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29 Things People Said That Were Actually Code for 'I'm Anxious'

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Anxiety can sometimes make you feel trapped — freezing you in your tracks as the rest of the world continues to spin. On the outside, people may think you look fine, but on the inside, it’s a different story.

It can be incredibly difficult to effectively communicate what’s going on and what you need when you’re in the throes of anxiety. It can sometimes seem easier to drop subtle hints to try and alert others that something is up. But if others aren’t sure what to look for, it can be hard to help.

That’s why we asked out Mighty mental health community to tell us one thing they’ve said to others that was actually code for: “I’m anxious.” Because when we know what little key words and phrases to be aware of, we can better help one another.

Here are some “code” phrases for “I’m anxious” to look out for:

1. “I’m sorry.”

“This sentence describes my anxiety and depression very well. I’m always anxious I hurt someone’s feelings or I did something wrong.” — Jaclyn C.

2. “I’m fine.” 

“I say this all the time in social situations. I don’t want others worrying or thinking I’m trying to ‘destroy’ the situation and make it about me because of my severe social anxiety. Normally, if someone asks how I am, I just say ‘I’m OK.’ A couple of friends have picked up on the difference, but most just take it at face value.” — Dylan K.

3. “I don’t feel good.”

“Depending on how well I know them, I may ask, ‘Are you mad at me?’ They get confused wondering why I think that and I’m afraid I’m making them mad.” — Jennifer N.

4. “I’m exhausted.”

“When your mind doesn’t stop racing, the feeling of exhaustion is constant. No matter how much sleep you get, you still feel drained throughout the day.” — Lauren J.

5. “Just wanted to check in, are you OK? Did I do something?”

“When I’m anxious, I often check in on others to see how they are doing. If I’m not OK I need to know at least those around me are. I think everything is because of something I have done.” — Jessica T.

6. “I’m OK, just tired.”

“I shut down so fast or become extremely withdrawn when my anxiety hits. Saying I’m tired but OK is more socially expectable then, “I’m panicking really bad and I need to calm myself down…why? I have no idea.” Then I over apologize for everything, no matter how tiny, just in case I messed up.” — Cait L.

7. “I just can’t watch TV or listen to the radio right now.”

“My anxiety nowadays is almost always a sensory attack. But even when that’s not the trigger, I get extra sensitive to noise.” — Krystal N.

8. “Are we OK?”

“I’ve asked this many times in my almost five years of being with my boyfriend. He was always caught off guard because nothing was ever really wrong, I just misinterpreted things he said, especially through texting. If he didn’t message me much during the day, an immediate red flag goes up because I automatically assume I did something wrong. It never crosses my mind that it is because he works second shift and only has a few hours to get things done.” — Amber B.

9. “I just feel a little hot.”

“When I’m in a social situation, before a panic attack, I usually sweat a lot, fearing I would do the wrong thing. The sweat from my face looks like when it rains on your face.” — Linda Z.

10. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“I say this is regards to unannounced guests or last minute plans.”— Sunbul Z.

11. “I’ve gotta go get some air.”

“When my anxiety gets bad I start to hyperventilate and I need to breathe. If I’m surrounded by people I start to have a panic attack because instead of being able to focus on my breathing and calming down, I end up focusing on whether people can see I’m not OK.” — Sara S.

12. “Did I do something wrong? I’m sorry.”

“Every time I’m anxious I tend to be super observant and notice all the small details about the way a person/friend/family behaves; if something is off just by a itty bit, I freak out. Even if I haven’t done anything wrong, I say sorry and ask if I did something.” — Alessandra S.

13. “I’ll push the trolley.”

“If I hold onto something and am in control, then I will be able to whizz around the supermarket, avoid long queues and stare into the contents if I feel like everyone’s watching! I hate shopping.” — Ebony E.

14. “I don’t care.”

“Making decisions makes my anxiety skyrocket. I usually just let others decide for me so I don’t have to deal with it, even if it’s ultimately not what I really want.” — Elisabeth R.

15. “I feel weird.”

“When I’m having an anxiety attack, my whole body sort of lurches, I start to breathe harder and I feel sick. That’s my way of asking for help, when I’m feeling desperate for air or something to ground me.” — Abby V.

16. “I love you.”

“Of course, I’m not anxious every time I say that, but sometimes, whether it’s my mom or my best friend or my boyfriend, I say it because I need to hear it back. My biggest anxiety is that the people I love don’t love me, or worse, that they never did. So I say ‘I love you’ very frequently for the reassurance.” — Laurelyn M.

17. “Hey, are you busy?”

“[This] is something I ask someone when I am really anxious and need to talk with them but I don’t want to bother them in the slightest way at the same time.” — Kaila G.

18. “Don’t make fun of me.”

“I know it’s not meant that way, but when I’m anxious, I will take everything to heart and it feels like even those who care about me most are essentially confirming all of the horrible things anxiety tells me I am.” — Karen S.

19. “Can you help me with this? I’m still new.”

“Talking about procedures at work where my first exposure was intense and I hate getting errors which would lead to upper heads screaming and reprimanding me over.” — Bas A.

20. “Does it seem noisy in here to you?”

“This might be followed by ‘I think I’m getting a migraine.’ Sometimes, being in a place with a lot of background noise will trigger a panic attack. Or, and this will sound awful, if I’m someplace and a (school) group of young kids — like preschool to lower elementary level — are there, chances are I will have to leave soon. Noise and lots of movement will push me over the edge.” — Loren E.

21. “Stop!”

“I literally just repeat this continuously until my partner understands. I get so hyper vigilant, that even when he goes into protector mode, I can’t connect.” — Wynona M.

22. “Are you mad at me?”

“I ask this so often to my loved ones, particularly to my fiancé because at moments of high anxiety I am in constant fear of losing my life lines.I don’t know what I would do without those I care about the most; I couldn’t get through a single day without them. So I always have to be reassured when Im at my worst.” — Serenity B.

23. “Story of my life.”

“I sometimes put on a mask with humor or just put on a smile when I’m anxious or feel incompetent because no one wants to be around negativity, right? Which is the reason why making too many friends, finding your pack or networking can be impossible or overwhelming.” — Imelda S.

24. “Something’s wrong.”

“That’s when I can feel the anxiety attack coming. I get this unsettled feeling in my stomach or some heart palpitations and this sense that the world’s just flipped upside down. My family and my boyfriend know exactly what to do when I say it, which I really appreciate.” — Kristen J.

25. “I’m not 100 percent right now.”

“People are usually pretty good about not bothering you if they think you don’t feel well. I also use this if I’m depressed and fatigued. It is basically my way of saying I’m not 100 percent me at the moment.” — Sara F.

26. “I just… can’t.”

“Having to explain again and again and again that no, you’re not doing it on purpose; that no, it won’t just go away by sleeping — how do you even manage to sleep with depression and anxiety? Having to justify yourself constantly.” — Serah S.

27. “So. Many. People.”

“I’m not great at bring in crowds on a good day, but everything gets turned up 1000 percent on a bad day. This is usually code for ‘I need to get out quickly!’  The noise and people make it very hard to function and breathe at the same time.” — Tamara G.

28. “I need to let the dog out.”

“Or ‘my dog is sick’ was always how I got out of social obligations/social situations. Even if he didn’t need to or wasn’t, it was my fallback and no one could or did argue with me.” — Monica B.

29. “I’m not in the mood for this today.”

“[This] means I’m having a really rough time right now and some space would be great. Or my anxiety is overwhelming me and I can’t function at the moment.” — Brandy L.

What would you add?

Originally published: October 5, 2017
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