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How Anxiety Changes My Handwriting

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For as long as I can remember, writing has been my favorite pastime. It’s pretty much the perfect hobby for me. I can write myself as the person I want to become, or as the person I needed when I was younger. No one interrupts me and no one talks back. I can create the people I’d like to have in my life now, who say the words I need to hear. Growing up, I’d get out all of my binders and notebooks filled with in-progress screenplays and spread them on the floor. My mom would say, “What, are you just going to sit here and write all day?” And that was exactly what I would do. To me, those have always been some of the best days.

But recently, I’ve started to notice something that affects my handwriting:


Fittingly, I’ve started calling it my “anxiety handwriting.”

I’ve noticed this frustrating change before or during a panic attack, or at times when my anxiety is just high in general. Anxiety handwriting can also be a warning sign for when something feels wrong. That’s exactly what was going on in the above picture, which is from a page of notes I took in class. That day, my anxiety was specifically surrounding the fact that I knew I was in the middle of a mixed bipolar episode, and I was scared.

I have no idea exactly why this anxiety handwriting happens, and why it tends to come out of nowhere. I’ve tried searching it online, but I haven’t found anything yet. Here are my thoughts about what could be happening:

  • My brain is so preoccupied with intrusive thoughts that what should be getting my full focus gets pushed aside. I know it’s not that I forget how to write, but I guess anxious thoughts take precedence.
  • Sometimes, anxiety causes me to shake so badly I physically can’t hold the pen or pencil. I can’t remember how I usually hold it for the life of me, and I can’t get a solid grip.

It’s a cycle. It starts for one of the two reasons above, and then seeing handwriting that looks like someone else wrote it scares me. My anxiety increases.

No matter why it starts, the most important thing about this anxiety handwriting is that it doesn’t last. Here’s a picture from later that same day. This one was taken when I was at home, working on a screenplay.

Even though this anxiety handwriting frustrates me, I don’t let it keep me from writing. Because, in the long run, writing lessens my anxiety. With my usual handwriting, I love the way a pen or pencil feels on paper. I love how I get to create whatever I want. Writing is a healthy escape from the real world, a place where I have control.

Sorry, anxiety. You might get in the way sometimes, but you can’t steal my passion from me.

Originally published: March 12, 2019
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