What Does It Feel Like to Have Anxiety?

Over 40 million people in America are living with anxiety. 

They may suffer from one or more of the most common anxiety conditions. These can include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or even PTSD. 

In short: the word “anxiety” can encompass lots of different definitions and disorders. 

Maybe you’re reading this post because you think you may have anxiety. Maybe it’s because you’re concerned that someone close to you does. 

What does it feel like to have anxiety? 

Why does nothing you say, to yourself or to other people, seem to help instill a sense of calmness and acceptance? 

In this post, we’ll cover the causes of anxiety and what it feels like. We’ll then cover possible treatment methods. 

Common Causes of Anxiety

There’s no singular cause of anxiety, just like there’s no singular way to experience it. 

Most medical professionals today believe that anxiety is caused by a combination of genetics and environment

For example, a person could be born with a genetic predisposition to an anxiety disorder like OCD, because their mother/father or another relative also had it. But they may not develop OCD themselves because they had a supportive, loving, and stable upbringing, and are in a good place in their lives now. 

Let’s say a person is born with a genetic predisposition to OCD, and they didn’t have such a great early life. Maybe grew up in tough economic circumstances where they felt they had to “fend for themselves.” Maybe they had to do whatever it took to get food on the table.

Perhaps they had a parent who was abusive, an alcoholic, or who had an extreme mental health condition that took a toll on family life. Maybe they also experienced some kind of traumatic event. Things like the death of a parent, a sexual assault, or watching someone get shot, perhaps.

This person, who already had both a genetic predisposition and an unsupportive environment, is much more likely to develop anxiety. 

What Does It Feel like to Have Anxiety?

Lots of people want to know the answer to the question, “What does it feel like to have anxiety?” 

The truth, however, is that everyone experiences anxiety differently. 

Some people may socially withdraw and shut down. Others will scream, cry, and lash out at the people around them. 

Some people may perform “rituals,” like counting, washing their hands, or checking to make sure the stove is off numerous times until it feels “right.”

This can look scary to those who don’t know what’s going on. However, it’s a futile attempt to control their anxiety and keep themselves or others “safe.” 

Those with anxiety may have trouble sleeping, feel lethargic, or be hyperactive. They may not eat well. They may attempt to control everything and everyone around them. 

Anxiety doesn’t just go away once one “problem” is solved, either. It always finds something new to worry about. 

Many people who deal with anxiety suffer from extreme guilt about their past actions or their failure to take certain actions. They cannot just “get over it.” They may see themselves as failures, or let-downs to the people they love, and as unworthy of love or attention. 

They hold themselves to impossibly high standards because anxiety feeds off the fear of not being good enough. 

In extreme cases, anxiety may be so miserable to live with that a sufferer seriously contemplates ending their life.

If you’re currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Hotline or simply call the police. You can even opt to chat with a supporter online.

Treating Anxiety

Unfortunately, the effects of anxiety can’t be magically “cured” with a pill or any other kind of therapy. Instead, living with anxiety is all about learning the best ways to manage your condition.

This might mean medication for some people and it might mean talk therapy for others. But for most people, it’s a healthy combination of both.

Medication for anxiety is also often slowly tapered off over time. This is because sufferers learn how to deal with symptoms and recognize triggers. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is the gold standard for treating anxiety disorders. Here, patients will talk with a therapist about the underlying issues behind their anxiety, and re-learn their thought patterns to help prevent it from taking over their lives. 

Techniques like exposure therapy, journaling, physical exercise, and more will likely also be used in sessions. 

Many find joining online or in-person support groups incredibly helpful when it comes to helping them to deal with anxiety.

These places provide a judgment-free atmosphere to discuss fears, successful treatment plans, and medications, and to procure help, like these tips for panic attacks.

Do You Need Help with Managing Your Anxiety?

If you read this article’s section on “What does it feel like to have anxiety?” and recognized lots of the things described in yourself or people you know, you should consider treatment. 

There is absolutely no shame in asking for help or in taking medication for anxiety. You’re not weak or a burden — you have an illness that’s just like any physical condition. 

Just talking about your feelings will do wonders on its own, because it lets you know you’re not alone. 

Do you need help finding the best possible therapist? Curious about your medication options? Interested in more holistic treatments for anxiety, like CBD, yoga, and more? 

We’ve got you covered on our blog. 

Bookmark it today to have better mental health tomorrow.