Our society today is a busy and often overwhelming place. Between the constant distractions of our phones and devices, the demands of our work and personal lives, and the events going on in the world around us, it’s all too easy to feel anxious about everything.
But – what does it mean to have anxiety? What does anxiety actually feel like?
What Is Anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is a genuine emotion that carries feelings of tension, fear, and worry. It affects you physically and mentally, manifesting in a variety of different ways for different situations and people.
It’s also worth noting that anxiety is not the same as fear. Fear is an appropriate and immediate response to something threatening in the moment, while anxiety is focused on a perceived threat that is much more vague and potentially not even present.
Anxiety is also an incredibly common disorder. According to a January 2022 survey, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found that approximately 25% of Canadians experienced some form of anxiety, with the highest rates among adults aged 18-39.
As overwhelming as anxiety can feel, always remember that you are not alone in feeling it!
How Anxiety Feels
Anxiety is characterized by both mental and physical effects – i.e., it is definitely not just “in your head”. While many of the feelings and symptoms below are common, remember that each person will present differently depending on the specific disorder they have. A person may have just a few or all of these.
Anxiety disorders can manifest constantly, impairing your daily life and making it difficult to enjoy your hobbies or do necessary tasks. Physically, anxiety feels like:
- An inability to sit still, leading to shaking or trembling limbs and extremities
- Tightness in the chest, causing shortness of breath or an inability to breathe
- Nausea or stomach distress
- Muscle tension and cramps, or numbness and tingling
- A racing heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Fatigue and tiredness due to insomnia or inability to sleep deeply
- Excessive sweating
- A dry mouth
On the emotional and mental side of the disorder, sufferers of anxiety may experience:
- A sense of impending danger or dread
- Nervousness, often with an inability to focus on a task at hand
- Intrusive or obsessive thoughts
- A vague fear of certain situations
- An overwhelming sense of panic
For some people, anxiety can lead to panic attacks – a medically recognized condition that appears very suddenly, with more severe and intrusive effects on the body and mind. These panic attacks are characterized by feelings like:
- A choking sensation
- Pain/tightness in the chest
- Tingling or numbness
- Shaking or trembling
- Heart palpitations/racing heartbeat
- Feeling inappropriately hot or cold
- Nausea or stomach sickness
- Detachment about your situation
- Shortness of breath/hyperventilation
- A lack of control over your reactions or your body
- An impending fear of death
Some of these may be attributed to other medical conditions, like certain respiratory or heart diseases. But if those conditions are not present, these symptoms are likely due to overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks. It’s worth checking in with a professional if you experience these.
Treatments for Anxiety
Whether you have struggled with it for years or you are dealing with it as a new response to stressors in your life, there is always help available to overcome the feelings of anxiety. From prescribed medications and lifestyle changes and exercises at home to proven methods of anxiety therapy, there are multiple options to help you lead a normal life.
Here at Your Counselling, we use behavioural therapies like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), and others to improve our clients’ quality of life. It all starts with a free 15-minute introductory call, where we listen to your needs and find out how we can best serve you. Reach out today and get started on your journey to better understanding and enhanced control over your daily life.