We all know what it’s like to be anxious, but unless you’re one of the 40 million adults in the U.S. who has an anxiety disorder, it’s hard to understand how significantly persistent anxiety can affect your daily life. Because anxiety is more than worrying. It creeps up in different ways, and even has varying physical effects.
To understand more about how anxiety affects people in their daily lives, we asked our people in our mental health community to share a subtle sign of their anxiety.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “I’ll use a self-scan at the store to avoid having to talk with a cashier or feel like they are judging me for what I’m buying.” — Rachel H.
2. “I seem to become hypersensitive to loud sounds. I jump at sounds that wouldn’t have bothered me that much before, e.g. car door slamming, someone sneezing nearby.” — Chantelle S.
3. “The breathing is the part that always gets me. I’m always super aware of my breathing and when it gets harder I always panic and make it worse. Every waking moment I’m always worried when the breathing and panicking will get worse.” — Liza G.
4. “Unexpected calls, texts or emails can send me in a complete panic and derail my entire day. At work the worst thing a boss can do is ask me to swing by later. I immediately start to feel sick to my stomach, even though I am doing a good job.” — Will D.
5. “Whenever I hear raised voices, or something my brain perceives as that, I immediately get anxious that I’ve done something wrong and someone is angry at me. Even more than usual, this makes me feel like I have to be silent, and take up as little space as possible because that’s the best way to appease them.” — Liselle F.
6. “I avoid taking the elevator at work just to avoid possible interactions with other people. I keep my head down when I pass through the office. Avoid and put off phone calls because I’m too anxious about how the person on the other line will be or what they want to discuss. I jump when phones ring, when doors slam. My daughter misses out on spending time with other kids because I’m too anxious to meet the other parents. My husband misses out on many opportunities because of my anxiety; he backs out of plans or doesn’t make any because he knows it will probably make me anxious to either be alone or meet new people. It impacts my family, my career, myself. I’m trying to get better for all of those reasons.” — Nichole G.
7. “I end up not being able to understand simple concepts and crying over tiny things. I also replay every conversation in my head and convince myself that everyone is laughing at me.” — Vicki B.
8. “It takes me two to four hours to fall asleep every night. Random events play in my head as I try to sleep. Usually it’s something awkward I said or did by accident ages ago (we’re talking years and even decades). I’ll obsess over how I could have reacted differently or fixed it. Usually my only coping mechanism is to read something on my phone to replace the thoughts in my head. Eventually my eyes will be too tired and I’ll go to sleep. Some nights though, I have stress dreams about things I was thinking about before falling asleep. It’s not hard to see why I’ve had severe insomnia since childhood.” — Argy IP
9. “My mood fluctuates so much. I get extremely irritated and angry when things don’t go the way I planned them to go, and I snap at people. I have extreme anxiety about being on time, and will turn into a major witch if someone is making me run late.” — Kelly K.
10. “My chest will tighten for no reason and it’ll become hard to breathe. I will have to convince myself that I am not dying, and that I am getting enough air into my lungs.” — Chantel P.
11. “My anxiety makes me doubtful of my own abilities. Whenever I think about doing something… anything, I always have the thought of ‘what if I cannot do this, I’m not good/smart/strong enough?’” — Christina P.
12. “Unexpected guests stress me out. Changes to plans, too.” — Mel F.
13. “Stuttering, shaking hands, unable to remember what word I am trying to say, sensitivity to sound. — Devra Lucas
14. “My interactions with people at work. I actively avoid elevators and take the stairs to avoid being in an awkward small space with strangers. I avoid conversations with people when I walk into the office kitchen, or walk the halls to the copy room. My anxiety also makes it very hard to be motivated or focus on my work. I spend a lot of time procrastinating because of that. Also, I go over what I’m going to do when I get home a million times in my head, stress about what I will eat, how much money I have, any stressful conversations I’ve had with friends/family/partner that day, how much time I will have to relax before sleep if I decide to work out, cook dinner, etc. When it is time for me to sleep, I get anxious that I haven’t accomplished enough in the day or haven’t done all the things I wanted/needed to do, making it hard to actually fall asleep.” — Haylee P.
