What’s it like to live with anxiety?

Any of these sound familiar?

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Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique. But there often emotions, symptoms, and stories that we share. You might read someone’s description of a panic attack, or feeling of heaviness, and think, yes–that’s exactly what it’s like for me.

Here are a few ways other people have described their anxiety. Notice which ones you relate to. If you’d like, try writing a few sentences that describe your anxiety. You can always borrow phrases from these quotes to help describe what you’re feeling to a doctor or friend.

“Anxiety for me is extreme negativity, a general sense of aching. Not like a muscle aching, but an aching in my soul. It makes it difficult to appreciate myself.” –Stephanie

Having an anxiety disorder means that I don’t just have a lot of feelings, I have feelings about my feelings. I worry that my feelings aren’t real or that my feelings about my feelings are the correct feelings, or my feelings are the wrong feelings. I have shame about my feelings, guilt about my feelings, anger about my feelings. Sometimes I wonder which feeling is real – the initial feeling or the resulting feeling? Am I making myself feel this way or do I just feel this way? –Jo

The first time I had a panic attack was in 2009…I felt as if I was going to die. I could not breathe, my body felt as if it was burning from the inside out, and I had to pull off of the road to get out of the car and get air. I walked for two or three hours to try to gather myself before having to call my father to come and pick me up. –China

My junior year of college…I hit a wall, experiencing panic attacks so severe I stopped going out and ultimately lost most joy in life. It was like being at the bottom of a hole, looking up and seeing the top, but having no rope to climb out. I knew I had a few options, a life without joy or go on a journey to find a way to help myself out of that hole. –Zac

It feels as if the world is rushing at me. Noises become very pronounced and it makes my head swim. Sometimes I can find it difficult to focus, sometimes I feel disoriented. My heart rate soars and I become very aware of my breathing. –Miranda

One day, I was driving and started crying out of nowhere. It felt so scary I called my boyfriend wondering if I should go to the ER. I googled things like, “feeling like your mind is fogged up in a room full of people, you’re alone, you can’t breathe.” I saw that symptoms of panic attacks can actually be confused with heart attacks. Like hyperventilating, feeling like your heart is racing, numb hands… At the moment, it felt like it came out of nowhere. But looking back, I did have a lot going on. –Valentina

I start by having very clear, defined, worried thoughts and then my brain starts going fuzzy, because I’m thinking so fast that I can’t keep hold of it. Then my heart starts going really fast, like it’s buzzing or humming rather than beating. You know the feeling you get when you miss a step going downstairs? Well, it’s like someone hollows out my entire chest and replaces it with that feeling with this crazy buzzing heart in the middle. –Amy

Anything sound familiar? Learn more about your own anxiety by tracking your anxiety cues.

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