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24 Quotes That Show What It's Really Like to Live With Anxiety

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Anxiety is something everyone feels every once in a while, which is why it’s easy to think it’s “no big deal” when someone has an anxiety disorder. But anxiety disorders can be daunting, and for the people who have them, they’re very real.

So, we asked our readers who live with anxiety to take us into their head for a day — to describe what anxiety is really like. They’re haunting descriptions, and prove that although some anxiety is normal, it’s hard to know what it’s really like to live with an anxiety disorder unless you’ve been there.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Anxiety keeps me awake at night; it keeps me as a prisoner in my home. Anxiety makes me feel like a failure; it has taken away my self-worth. Anxiety makes me feel uncomfortable and nervous. Anxiety has taken away friends, family, opportunities, my life.”

2. “Anxiety is like having new tabs opening very quickly [on your computer] one after another and not being able to close them or stop new ones from opening — but in your head. It happens while working, taking care of kids, driving, answering questions, and a million other things that people do in a day.”

3. “Anxiety is like an adrenaline rush without the actual roller coaster! Heart races, palms sweat, knees get weak. You have all the physical symptoms of a thrill ride but your brain has no actual event to tie the symptoms to.”

4. “It’s like you have no control; it’s feeling constantly uncomfortable in your own skin. It is isolating, lonely, and it’s soul-destroying.”

5. “My anxiety takes over my body. My breathing is irregular, my heart is racing despite minimal activity, and my muscles are tense unless I consciously relax them. My mind doesn’t shut off. I think about things that could go wrong, things that went wrong in the past, and things I have absolutely no control over. Despite having the knowledge that I cannot control everything that happens, I struggle with these consuming symptoms on a daily basis.”

6. “It’s like not realizing you’ve been holding your breath so you have to constantly remind yourself to breathe.”

7. “Anxiety takes you to a place where you’re outside of your body and cannot determine fantasy from reality. It’s debilitating, scary and downright gut-wrenching.”

8. “Picture a bunch of people loudly talking to you about everything you don’t want to hear — that’s how it feels in my head. Some days are better than others, but it feels like pure chaos on bad days, and it’s exhausting.”

9. “Anxiety feels like being the passenger of a race car driver while pleading to be let out. I close my eyes and take deep breaths at every endless turn.”

10. “My panic attacks make me feel numb and cold all over. I feel like I’m going crazy, about to die, my heart is beating too fast, and I can’t get air. I often have to get up and go outside to get fresh air.”

11. “It feels like being in fight-or-flight mode. Never being able to stop overthinking, overanalyzing, over worrying. It lets your thoughts run your life.”

12. “You feel like crying a lot because you have no control. Your life is not your own.”

13. “It feels like having absolutely no control of your emotions. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching myself work something up in my head, knowing I’m safe and fine, but not being able to control the panic creeping up my neck or the fear response. It’s horrible.”

14. “Your life is simply like a roller coaster ride. One moment it’s happy and fun, and then in a second whip around the corner, it’s instantly scary and overwhelming. It’s a 24/7 ride; the mind is always going, preparing for the worst, over analyzing things to the point where you learn to expect the worst. Anxiety consumes your life, especially when it affects someone you love dearly. Understanding it is truly difficult, but be patient. Reassuring they are loved and not alone is key!”

15. “I often thought of it as standing in a water tank. Sometimes you’re only in puddles, sometimes it’s knee level but still bearable, but there are days when the water level rises up too high and too fast and you’re struggling to stay afloat and breathe.”

16. “Anxiety is knowing however much you plan ahead, you still expect the worst to happen. Even if it doesn’t, you convince yourself it will next time; it’s a never-ending cycle.”

17. “It feels like your brain got switched from 40 mph to 140 mph and your body can’t keep up. You can’t breathe or think or run away.”

18. “Imagine being at the mall with your 3-year-old child but you turn around and they have disappeared. Imagine the level of panic you would experience. Some days every single thing feels like that. No rhyme or reason — it just does and you can’t turn it off.”

19. “It’s that battle-ready mode where you’re on high alert to literally everything around you, every worry and fear, but there’s a cage you just can’t get through. You just stand there frozen, mind racing, and your heart feels like it will explode out of your chest. In truth, it’s indescribable because everything just gets hazy and it’s hard enough just to remember where you are at times, let alone push past it. It’s the ultimate feeling of being alone.”

20. “It’s like walking through a field of land mines with one clear path, but with every step, the path changes and you have no idea when the mines will explode. Every step is uncertain; it makes you second guess everything in your life.”

21. “That split second before you trip when your breath gets caught up in your throat and you lose all control over what’s happening. That feeling right there, but it lasts sometimes for days.”

22. “I feel like I’m being drowned by waves and caught in a rip tide. I have to keep treading and swim diagonally towards the shore. You can’t get there directly.”

23. “It’s a knot in your chest that’s always there lurking waiting to creep in and put seeds of doubt and worry into every thought.”

24. “Like an out-of-control, out-of-body experience. You’re watching yourself and can’t do anything to control it.”

*Answers have been edited and shortened for brevity.

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

Related: 30 Things About Anxiety Nobody Talks About

Originally published: April 27, 2016
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