If we asked 100 different people what anxiety looks and feels like, we would likely get close to 100 different answers. Remember that anxiety is a subjective experience, meaning that each of us may experience it in different ways. The dictionary definition of anxiety includes explanations such as the following:
1. feeling of worry; nervousness or agitation, often about something that is going to happen
2. something that worries somebody; a subject or concern that causes worry
3. strong wish to do something; the strong wish to do something, especially if the wish is unnecessarily or unhealthily strong
From my own past experiences with anxiety, I would feel it in my stomach. The negative thoughts would trigger the chemicals in my body and I would have an upset stomach. It was as if I had eaten some really spicy food and my stomach was reacting. Many people I’ve worked with in therapy have reported some of the same feelings as well as feeling a general uneasiness, as if they could not sit still and they were waiting for something (bad) to happen. This leads to an agitation that can be felt not only in the one’s stomach but throughout the body. There are over 100 symptoms of anxiety, and I want to look at some of them here.medical issues, even minor ones like allergies, know that anxiety can impact allergic reactions as well as heighten any other physical ailments you may be experiencing.
With so many people being referred to therapy from their medical doctors, a constant theme I see is how many people end up at the emergency room with what they believe is a heart attack. Meanwhile, the test results show their heart is fine and anxiety is deemed as the culprit. Whether it is tightness in the chest, a racing heart beat, difficulty breathing, profuse sweating, feeling lightheaded or nauseous, etc., anxiety can mimic a cardiac event.
When people are experiencing anxiety, they may indeed panic. Along with believing something is wrong with their heart, many people complain of feeling trapped and needing to escape. Our heart rate increases as our blood flows more quickly. Certainly this will warm us up as our bodies are flooded with chemicals (hormones like adrenaline and cortisol) and our sympathetic nervous system prepares us for action. The problem is, we may actually be trying to sleep, not getting ready to tackle the day. Imagine trying to relax and sleep while even some of this is going on inside of you.
Night sweats are common with anxiety, as is restlessness. While you are lying there in bed–perhaps kicking your feet or constantly shifting your body position, having dry mouth and needing to drink, or ruminating over all the things you tell yourself you need to do or did not do–it can be extremely difficult to get to sleep. When you are finally able to sleep, many describe nightmares including falling, failing in the activity they are experiencing in the dream, being a bystander instead of being able to act in the dream or control their actions, and so forth. This is not going to result in restful sleep which, in turn, is not going to help your anxiety levels moving forward—a vicious cycle of sorts.
How does anxiety feel to you? Please leave a reply in the comments section below.
- Folk, J. & Folk, M. (2015, March). Anxiety symptoms (including anxiety attacks, disorder, and panic signs and symptoms). Retrieved from http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-symptoms.shtml
- Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary. (2001). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.
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