Feelings and effects of anxiety

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What does anxiety feel like and how can it affect me?

Because anxiety is a natural human response, some signs and symptoms will be similar for everyone. However, the triggers and situations that cause someone to experience anxiety can be vastly different.

Listen to a group of people about what it's like to live with anxiety, what has helped them cope and how friends and family have learned to help them.

Anxiety can affect us in a number of ways, including:

Thoughts and Feelings

Anxiety can really impact both how we feel, and the things we think about.

You might feel:

  • Worried about things that might happen in the future
  • A general sense of dread or doom
  • Worried about the feeling of anxiety itself
  • Self-conscious about other people looking at, or talking about you
  • Overwhelmed with negative thoughts
  • Like you’re experiencing repetitive or excessive thoughts about particular events (this is also called ruminating).
I was like a duck on a pond – the surface looked still and serene, but underwater my legs were paddling furiously trying to stay afloat.

Physical effects

Anxiety causes changes in our bodies as part of our normal human reaction to stress.

Common physical feelings or experiences can include:

  • A racing or pounding heart, or an irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle aches or other pain
  • Stomach discomfort, including nausea or diarrhoea
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Shakiness
  • Fatigue
  • Biting your nails.

How else could anxiety affect me?

Anxiety that is excessive or lasts a long time can make it difficult to function, so it’s common for other aspects of your life to be affected too.

This can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Loss of libido.
I was bottling up so much anxiety inside, so I also became angry and irritated very easily and would regularly lash out at my parents and brother.

Another common effect of anxiety is a desire to avoid situations or events that might be triggering for you, which can lead to increased isolation and feelings of disconnection or loneliness.

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