Anxiety 101

For some people this might be a review or an unfortunate daily experience that you have, however, for those who are new here, let’s take a look at what we know about anxiety.

Fact: anxiety is a sneaky. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it and tries to destroy and make you disbelieve in yourself, others, and just about everything you know. But what is anxiety exactly? How do you find out if you have it or at least suspect that it’s something you might be suffering from? The first thing to do is recognize that anxiety is just a feeling, we all feel anxiety at some time or another. It is a response our bodies have to keep us safe. Our “fight or flight”. Our bodies and minds will feel symptoms of anxiety when it senses trouble, which is perfectly natural and helpful to us as humans.

The problem is not ever feeling anxiety, but when our minds aren’t able to turn the feeling of anxiety off. It tricks us into thinking we are constantly surrounded by danger, even if danger isn’t present. This sends our brains on a journey through endless thoughts and worries that seem to eventually consume our lives. The constant symptoms anxiety brings is what differentiates the feeling of anxiety from an anxiety disorder. So what does anxiety feel like?

The truth is, that just like anything else in this world, anxiety comes in many different forms. There’s no right or wrong way to experience anxiety, and absolutely no way to tell someone that their experience isn’t valid – because it is. It absolutely is. However, there are some common symptoms that most people seem to experience when dealing with anxiety that might help you identify what’s happening within your body and mind. Like you’ll hopefully read in an upcoming article, identifying your anxious symptoms is one of the key steps in getting them to go away!

 

Common Mental Symptoms:

Unexplainable or Irrational Feeling of Fear – As most people know, anxiety is associated with fear. However, one of the worst symptoms of anxiety is feeling overwhelmingly terrified, but having no idea why. Often times people suffering from anxiety will be afraid with what seems to be no reason to be afraid. It can oftentimes be difficult to articulate to someone else what you’re feeling because it’s hard to explain to someone that you’re afraid of nothing, or that you’re afraid and you don’t know why. You’re not alone in feeling this.

Fear of “Being” or “Going” Crazy – Although I’m not a huge fan of the word crazy, I’m going to use it in the following phrase my therapist would always remind of whenever I expressed this fear – “crazy people don’t know they’re crazy”. The fact that you are aware of your fear of being “crazy” or losing control shows that this is probably just your anxiety acting up. If you were truly diving deep into insanity, it would just be happening, you wouldn’t be hyper aware of it.

Catastrophizing –  Has your brain ever gotten a little carried away on you when you were worrying about something? How about a lot carried away? Catastrophizing is the brain automatically jumping to the worst, potentially unrelated, and often times most unlikely conclusions. Forget to check the mail today? No problem! Except for people with anxiety. Someone who catastrophizes will obsess about a million things that could potentially go wrong because they forgot to check the mail, often times filled with unnecessary blame and guilt.

Depersonalization / Derealization – these are both essentially technical terms for feeling like you’re not actually in reality or your own body. This one is a bit difficult to put into words, and for those of you who have never experienced depersonalization or derealization, this may be difficult to comprehend. However, for those of you that have felt this before, I’m hoping this might be an aha! moment for you. What your feeling is real and legitimate, and other people that have symptoms of anxiety experience this too.

Common Physical Symptoms:

Buzzing or Tingling in the Body – This one is going to sound really out there, but bear with me for a second. Picture in your mind the static on a television set, the way that the small particles seem to bounce around all over the screen. Now image that instead of being inside a TV screen they are bouncing around inside your body. Anyone? This buzzing sensation can feel restless and irritating especially when you are already nervous.

Metallic Taste in the Mouth – Feel like you’ve got a mouth full of pennies? I know. This one is pretty bizarre as well. Although I don’t have the full molecular breakdown on this one, there are several theories as to why anxiety causes this symptom such as bacteria or acid reflux that can occur due to the increased amount of stress. Whatever the cause, you are definitely not alone if you’ve had this experience before.

Hyperventilation & Trouble Breathing – Not that I enjoy any of these symptoms (and yes, I’ve experience all of them!) but this one is by far one of my least favorite because it can feel the most threatening and invasive. A common symptom of anxiety, particularly during a panic attack, can be trouble breathing and hyperventilation (fast, shallow breathing). It may feel like you are short of breath and that you are not getting enough air, which in my personal experience leads to further panic. Learning to slow down your breath and take longer deeper breaths really seemed to help me get through.

Racing Heartbeat & Chest Pain – Often times in combination with hyperventilation, anxiety sufferers will experience chest pain and/or a racing heartbeat. I used to remember saying quite often that it felt like my heart was going beat right out my chest. Once again another physical symptom that can tend to lead to further panic and make the entire situation worse. Most times, these symptoms will subside as you begin to calm both your body and mind.

 

Whether you experience one of these symptoms or all of these symptoms, please remember that all anxiety cases look different. The only people that can truly determine how anxiety is affecting you are you and a medical professional. That being said, I hope that for some of you knowing that these symptoms are all extremely common for those with anxiety can help you find some connection to others and feel less alone in your struggles and search for peace. The more we can talk about these symptoms, the less scary they become, and the more we can share our experiences with others who may be suffering as well.

Peace!

Hilary

 

*Please remember that there are circumstances where some of these symptoms could be a sign of a serious condition, however, they are usually accompanied with a different set of symptoms rather than those that are tell tale signs of anxiety, an anxiety disorder, or an anxiety attack.

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