What does chronic anxiety really feel like? Does anxiety feel like knives in your stomach, grating against the sides? Or does it feel like chest pains that just refuses to go away? Our goal today is to explore and illustrate what chronic anxiety looks like, and how to help if you are struggling with anxiety.
What does chronic anxiety feel like? Chronic anxiety feels unpredictable and overpowering. It may become so debilitating mentally and physically that you might not be able to think clearly or move.
Why do we feel anxious
Most people have experienced anxiety at some point in the past. It's a health topic that many people have encountered. In fact, anxiety is a normal response to keep ourselves safe from danger. It's perfectly normal to feel anxious when you are struggling with financial troubles or getting laid off.
However, when living with anxiety over long periods of time and it does not abate, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Mental health is not as simple as just having better stress management skills. Sometimes, mental illnesses like anxiety disorders can manifest into physical health conditions, and it may also impact your sexual health as well.
Here are 5 examples of the effects of what anxiety feels like:
1. Like you are constantly out of breath
Chronic anxiety can manifest in physical symptoms, such as sharp chest pains.
This kind of chest pain can persist like a sword is being pressed your chest. Sometimes, this can result in full panic attacks. In these instances, you might even believe that you're having a heart attack.
You might be feeling your heart rate spike. You might feel sweaty palms. You might feel persistent tightness in your shoulders.
When you are feeling this way, take a second to breathe and to practice gratitude. It's hard to feel anxious when you are feeling grateful for your blessings (I'm alive, I have food to eat, I have water to drink, etc.) Doing this over time creates a habit and a neural pathway in your brain to let you know to turn to gratitude instead of anxiety.
2. Like your stomach is constantly unsettled
When you are feeling anxious, it puts their sympathetic nervous system into overdrive.
Light symptoms might feel like you have butterflies flying in your stomach. Stronger symptoms might feel like boulders moving around in your stomach. It might feel so bad it feels like irritable bowel syndrome.
Focusing on your breathing helps you alleviate these feelings. Remember that your mind is programmed for you to survive, not to be rational. Meditation is great for relieving the knot in your stomach. With time and practice, you can alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety.
3. Like a dark cloud is following you everywhere you go
One of the main characteristics of chronic anxiety is self-loathing. Your head just goes in a loop of constant negativity. You just can't seem to break out of it.
The worst part about this: you can just think positive to get rid of the negative. It just not that easy.
Meditation really helps with this. You need to catch yourself before this cycle starts happening. If you don't, you will get stuck in the loop. Focusing on deep breathes while not holding onto your thoughts helps you quiet the negativity.
4. Like danger is around every corner
When dealing with severe anxiety, it may feel like there dangerous lurking behind every corner. You may feel fidgety, tense, and irritable. Your mind is always running the worse case possibilities.
When anxiety attacks, it feels like there is nothing you can do. You feel frozen in your step, unable to change the fear that something awful is about to happen.
Again, practice meditation to alleviate your mind from fear. Focus on your breathing to slowly move back into a calm state.
5. Like you are never able to sleep enough
The sufferer of anxiety often suffer from insomnia from anxiety. You are unable to stop your worst thought from running in your mind, and your body is responding with the fight-or-flight mechanisms.
Anxiety can strike with so much force it leaves your thoughts scattered in all directions. The worst part, when you lose out on sleep, the devastating effect compounds upon your health.
Use meditation as a shield against these running thoughts. Let your mind be at peace, and trust that you are safe.
Common symptoms of anxiety disorders
Here are some of the most common anxiety symptoms:
1. Nonstop worrying
When you are worrying disproportionately high in response to normal situations, it may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder.
The worrying must be intrusive, obsessive, and occur on most days for at least six months.
Usually, people under 65 are the highest risk group for generalized anxiety disorder. This is true especially in those of lower socioeconomic status.
Excessive worrying is a trademark of generalized anxiety disorder.
If you are anxious, your body will experience a cascade of effects. You might experience a racing heart, sweaty palms, and dry mouth.
Your body moves blood from your digestive system and into your muscles in preparation for fight or flight. You become increasingly irritable and agitated.
Fatigue may follow an anxiety attack. The fatigue may be caused by other factors, like insomnia, or hormonal effects. It may also be a sign of depression.
4. Lack of focus
Many people report difficulty focusing when dealing with anxiety. In a study with children and teens, they found that 66% of them had a hard time concentrating.
Being tense is a frequent symptom of anxiety. It's possible that muscle tension also causes more anxiety as well.
People with anxiety report feeling on edge. In a study with children with anxiety disorder, it found that 3/4 of the subjects reported restlessness as the main symptom.
If you experience restlessness for an extended period of time, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
7. Difficulty sleeping
A study of children over 20 years found that insomnia in children led to a 60% elevated rate of developing an anxiety disorder.
8. Panic attacks
Recurring panic attacks can produce fear that is destabilizing. It's tied with increased heartbeat, sweating, tightness of chest, and fear of dying.
Seeking help for anxiety
Anxiety can be so debilitating that it's necessary to seek professional help. There are healthcare professionals who can provide medical advice or recognize and treat anxiety disorders.
If you are someone facing mental or substance use disorders, you can turn to SAMHSA's (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find information and assistance. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and other treatment options.
As we conclude, hopefully, these examples have given you more understanding of what anxiety feels like on a day-to-day basis. It's much more severe than feeling a little worried. It's debilitating.
Next time you come across a person who struggles with anxiety, have more empathy for them. Understand that they are fighting a daily battle against their mind. Support them with love as they learn the techniques to cope with it.
At Testimonio, we want to help. Your mental health is just as important for healthy living as your physical health. If you have a friend who is struggling with chronic anxiety, our mission is to help them find a life-changing peace of mind. Let us know how we can help them in their walk to improve their mental health.