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27 of the 'Weirdest' Things That Trigger People's Anxiety

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No two peoples’ experience with anxiety are exactly alike, and everyone who lives with anxiety can point to unique triggers that send their anxiety symptoms into overdrive. Even knowing this, however, it’s all too easy to feel like your anxiety triggers are somehow “stranger” or “weirder” than anyone else’s. You might hear certain triggers talked about more than others, and never really encounter someone who is also triggered by, for example, going to the mailbox. So you may feel like the only person in the world living with this trigger — not realizing that you’re actually not “weirder” than anyone else and there are others out there who can identify with your struggles.

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We wanted to share the anxiety triggers people experience that they think are “weird,” to help reveal this essential truth: whatever trigger you think is strange, chances are someone else can relate. So we asked our Mighty community to share their “weirdest” anxiety trigger. You’ll see from the answers below that for many of these “weird” triggers, more than one person said they experienced it. Even if your anxiety leaves you feeling isolated, let this list reassure you that you aren’t alone in your struggles. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to experience anxiety.

Here’s what our Mighty community shared:

1. Not Knowing Where the Bathroom Is

“Going to a restaurant or any establishment for that matter and not knowing where the bathroom is.” — Kristina L.

“If I can’t find a bathroom or exit in a building.” — Sara A.

2. Being Late or Early

“Time… even something as small as the countdown at church for the service to start. If I’m not in my seat, I start panicking. I hate being late, it makes me so anxious. I don’t know why.” — Allison D.

“Running late, or being too early.” — Rab H.

3. Ordering At a Restaurant

“Ordering at a restaurant. I sit there and rehearse my order over and over again, making sure my wording sounds perfect so I don’t sound weird. Sometimes I Google the menu for a restaurant so I know what to order before I even walk in the door. Even though I practice it, if I say something wrong or the waiter/waitress asks me a question, my mind goes blank and I go into full freeze mode.” — Morgan K.

“Ordering food (I repeat what I want in my head until a waitress comes or it’s my turn).” — Clarissa

“Ordering food in a drive-through. I have to know what I want before I get to the speaker and I have to have my debit card in my hand before I pull [up] in the line. If anyone else is with me and ordering, I won’t pull up to the speaker until they know what they want, too.” — Katie B.

4. Changes in Plans or Routines

Change in plans. If I know something is supposed to go a certain way and all of a sudden to have to switch it up, my anxiety goes ‘crazy’! Especially if it’s a last-minute change. I will have a major meltdown and panic attack.” — Jessica B.

“Any interactions with people outside my usual routine. Phone calls, unknown texts, neighbors stopping to chat when outside, etc. If my usual routine changes it is instant anxiety unless I know a week in advance. I’ve even canceled doctors appointments because I wasn’t mentally prepared the day of.” — Shelly T.

5. Birthdays

“My birthday triggers me. I feel like I ‘should’ be having fun at all moments of the day, and when I’m not I feel like a failure. It makes for great birthdays!” — Sydney M.

6. Choosing a Book to Read

“Picking a book to read, I might miss out on a really good book and that gives me anxiety.” — Brianna D.

7. Unexpected Text Messages or Phone Calls

“A family member calling or messaging out of the blue making me think something bad happened at home.” — Danielle V.

“Short-worded text messages when I’m used to a full-on sentence. It alerts me to something being off.” — Lacy B.

“The phone ringing.” — Sera M.

“Phone calls. It’s worse when I don’t recognize the number, but even if I know who it is, I can never bring myself to actually answer a call unless I’ve been warned well in advance with a text.” — Eileen D.

8. Physical Pain or Discomfort

“Many things trigger my anxiety, but I think the weirdest is when I’m feeling under the weather, especially stomach sick in any way, always triggers me and they’re usually the worst of the worst for me.” — Debbie G.

“I had foot surgery a few weeks ago and as it’s recovering, I get weird, intense tingling in my foot as the nerves regenerate. For some reason this feeling triggers my anxiety.” — June M.

“Itching, like from bug bites or skin irritation.” — Stacy V.

“Being cold… I was at a football game and every time I got still and caught a chill, my anxiety would trigger. I had to walk around to stay warm and calm the whole time.” — Davin T.

9. Making a Phone Call

Talking on the phone. Having to make a call, that sets me off. It also gets me reeling when people tell me, just pick up the phone and call. If it is something that has to be done it takes me several tries and finally I succeed. However, I am hoping for a voicemail.” — Samantha F.

“Making phone calls — yes, even to family and close friends gives me major anxiety.” — Eleanor V.

10. Making a Mistake While Cooking

“Things going wrong in the kitchen. Baking/cooking is my biggest coping mechanism so if I’m baking, even if it’s planned like birthday cakes, holiday baking or wedding cakes rather than baking to calm down, and things go wrong it triggers my anxiety big time. A sunk cake can drive me to curl up on the kitchen floor and cry.” — Heather K.

11. When It Gets Dark Outside

“When it gets darker earlier and I’m not at home or in a house but I’m inside like the uni library or something; something about being somewhere unfamiliar at night makes me super uncomfortable.” — Alyx P.

“Oddly as the sun sets in the evening and it begins to get dark, I need to be inside with lights on, once it is dark I’m fine again… but every evening I panic if I can sense day becoming night. I’ve never been scared of the dark.” — Shan B.

12. Other Peoples’ Voices

“People who talk too much. Not even necessarily to me. But if I’m in a group and someone just talks and talks and talks it triggers my anxiety.” — Dawn G.

“Talking to more than two people at once. I can’t focus on their expressions and body language and it makes me feel unsafe.” — Mika A.

“The sound of certain people’s voices.” — Meagan S.

