your mind that's being constantly propulsed and tossing your thoughts around. You think about money, then your marriage, then your kids, then work, then your car, then money again, then your health, then your kids again...and on and on.” —Mike T., 33

(Video) #LetsTalkAboutIt: What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

4. Imagine being trapped in a vacuum.

“I would say that anxiety feels like a nervous, tingling feeling in my chest. Sometimes it's so bad that I feel like I can't concentrate on the things that are going on around me. I feel almost as if I am in a vacuum and like I'm not really there.” —Abi L., 36

5. You’re overthinking x1000.

“Living with anxiety feels like you are constantly on edge and constantly overthinking and worrying about things. For me, everything that I say, I rethink and overthink in my head wondering if I said the wrong thing, or maybe I offended someone, or maybe I talked too much and annoyed the people I am talking to. Everything I say or do, I rethink after it is done and I analyze it in my head and just keep on thinking about it until I have analyzed every aspect. … It isn't just about social settings, it's all the time; I analyze the work I am doing, I analyze the setting I am in, I analyze everything and just overthink everything.” —Madison T., 23

6. It’s a fortune teller with only bad news.

“Living with anxiety is like living with the worst fortune teller in the world. Instead of telling you fun fortunes, everything that is not perfect equals death. Your friend didn't text you back yet? They died. Or you're dead to them. Either way, now you have something to worry about.” —Susan L., 35

7. Basically everything feels like a risk.

“Living with anxiety feels as if you are in a condition that negates yourself. You are in the situation and don’t know the trigger. You feel hollow, unsafe, and think negatively about everyone and everything. You become suspicious of your surroundings and gatherings.” —Ronald W., 38

8. It’s a weight on your chest (or your stomach…or your whole body).

“For me, my anxiety sensations are strongest in my stomach and chest—like the nerves you might feel before a high-adrenaline activity like going on a roller coaster or speaking in front of a large audience. Except it doesn't dissipate after the activity or event is over. It persists throughout the day from each moment to moment. It's like a weight on my chest that I feel with each shortness of breath where I'm never quite able to catch it.” —Gio B., 33

(Video) What Having Anxiety Feels Like

9. There’s an endless stream of irrational thoughts that you just can’t shake.

“The day starts with me already worrying. What if I can't find a parking space, or what if someone hits me with a car and I die on the spot? What will my children do without me? While the children are at school, thoughts come to mind, such as what will happen to them in the event of an earthquake. Will I make it to pick up all three kids? Whose school is closer? Which way is the fastest way to get there? Anxiety is when your daily obligations seem endless, so under the pressure of the stress you feel you simply freeze and end up doing nothing, and then you panic about it, and so on in a circle. Anxiety is when you see that everything is fine, everyone is healthy, happy, and taken care of, and yet you have an irrational fear that something terrible will happen.” —Ashley D., 39

10. You’re always on the lookout for danger.

"Living with anxiety for me is like being a Yorkie with a Bobcat for a neighbor and always feeling under threat. I immediately look for the exit everywhere I go. I do not sit with my back to the door—ever. I am constantly scanning crowds for someone who just looks ‘off’ so I can protect myself and my loved ones." —Katie R., 66

11. And you never know exactly what shape it’ll take next.

“When I have anxiety, it makes me feel a few different ways. If I’m really nervous about something specific, my chest feels tight, I can’t stop worrying that the worst is going to happen, and I sometimes feel short of breath. If I’m just having a day where I feel anxious but I don’t know why, I am usually irritable and feel worn out.” —Alice A., 41


If you were nodding your head a whole lot (yup, totally, omg me) while reading this, you should know that you’re not alone. Here are some tips for managing anxiety symptoms when they pop up. And here’s how to tell if you should see someone for your anxiety.

Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.



