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14 Ways People Hide Their Anxiety

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When you’ve lived with anxiety long enough, you often become a master at hiding it. Whether you have different strategies for different situations, or one go-to “mask” you throw on whatever the circumstance, sometimes hiding our anxiety is the only way to survive the day.

Sometimes though, it’s also a way to avoid how we’re feeling, and when we hide our anxiety for too long, we forget talking about it actually helps. There’s nothing shameful about experiencing anxiety, and no matter how “good” you are at hiding it, you deserve a safe place to express it. Acknowledging what you’re hiding — and how you’re doing it — can be a good first step.

If you hide your anxiety, you’re not alone. We asked our mental health community to share with us different ways they conceal their anxiety. You might recognize yourself in their answers.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. Getting Quiet

“Being quiet. Secretly I’m dying inside, but I remain composed and act eerily calm. And then if it gets too severe, I have to hide so I can start to freak out without embarrassment.” — Sloane S.

“Remaining extremely silent unless it’s absolutely necessary to speak.” — Ariana V.

2. Smiling

“Smiling and laughing. I’m the outgoing and positive one and can hide my anxiety when I need to. But when I’m really bothered by it, I go silent.” — Jessa P.

“Smile. I smile when people are looking and act very upbeat and happy. But when I have a moment to myself, my breathing picks up and I begin my nervous habits of nibbling at certain areas and digging my fingers into others to try to prevent my overthinking and quiet my mind somewhat.” — Sydney E.

3. Making Jokes

“I try to act confident and positive by cracking lots of jokes and inevitably probably laughing a bit too loud at everything, just because I’m dreading people sensing the sheer panic bubbling away underneath. Sometimes I’m physically shaking though and it’s hard to hide that!” — Becki K.

“I make jokes and kinda become the center of attention which forces me to keep the mask up.” — Celia A.

“Humor. It’s the only thing that distracts me enough so I don’t break down.” — Kasi T.

4. Cleaning

“I start cleaning. It’s distracting and helps with my OCD as well. People just think I’m an extra clean person so it usually goes unnoticed that I’m anxious as I channel it into cleaning if people come to my house and I can’t socialize. When I’m out, I don’t hide it very well. I usually panic and leave where I am if I feel anxious.” — Jess B.

“When I get really anxious I will clean. There’s something about being able to control the mess that keeps me from spiraling.” — Jenna K.

5. Isolating

“I don’t talk to people. Not even through text because my friends can tell. Hiding away from everyone and bingeing a show or having a movie marathon alone so no one sees me.” — Austin M.

“Isolate. No one can see you have anxiety if you’re not around them.” — Jackie H.

6. Fidgeting

“Tapping my fingers together, sometimes rhythmically, or shaking my foot if I’m sitting.” — Toni N.

“By constantly fidgeting or just keeping my hands occupied be it with car keys or my nails. Other times I’ll just turn off my phone to avoid social contact when it’s at its worst.” — Sneha V.

“Tap my feet. Clack my fingers. Usually I look impatient, but really I’m extremely anxious. I also sometimes use headphones and pretend I’m listening to music.” — Stella R.

7. Drinking Alcohol

“By getting drunk so I can act confidently, even though I hate drinking because the hangover makes my anxiety worse. The few hours I am drunk though, I’m so amazingly not self-aware and it’s the best. Wish I could be like that all the time and not care about what other people think.” — Emily K.

“Vodka… lots of vodka.” — Kelly A.

8. Overtalking

Talking too much and making a lot of jokes to pretend everything’s fine or being really quiet and pretending I’m not even here.” — Ash M. 

“Depends on the anxiety, but for social situations, I start talking more. I become the leader of the group. It’s the only way I don’t have a panic attack.” — Allie D.

9. Staying Busy

“Keeping busy. Trying to find joy in each day. Cooking. Nature walks. Not sure I’m hiding it, just trying to cope and get by.” — Cheryl W.

“An endless to-do list.” — Nikki B.

10. Physically Leaving

“Run away. Just run away and find a spot no one can find you.” — Naddy Y.

“It depends on the situation, if I’m out with friends I say that I don’t feel well and go home.” — Felicia H.

11. Distractions

“Reading or watching something because it helps take away all the useless thoughts. While doing that, I will almost forget my existence and will only be reminded of my harsh reality once I’m done doing my distractions.” — Celine D.

“Playing on my phone excessively.” — Marie L

“Put my headphones in and turn my music up loud.” — Bronwen P.

“Sketch book/reading/iPad/TV/radio — anything to distract!” — Jenni J.

12. Baking

“I start baking sweets or listening to music. Because I rarely do bake. So when I’m home baking it helps hide it, and when I’m out it’s listening to music.” — Amanda K.

“Bake. I made brownies last night because I was getting anxious.” — Bethany A.

13. Lashing Out

“Sometimes I either just shut down or lash out.” — Jessica A.

14. Pretending Everything’s OK

“By pretending everything is OK. Putting a smile on my face and helping other people who are worse off than me. Pretending… my whole life has been about pretending I’m OK.” — Barb A.

“Pretending everything is OK even when someone double checks. I find it hard to sometimes talk to people about it.” — Lily B.

What to add your own answer? Head here.

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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