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What Anxiety Feels Like

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

Anxiety manifests itself differently from person to person. But for me, with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder (and overlapping symptoms of Major Depression and ADHD-Inattentive Type, with low self-esteem in the mix), it feels like this....

Waking up with dread, thinking about what you have to do that day. And not wanting to get out of bed.

Always feeling nervous and worried about something. You stress easily.

During an anxiety attack: a tightness in your chest and throat. Rapid heart beat. Feeling a sense of doom and like you can't breathe. Crying and hyperventilating. Emotional torment.

Often feeling irritable, impatient, and defensive.

Being a control freak about everything because you feel less anxious that way.

Not speaking up, sharing your opinion, or how you truly feel--because you care too much about what other people think of you. And you don't want anyone to disagree with you or cause any conflict. Feeling insecure and unsure of yourself. And trying to fit in and act like you're okay and "normal."

Trying too hard at some things and developing perfectionist tendencies to overcompensate for the fear of failure--and extreme sensitivity to perceived or real rejection and criticism. Feeling not good enough (Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, which often comes with having ADHD).

People pleasing because you can't bear the feeling of disappointing others. Frequently apologizing. And always striving to be liked and accepted. Constantly comparing yourself to others and not feeling you measure up.

Always seeking external sources for confidence, reassurance, and validation. Seeking love and approval because you're struggling to love yourself.

Racing thoughts and indecisiveness; guilt and shame over the smallest of things.

Setting high expectations and constantly beating yourself up when you make any mistake, and when you say or do the wrong thing in front of people--and ruminating about it a lot afterwards. And then avoiding social situations, particularly large crowds, out of fear of being judged and not liked.

Not answering the phone. Being more comfortable listening to a voicemail first, so that you know who called, what it's about, can prepare what you want to say, and call when you feel ready. Preferring to text or email. Sometimes not wanting to even answer the door if it's unexpected. Not wanting anyone to see your messy house or your face without makeup. Just the sound of a door bell makes you cringe.

Fear of the unknown and of your loved ones getting hurt. Disturbing images flash in your mind and you try to shut them out.

Usually not liking surprises. You thrive on structure, routine, and predictability. You like having things your way. Everything has to be just right.

Being really jumpy and startled easily. You feel uneasy around animals/pets and don't watch scary movies.

Feeling overstimulated easily--a large and noisy crowd, too many sounds going on at once, too much information, driving in a big city, etc. You want to quickly escape or you just shut down. And getting overwhelmed easily--your kids fighting, or feeling smothered by their demands and needs. Sometimes you lash out in frustration.

Staying cooped up in the house, because it means less anxiety not having to interact with people; yet, feeling depressed by doing so. And not liking the claustrophobic feeling of being in public places. Feeling self-conscious. Being embarrassed if your children throw a tantrum and cause a scene. And then holding back and trying to be quiet--fearing judgement from the way you discipline your kids.

Mustering up the courage to get out of your comfort zone, and seemingly small matters for others are a big deal for you.

Fighting negative thoughts and trying to stop yourself from emotionally "snowballing."

Internalizing and overanalyzing everything; taking everything personally.

Always feeling tense; your muscles feel tight and achy--particularly in your neck, shoulders, and back. It's hard to relax. Your breathing is shallow and your hands tremble.

Feeling lonely and longing for friendship and close relationships, but feeling too anxious to initiate anything socially. When invited to something, you may genuinely feel excited about it at first and agree to go--but as it gets closer to the event, you want to bail because you're feeling too anxious. So you try to come up with good excuses and talk yourself out of going. But if you do go, you almost always end up being glad you did, because it helps with your depression (which commonly accompanies anxiety).

Not making eye contact with people. And being quick to leave Church or other large functions when it's over, to avoid social interaction.

Walking around with constant stream of conscious-thinking--giving yourself a pep talk in your head, or forcing yourself to talk to a person and initiate something, because you're trying to overcome your fears. Coaching yourself through every little thing you have to do.

And sometimes you just don't know why you're feeling anxious. You just do. It's simply genetic. I went to the ER a few months ago because of sharp chest pain, near my heart. I thought it was related to my thyroid or other physical issues. But all my tests came back normal. The doctor said that it was probably just my anxiety--that even though I wasn't emotionally feeling anxious at the time, the physical symptoms of having the condition can just show up.


Do you relate? If you're struggling, don't be afraid to seek professional help--whether that means therapy or medication. I have benefited from both and have also listened to meditation tracks (guided relaxation where someone talks to you with soft music playing in the background; you close your eyes and focus on your breathing). There are some great apps, digital downloads, and videos on YouTube out there that you can use to ease your anxiety. I like telling myself personalized mantras/positive affirmations when I start my day. Essential oils are also amazing. Lavender and the blend "Console," from doterra, can help (which I sell).

Maybe you could consider getting a service pet, or you could bust out some colored pencils and calm your mind with an adult coloring book. Listen to some Classical music or do some journaling. I've read that women especially benefit from a long hug (at least 20 seconds) every day. It can help to relieve stress, slow down your heart rate, and it releases the hormone oxytocin. I also have a weighted blanket (11 lbs) which has helped to ground me (and was particularly helpful when my husband was deployed). When you wrap yourself up, it kind of feels like being hugged.

Also, check out this book I recommend- "On the Bright Side: Feeling Good When Things Seem Bad" (particularly for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

What helps you with your anxiety? Share in the comments! And remember, you're never alone. One day at a time.


Here is a song my younger brother and I recorded about 7 years ago...

"You can take everything I have You can break everything I am Like I'm made of glass Like I'm made of paper Go on and try to tear me down I will be rising from the ground Like a skyscraper Like a skyscraper"

Skyscraper - Demi Lovato

(Cover by Clarissa Allred and Jared Southwick,

with arrangement by Jacob Southwick)

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