What are 3 physical sensations of anxiety? ›

Physical symptoms of anxiety
  • stomach pain, nausea, or digestive trouble.
  • headache.
  • insomnia or other sleep issues (waking up frequently, for example)
  • weakness or fatigue.
  • rapid breathing or shortness of breath.
  • pounding heart or increased heart rate.
  • sweating.
  • trembling or shaking.

What are 5 coping skills for anxiety? ›

Here are 11 tips for coping with an anxiety disorder:
  • Keep physically active. ...
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  • Quit smoking, and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
  • Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
  • Make sleep a priority. ...
  • Eat healthy foods. ...
  • Learn about your disorder.
20 Jul 2021

How do you know you suffer from anxiety? ›

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

your worrying is uncontrollable and causes distress. your worrying affects your daily life, including school, your job and your social life. you cannot let go of your worries. you worry about all sorts of things, such as your job or health, and minor concerns, such as household chores.

What are the 3 different strategies mentioned to cope up with anxiety? ›

Exercising regularly, eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and staying connected to people who care about you are great ways to stave off anxiety symptoms.

What is extreme anxiety? ›

Severe anxiety occurs when the body's natural responses to stress exceed healthy levels and interrupt your ability to function and carry out typical day-to-day tasks. While most people experience some anxiety, as with a new experience or challenge, severe anxiety can be overwhelming.

What is high functioning anxiety? ›

Instead, high-functioning anxiety typically refers to someone who experiences anxiety while still managing daily life quite well. Generally, a person with high-functioning anxiety may appear put together and well- accomplished on the outside, yet experience worry, stress or have obsessive thoughts on the inside.

What helps severe anxiety? ›

Here's what you can do:
  1. Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. ...
  2. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  3. Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
  4. Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
  5. Make sleep a priority. ...
  6. Eat healthy.

How do I get rid of severe anxiety without medication? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
6 Dec 2017

What happens to your brain with anxiety? ›

Anxiety happens when a part of the brain, the amygdala, senses trouble. When it senses threat, real or imagined, it surges the body with hormones (including cortisol, the stress hormone) and adrenaline to make the body strong, fast and powerful.

Does anxiety worsen with age? ›

Anxiety disorders don't necessarily get worse with age, but the number of people suffering from anxiety changes across the lifespan. Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults.

What does anxiety feel like mentally? ›

feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax. having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst. feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down. feeling like other people can see you're anxious and are looking at you.

What does the Bible say about anxiety? ›

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." "When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles." "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

Is anxiety a mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

How do I deal with anxiety and overthinking? ›

Tips for addressing ruminating thoughts
  1. Distract yourself. When you realize you're starting to ruminate, finding a distraction can break your thought cycle. ...
  2. Plan to take action. ...
  3. Take action. ...
  4. Question your thoughts. ...
  5. Readjust your life's goals. ...
  6. Work on enhancing your self-esteem. ...
  7. Try meditation. ...
  8. Understand your triggers.
15 Nov 2019

What is the first line of treatment for most forms of anxiety disorders? ›

You may also be prescribed a combination of medications. The two general types of medications used to treat anxiety disorders are: Antidepressants (despite the name, they're the first-line treatment) Anti-anxiety medications (sometimes called anxiolytics)

What is the most serious form of anxiety? ›

Panic disorder

A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration.

When is anxiety an emergency? ›

An anxiety emergency or extreme panic attack may require an ER visit if the sufferer is unable to get it under control. Extreme cases of hyperventilation can lead to tachycardia, an occurrence where the heart is beating so fast that it is unable to properly pump blood throughout the body.

What is the highest level of anxiety? ›

Anxiety levels are typically classified by the level of distress and impairment experienced into four categories: mild anxiety, moderate anxiety, severe anxiety and panic level anxiety.

What personality types are prone to anxiety? ›

Personality factors

Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.

What causes anxiety to flare up? ›

A sudden onset of anxiety can be triggered by a plethora of things—from a major event, like a death in the family, to everyday stressors, such as work or budget worries—but sometimes it can be caused by seemingly nothing at all—or even issues you're not consciously aware of.