13. Car Headlights

“Headlights on cars at night while driving. I get overwhelmed and start to panic and have to really focus hard on keeping my calm or I have gone full-blown panic attack and have trouble catching my breath.” — Erin B.

14. Certain Songs

“The song ‘Talk’ by Khalid. I think it just reminds me of something that happened, but I can’t really explain it.” — Elena

“Strangely an ad for local funeral home on the radio. They play ‘funeral’ type music that just puts me in a weird place. I have to mute or turn off radio until I know the ad is over.” — Jenny P.

15. Having to Poop At Work

“I know this is ‘nuts,’ but I hate having to poop at work. I live just a few miles from work and I will drive home if I have to and then return. If that is not an option because of time, I’ll take back stairs to get to the most unused bathroom in the building and pray no one comes in. If they do, I’m literally frozen.” — Nathalie L.

“I can’t poop unless I’m at home. I would go to summer camp for a week and I only peed. It was hell.” — Kelsey M.

16. Alarm Clocks

“My alarm clock. Tried different sounds…waking up abruptly for me means waking up in a panic attack. My stomach hurts and my heart starts racing which begins the attack.” — Angel N.

“This happens to me every single morning, I thought I found [an alarm clock] that I could handle but it was a fluke — worked once but I’m right back to waking in a panic!” — Ashley R.

17. Not Being Able to Contact Someone

“If I cannot get ahold of of someone I start getting really anxious and getting [thoughts] in my head that they have been in an accident, and then I cannot calm down until I hear [from] them.” — Shane

18. Writing Emails and Texts

“Having to write an email or just writing to someone who doesn’t know me and how they might interpret my message.” — Maggie R.

19. The Mailbox

“The mailbox. just looking at it takes my breath. Walking to it makes me feel ill.” — Holly M.

“Walking from my front door to my mailbox. If I actually do it I feel like I’ve run a marathon because of how much anxiety it causes. I have actually missed important mail because of refusing to make myself check it. I hate being outside alone, even in my own yard, because of how vulnerable and anxious it makes me feel.” — Nichole

20. Conflicts in Movies or TV Shows

“Conflict/drama/embarrassment in a TV show or movie. It’s like I absorb any discomfort a character is feeling and amp it up by 11. I have to take breaks from shows a lot, even children’s shows, because my anxiety gets too bad. It’s completely illogical, but I can’t help it.” — Sarah

21. Arguing or Yelling

“Yelling (even if it’s not directed towards me).” — Jessie V.

“Hearing any adult raise their voice or argue, especially if directed toward a child. Even if it’s in a grocery store and I don’t know the people.” — Elizabeth H.

“People being mad near me. It doesn’t have to be at me. If someone is mad near me, even if I logically know it has nothing to do with me, I tense up.” — Anneka N.

22. Textures

“When I feel a strange texture I didn’t want to feel. I can’t ‘unfeel’ the texture until I find a soft, pleasant texture of something else. It’s really bad right now because I have to touch everything… and let me tell you… all sherpa is not created equal!” — Heather A.

“I hate the feeling of cotton balls and cringe every time I have to feel one. It’s so bad that if I even hear someone touching one I get weirded out and anxious… just thinking about it I have a weird feeling.” — Jessica E.

23. Saying Hello and Goodbye At Work

“Whether or not to say hi or goodbye to someone at work. Sometimes walking by or even walking out of the building makes me nervous. My mind just starts racing and I try to decide what to do. If I say hi/goodbye then sometimes I will feel bad depending on the person’s expression. If I don’t then I wonder if the person thinks I’m weird for not saying anything. I don’t really worry about this in any other situation.” — Sheri N.

24. Social Anxiety Only in Casual Situations

“I have a bizarre form of social anxiety where I am confident and take a leadership role with a group of strangers (like on a course or training) but the thought of a social gathering with people I know (family or staff Christmas parties, birthdays, etc.) sends me into a massive spiral. I will have anxiety about it for weeks leading up to it and will often compensate by canceling or getting horribly drunk and making a fool out of myself then have further anxiety until each and every person I encountered assures me I was fine.” — Mighty community member

“I’m a teacher. I love being a teacher and I absolutely love my students. But when I’m teaching, I am performing a very well-rehearsed role. I put on a facade, a persona. I’m actually extremely shy and cannot make small talk at all. So, when I run into parents and/or students outside of school, I go into utter panic mode inside. Not because I do not want to talk to them but because I am not able to talk to them. My mind just goes crazy and my thoughts just start whirring out of control.” — Leslie L.

25. Laundry

“My weird one is laundry. When I lived in an apartment have to go down two floors to do laundry my mind would just go nuts. I was really bad at timing the loads right and was worried my stuff would get in the way or stolen or something. I’ve had to wear damp pants to work and it was just a lot. Now I am lucky to live in a granny suite with the laundry like three steps away. So that’s helped a lot.” — awsamproductions

26. Power Outlets

“In the UK, sockets/power outlets have switches on them. I get anxious if there’s nothing plugged into them and they are switched on because to me, it looks wrong.” — Alice A.

27. Nothing in Particular

“Nothing… sometimes I can be talking to a friend or in the middle of cooking dinner and it just comes out of nowhere with no warning.” — Erin B.

“The weirdest thing to me is that most times, I have no idea why anxiety rears its head. I know I have a great life… but anxiety tricks you.” — Sarah M.

“When life calms down and everything ‘should’ be easy and I ‘should’ feel fine. The pressure of not feeling anxious when there’s no good reason to be anxious… makes me anxious.” — Colette H.

“When my life is calm. If something isn’t wrong, I fall into this state of anxiety ‘waiting’ for something to happen and in the process of that I ruin things for myself.” — Suzanne S.

For more insight into the parts of anxiety we don’t often talk about, check out these stories from our Mighty community:

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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