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12 Oddly Precise Descriptions of What Anxiety Really Feels Like

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Anxiety is weird, and that makes describing it to somebody without anxiety pretty weird too. Sure, anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are mental by nature, but what about the churning stomach, the Arctic chills, the roaring fire that makes you feel like you’re going to sweat right through your clothes? For Mighty Leader Nina, it’s a rushing tidal wave that washes over her, making her feel unsafe.

Anxiety is full of odd and downright unpleasant physical and mental sensations, but that makes for some pretty great metaphors. That’s why we asked our Let’s Talk Anxiety group for their descriptions of what anxiety feels like for them.

This is what they had to say:

“My anxiety is like the sound of heavy snakes slivering and hissing. It is like I am a vessel and I am being filled with a sort of warm thick liquid that is toxic. It creeps into my body and takes over like a drill sergeant. It says, ‘you will not be happy. You will be afraid. I do not offer you any peace.’” — @merryanne

“Embarrassing. It feels like a combination of nausea, a horny sensation, dizziness, and shortness of breath. It comes on suddenly like a summer storm.” — @fathousewife

“It’s like being in a room but the walls and ceiling close in to crush me. Also, the room has water flooding in so I’m about to get crushed and drown at the same time.” — @infinitelyrelevantsteph

“I sometimes feel like my body is on fire, cooking from inside out.” — @keepingitreal80

“I feel like I’m slowly freezing and solidifying.” — @sjbarto

“It is like a constant buzzing of unsteadiness in my mind making me doubt every action, thought, and sentence. I always have a pit in my stomach from it.” — @knellie1

“It feels like an invader in my mind, threatening to take over everything, to take away all that is joyful.” — @mfplodek

“An impending feeling of doom, like something is going to fall out of the sky and crush me. My mind becomes loud, like 80s TV static, mixed with the test pattern after all the local stations went off the air… And, negative flights of thoughts are ricocheting around my head like super high bounce balls.” — @sadbearissad

“I feel so unsafe when I’m in high anxiety mode that I call myself a ‘runner’ inside. It’s like my mind and soul want to run away, and keep on running until I ‘outrun’ the imaginary doom chasing me down.” — @michellearbeau

“Like a crowded room full of people fighting.” — @lobaregina

“Whirlwind of emotions, almost like a tree in a bad storm, limbs being broken, then a whirlwind causing leaves flying and turmoil.” — @rachelhorn3

“Like I’m constantly running a marathon and my heart rate is so high that my heart might pound right through my chest.” — @monika-sudakov

How would you describe your experience with anxiety or another mental illness? Let us know in the comments below.

Getty Images illustration via Nuthawut Somsuk

Originally published: April 21, 2022
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