By Juliette Virzi
Oftentimes, when we picture anxiety, we picture the “classic” symptoms — worrying, overthinking and panic attacks, to name a few. What we may not realize is anxiety presents itself in a lot of different ways. It’s important for us to recognize anxiety is often more than just worrying — and that is evident in the way it presents itself in the lives of individuals affected.
We wanted to know some different ways anxiety presents itself, so we asked members of our mental health community to share one unexpected way anxiety plays out in their lives.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Depersonalization/derealization. Sometimes I will look at my hands and they will feel like they aren’t mine, same with my face in the mirror… I can literally touch my face and it will feel numb and unfamiliar. And then everything around seems like I’m watching it through a lens or from outside of myself. My words don’t feel like they are mine… it’s a very strange feeling and very hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. I become completely detached from myself in times of high anxiety and stress.” — Anastasia M.
2. “Anxiety presents itself as anger for me. Rage seems to feel safer than anxiousness and masks the true emotion. It’s easier for me to direct the emotion outwards at someone else, something else or some situation than it is to face the inner facing anxiety. Plus reacting with anger seems to allow me to cope and release the pent up feelings, whereas sitting with anxiety is unsettling and lasts forever.” — Jordan D.
3. “Blurred vision and plugged ears. When my anxiety hits hard, my eyesight gets blurry… It’s like trying to see underwater. My ears plug up and the people talking to me sound far away. I hear my heartbeat in my ears and my whole body literally feels like it’s vibrating.” — Brock H.
4. “Uncontrollable tremors, especially in my legs. [I] can’t fully fall asleep and pass out from exhaustion — usually only when I have to stay away from home for a night.” — Kayla C.
5. “Controlling behaviors. I try to control people and events and just about everything. [It’s like] perfectionism. If I iron out all the kinks — get rid of everything that might at all go wrong — then I feel calmer.” — Pourgerour H.
6. “Impulsiveness. I will do [silly] things without thinking through [the] consequences.” — Mikayla C.
7. “[I] ramble and talk too fast. Like all the thoughts in my head are trying to come out of my mouth all at once, and when I try to take a breath and organize them, I usually lose some, which is another way my anxiety presents itself. [It’s the] inability to remember anything. Like you could tell me to remember something and then if in 10 minutes you ask me to repeat it and I’m anxious, I won’t remember a thing you had said.” — Kaley G.
8. “The last couple of years, it’s been disfluency (stammer). Either I can’t even get words out or I get stuck on the initial sound of a word. Another atypical thing I do in a panic attack is make a humming sound, instead of talk. I started doing that shortly before the disfluency appeared. They usually go hand in hand. I get so frazzled I can’t get my words out and make a frantic humming sound.” — Kristina W.
9. “Blistering eczema on my hands and feet. When my stress and anxiety levels go up, I develop blisters on my hands and feet which itch like crazy and the more stressed I get, the more blisters appear and they do so in clusters that sometimes look like flowers. It’s called Pompholyx. I’m never completely free of it anymore.” — Elise W.
10. “An immediate sleepiness. I’ll feel very drowsy and lightheaded if I insist [on] staying awake. [My] body will also get limp and powerless. once I lie downIi’ll be sleeping for 10 hours or even longer. Usually, I’ll skip around two meals, not even waking up for water or trip to the bathroom. I guess my body’s “defense mechanism” is to shut the brain down immediately in order to feel better.” — Riri D.
11. “A lot of crying or needing to cry. I can’t talk clearly and I have to fight back my tears. Sometimes it’s too much and I have to cry even if it’s in public so I can calm down.” — Monica T.
12. “Nausea and a constant ringing in my ear that gets louder as my anxiety gets worse. Also, I’m usually pretty sensitive to sounds, so when I’m very anxious the smallest noises (such as my own hair rubbing on the pillow case) irritate me out of proportion.” — Mariana N.
13. “I get really itchy on my arms and legs like there are little bugs crawling on me. And sometimes I’ll find myself picking at the sleeves of my shirt like they’ve gotten too tight. I just feel super uncomfortable with myself.” — Sadie S.
14. “Being skittish. When I’m anxious, or even when I’m not, I get scared at the smallest things. The buzz of a fly, the sound of a bell, something dropping, abrupt yelling. I jump and it feels like my heart stops. I immediately go into reflex mode and I position my body like I’m defending myself from an attacker, and it takes me a few minutes to recover.” — Caelynn C.
15. “Memory problems and confusion. I forget everything and in high stress/anxiety moments. I will forget how to function normally, I can’t speak in complete comprehensible sentences and I don’t realize what’s going on around me. I work in a retail store and I have people that come in a lot, but I don’t remember them… Someone can walk in, I can hold a conversation with them, leave and then they can walk back in 10 minutes later and I won’t remember/recognize them.” — Serenity B.
16. “I become aggressively social when I’m out with a lot of people. I don’t want to seem nervous so I start talking and sometimes can’t stop because if I do, my momentum will crash and I’ll feel myself panicking.” — Cristal G.
17. “Rushing around the house to get out the door, even when there’s no set time for me to be anywhere. For years I did this without realizing it was linked to my anxiety. I still do it but now I can recognize it and slow down.” — Julieann H.
18. “I pick at and pull out my hair for a couple hours at a time. I break each strand I pull out looking for split ends so I can get the immense satisfaction from pulling that apart. I will also tweeze my leg hair stubble and bite and pick at my fingernails and the skin on my fingertips.” — Nicole P.
19. “[I experience] hyperacusis/misophonia. Everything around me starts making me uncomfortable, every noise. It makes me irritated, mad. I get the urge to run away from crowds to a silent area.” — Maria T.
20. “Irritability! I get overwhelmed quickly and tend to get nasty and short with others — ‘Stop, be quiet, go away,’ etc. My senses become overly stimulated and I don’t know how to handle it. I yell and then shut down.” — Francesca C.