What does anxiety feel like in your head? ›

Some common mental symptoms of anxiety include:

Feeling nervous, restless or tense. Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry. Having difficulty controlling worry.

What is a nervous breakdown? ›

The term "nervous breakdown" is sometimes used by people to describe a stressful situation in which they're temporarily unable to function normally in day-to-day life. It's commonly understood to occur when life's demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming.

What vitamin helps with anxiety? ›

B-complex, vitamin E, vitamin C, GABA, and 5-HTP are 5 vitamins commonly used to help with anxiety and stress.

How does vitamin D help anxiety? ›

The study found that taking vitamin D supplements significantly decreased anxiety levels in women suffering from type 2 diabetes. Another study found that those suffering from anxiety had lower levels of calcidiol. Broken down vitamin D produces the byproduct, calcidiol.

Can drinking water help anxiety? ›

Water has been shown to have natural calming properties, likely as a result of addressing dehydration's effects on the body and brain. Drinking enough water is an important step in managing your anxiety. Even if you're not experiencing anxiety, drinking sufficient water can create feelings of relaxation.

What chemical does anxiety release? ›

However, epinephrine is the primary chemical because it is directly involved in your anxiety symptoms. When you experience an anxious moment, the amount of epinephrine circulating in your body will instantly increase in response to whatever has triggered your anxiety.

Is anxiety a chemical imbalance? ›

But researchers don't know exactly what causes anxiety disorders. They suspect a combination of factors plays a role: Chemical imbalance: Severe or long-lasting stress can change the chemical balance that controls your mood. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period can lead to an anxiety disorder.

What happens if you leave anxiety untreated? ›

For the majority of people with undiagnosed or untreated anxiety disorder, there are many negative consequences, for both the individual and society. These include disability, reduced ability to work leading to loss of productivity, and a high risk of suicide.

How long can a person live with anxiety? ›

From the time of diagnosis, an anxiety disorder can last from a few months to many years. Most people will have symptoms of an anxiety disorder for a long time before seeking professional help, sometimes up to 15 years³.

How much does anxiety shorten your life? ›

People with mild distress were about 29% more likely to die of heart disease or stroke than people who reported no distress. Mild distress didn't seem to raise the risk for cancer. People with moderate levels of distress were about 43% more likely to die of any cause.

Do people with anxiety live longer? ›

Research shows that overreacting, constantly worrying, and living in a state of perpetual anxiety can reduce life expectancy. 1 If this describes your typical response to everyday setbacks and snafus, it may pay in the very, very long run to learn ways to lighten up and lower stress.

How does God help with anxiety? ›

The core of believing in God is about trust over every uncertainty and fear in life and so this belief can be used to allow people to stop anxiety.

How does God want us to deal with anxiety? ›

Lay Your Burdens Down. As a Christian, don't fight or wrestle with your fears, hand them over to Jesus, moment by moment. Take time to read through Romans 5:1-6 and 1 Peter 1:1-7.

What does God say about Overthinkers? ›

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What are the 3 threes for anxiety? ›

Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

What does anxiety feel like physically and mentally? ›

Persistent feelings of fatigue and exhaustion are common signs of anxiety. The body's fight-or-flight response can keep you on high alert, which can be mentally and physically draining. People with anxiety might also find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep or experience unsatisfying sleep.

What is the number one trigger for anxiety? ›

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.

What calms your anxiety? ›

Find relaxation or meditation apps that appeal to you and give them try. Just breathe: Inhale and exhale slowly, evenly, and deeply for several breaths. Change your position: “Whatever you're doing, do the opposite,” Kissen says. “If you're hunched over with worry, stand up and take a Wonder Woman pose.

What causes anxiety flare ups? ›

A sudden onset of anxiety can be triggered by a plethora of things—from a major event, like a death in the family, to everyday stressors, such as work or budget worries—but sometimes it can be caused by seemingly nothing at all—or even issues you're not consciously aware of.


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