15. “I’m terrified of phone calls, especially from people I don’t know” – Courtney S.
16. “It makes me feel like I’m not good enough to do anything. Even simple things like brushing my teeth. My brain tells me I didn’t do something perfectly so it was wrong. It makes it hard to do anything because nothing ever feels worth it when you feel like everything you do is bad.” — Sarah S.
17. “Anxiety whispers doubt into every action I take, telling me that nothing I do will be good enough and uses every past action as a reminder that if I was only better the result would have been better, too.” — Kris G.
18. “Being disappointed and angry when not including in plans that my friends make, but also knowing I would probably panic and cancel if I was invited.” — Lexi K.
19. “The anxiety over having anxiety. Small reminders all day long. Feeling anxious over feeling anxious. And it doesn’t manifest itself physically, it just pops in my head and tells me ‘you’re gonna ruminate over this in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…’” — Cheryl P.
20. “When making any decision, big or small, I spend a great deal of time debating with myself. Oftentimes, despite this being a familiar pattern, it doesn’t occur to me until much later that I’ve been ‘arguing’ with my anxiety, not my own concerns about my choices. Even just writing up this quick response, there’s that ‘little voice’ adding uncertainty and doubt into what I want to share, even though I feel confident in what I have to say.” — Marina F.
21. “Going to work super early every day, just in case something happens on my commute. It is usually only a 15 minute drive, but I leave my house two hours in advance.” — Cassandra T.
22. “Nausea and unsettled stomach… fatigue and brain fog even though my mind is racing and on edge, making it difficult to concentrate.” — Heather W.
23. “It’s like I’m in a fog. I stutter and can’t fully concentrate. My words are slurred and I feel like I’m in a dream. Work is hard. I feel extra slow like I’m moving in slow motion, but at the same time I can’t hold still. My thoughts are scattered, yet I can’t put them into words. My palms get sweaty and hands shake as I try to communicate with people I work with. I get nervous to talk to co-workers because I just know my words will come out faster than my brain can put it together to make sense. I stare at nothing but I think about everything. When someone asks what’s on my mind, I might have a million thoughts racing, but I honestly can’t tell them. The answer is always ‘I don’t know.’” — Marci J.
24. “At work, if I feel like I’ve made a mistake it haunts me all day… or if I feel I’ve said something just wrong. Like if I’ve made a joke about something and it ended the conversation, I wonder if it was inappropriate, too far, or if everyone just thinks I’m not funny. My anxiety makes me lack the confidence I know I should have.” — Milinda M.
25. “Not being able to concentrate on any given thing for more than a few minutes because I always feel like I have a million other things to do and need to address them as well, and my anxiety builds if I don’t. Wash, rinse, repeat.” — Emily K.
26. “When I get invited to something, anything, I am immediately filled with dread. I overanalyze whether or not I should go, then I usually torture myself over that decision leading up to, during and after the event.” — Lindsey P.
27. “The physical pain that my anxiety causes is sometimes overwhelming. For instance my arms, hands and chest have been hurting for the last couple days. It just makes it that much harder to get anything done.” — Natasha A.
28. “I put off everything in any way possible, I stay in bed as long as I can or spend hours pointlessly scrolling through social media because I feel anxious about doing anything for fear of being judged.” — Alex S.
29. “I pick the skin round my fingers compulsively. My hands rarely look nice and sometimes I make my fingers bleed. It can get really painful and awful when my anxiety is at its worst.” — Caro H.
30. “I get anxious when I get notifications on my phone. An unexpected call, text, Facebook message or email can tip my anxiety over the edge. I have to ignore friends who are trying to communicate with me at times and it’s difficult to get others to understand that I’m not trying to be rude; I’m just trying to manage my anxiety.” — Manda W.
31. “I need very specific instructions for so many things or I just stand there looking confused because I don’t want to do something wrong so I’d rather not do anything.” — Jamie H.
32. “Ordering food at a restaurant or fast food place. I’m always so awkward and now my husband knows to just do it for me. I just get so anxious and I forget how to me a normal human.” — Chelsea S.
33. “Being too anxious to leave the house for something important, but worrying about not going. It’s a constant battle in your mind.” — Ammy N.
What would you add?