What Is It Like to Have Anxiety?

Trigger Warning: Anxiety and Dissociation

Many people claim to have anxiety regularly when something nerve-racking pops up in their lives. You probably have experienced anxiety in some way before. Maybe you were sitting at your desk in an eerily silent classroom, waiting for your professor to pass out an exam worth half of your grade, going on a first date with someone new, or going out in public to a very crowded, loud area. While I don’t want to discredit anyone’s anxiety symptoms, what classifies as an anxiety disorder can be much more intense and debilitating than what you might imagine if you don’t have severe anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association, some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia, and specific phobias. Unfortunately, severe anxiety can trigger horrifying out-of-body experiences, physical pain, and mental fog that can make it extremely hard, or even impossible, to focus or move. 

woman lying in white bed

When you feel really sad or depressed, you may notice that you start to feel weak, and even lose your appetite. Your mind can manifest itself in various ways in the body. Anxiety disorders are no different. Anxiety can cause extreme physical pain that feels so real it can be debilitating. Shortness of breath, speeding heart rate, and excessive sweating and shaking are typical symptoms of anxiety, but it can get even worse. Many people who have anxiety disorders report feeling like a sharp blade is being forced into their chest, making it hard to move and leaving them gasping for air.

Anxiety can manifest itself in mental ways too, such as dissociation and brain fog. If you’ve never experienced dissociation before, it can be hard to imagine. Dissociating essentially means being disconnected from the present moment in a very realistic way. It could include having a traumatic out-of-body experience. It is one of the body’s ways of coping with traumatic or unpleasant situations to escape the present, but it can be extremely traumatic for those who deal with it. Additionally, anxiety can cause brain fog. Brain fog is basically a foggy screen over your brain’s activities. When in a state of mental fog, things like focusing on a certain task or having a conversation may be physically impossible. 

I think it’s important to bring more light to mental disorders so that we can understand and offer empathy to those who struggle with them. Specifically, I wanted to talk about anxiety disorders because anxiety is oftentimes just brushed off as being nervous before an exam, and it can be much, much, much more than that. We need to recognize that anxiety is a severely debilitating condition, and those who struggle from it deserve access to the proper accommodations and services they need.