20 Ways to Explain Anxiety to People Who Just Don't 'Get It'


This piece was written by Chrissy Stockton, a Thought Catalog contributor.

I started a Facebook group for women who are struggling with anxiety and one thing that’s hard for everyone is getting your partner/loved ones to understand what you are experiencing. Everyone with anxiety has had at least one disappointing conversation when it’s clear the other person thinks you can “just stop worrying about it.” I asked the group to share how they’d explain having anxiety to someone who finds the concept alien. Enjoy and feel free to join the group!

1. “It is like you’re breathing through a coffee stirrer straw. Never really being able to get a full breath, feeling like you’re not getting enough air, and are in a constant state of panic.”

2. “Anxiety is feeling nervous before an interview or a party days in advance — but it’s also feeling nervous when you have nothing to be nervous about. When you’re sitting in your house and everything is technically fine, when there is technically nothing to worry about, but you still feel uneasy and can’t figure out why.”

3. “It’s like constantly being pushed underwater by wave after wave. Coming up for air only gives you relief for a minute, but just as you find relief, you’re pushed under again. Sometimes the waves are small and you can swim past it, but some waves are so big and powerful, you can’t do anything but wait it out, and have patience that it will pass.”

4. “Feeling on edge, with a constant fight/flight response when the anxiety is present. Overthinking situations in some instances, and needed reassurance that your thoughts are valid, even if they may not be rational – which we get, but our mind is trying to convince us otherwise.”

5. “It’s like having a weight on your chest and every time you exhale it gets heavier and harder to take in air. At the same time the room you are in is shrinking around you. You call for help because the room is crowded and surely someone can come take the weight off you so you don’t suffocate but nobody hears you so you’re completely alone.”

6. “A constant battle between me, myself and I. There’s situations I’m in where the logical side of me, the non-anxiety self wouldn’t think twice or be upset but my anxiety monster inside wins and I’m in a constant state of panic or self-doubt. Meanwhile deep down inside I’m trying to tell myself it’s nothing or screaming and clawing from the inside with no where to go because I’m just being [debilitated] by this disorder… and at the end I’m exhausted, usually with a headache or migraine, over nothing.”

7. “It’s an insecurity thing I can’t seem to overcome. Because I know what the rational thought process is I know sometimes I sound nuts. But anxiety is a way to protect myself. Although sometimes it feels like it backfires. There are times when I’m completely 100 percent correct about a situation. And most the time I don’t want to be. I want to be wrong. I want to know I’ve overthought this and I’ve overanalyzed things but people with anxiety I think are very accurate about reading situations and understanding things and predicting a situation. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about anxiety it’s the right relationships in your life won’t fill you with it. When you are confident in someone, that insecurity of saying the wrong thing or losing them isn’t a factor.”

8. “Everything is the ‘Worst Case Scenario’ even if your rational brain knows everything will be fine.”

9. “Anxiety for me is when I’m crying and can’t breathe and catch my breath my mind is constantly on repeat and can’t think straight I start making up things about my relationships and now I’ve started to losing sleep.”

10. “Anxiety is an uninvited houseguest in my head that is invisible to people without anxiety — they don’t understand it, and because they think my life looks great from the outside, it sometimes makes me feel like I am ‘crazy’ for feeling the way I do. Anxiety is a very isolating thing without the proper support. It is a constant state of worrying about worst case, ‘what if?’ scenarios. How it manifests for me physically includes heart palpitations, upset stomach, headaches, insomnia. It’s the waking up at 3 a.m. every night with racing thoughts about situations that may never even come true that are the worst for me.”

11. “Anxiety feels like 100 different people giving you 100 different opinions about your life that you didn’t ask for.”

12. “Anxiety is every problem in life coming to the forefront at once, causing heaviness on the soul. It’s the past, present and future of problems, rising out of you and shedding light of its existence in any form — whether it be sleepless nights, not being to focus on your loves and passions or causing dissolving self-worth over prolonged periods of time.”

13. “Panic.”

14. “Knowing your thoughts are irrational and that inside you’re going ‘crazy’ and not being able to stop.”

15. “It feels as though I have no control over my anxiety. Some days, I wake up and feel absolutely great and can take on anything the day throws at me, and then within the next five minutes, my chest will begin to feel heavy, my breathing will be short as if I just ran 10 kilometers full speed. I’ll break out in a sweat, my hands will shake and because of this overwhelming/uncontrollable feeling. I begin to cry and feel so exhausted from this episode that I’m ready to turn right around and crawl back in bed scared this will happen again. My body can go through this every day multiple times or not at all. Sometimes I know why, and sometimes I don’t and the worst of it is that it will show up at any given time throughout my day without any notice making it difficult to plan my day ahead of time or to even think about leaving my house at all.”

16. “In my own way, in my own thoughts — being afraid of judgment, feeling worthless, perseverating on old wounds, existential crises and constant low self-esteem leading to poor choices, more self-criticism and more internal angst… all of this leading to constant worry and negative ideas and jitters.”

17. “Feeing nauseous and sick. My body is tired and all I want to do is sleep or cry or both. I never know why either. And sometimes even after I cry, I still feel sick and tired.”

18. “When I am anxious, I am completely fixated on the one thing. I can’t think rationally or logically, I only feel overwhelmed with emotion. It feels like everything is wrong and that it will always be that way. I can’t see past the cause of my anxiety or see that it will be fine. Anxiety makes it feel like the world is ending when it isn’t.”

19. “When I’m anxious I can’t think of anything else but that one thing. Everything is on auto pilot. Taking a bath, eating, texting or even reading a book feels like a chore. Simply getting out of bed when you want nothing more than to stay in it is a challenge.”

20. “I read before the best way to explain anxiety to someone is imagine you have porn up on your browser and someone comes up behind you, and you cannot hit that ‘x’ button fast enough.”

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Unsplash photo via Alex Sheldon


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