Although everyone experiences anxiety at some point, persistent or excessive stress, worry or fear can interfere with daily life. When living with anxiety, symptoms can interfere with one’s career, education and personal relationships. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country, affecting 40 million adults in the United States. Living with an anxiety disorder means everyday anxiety does not go away and can worsen over time. Understanding life with anxiety, including identifying triggers and developing coping strategies, is critical to successfully managing this common and challenging condition.
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What Does Anxiety Feel Like?
Anxiety feels different for everyone and includes both physical and psychological symptoms. Anxiety can be debilitating, especially when it triggers panic attacks. Individuals dealing with anxiety may live in fear of daily activities and feel as if their anxiety dominates their lives. In some cases, people may use substances such as drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their anxiety symptoms. However, substance use can worsen anxiety and lead to addiction.
Physical anxiety symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Teeth grinding
- Shortness of breath
Psychological anxiety symptoms include:
- Inability to relax
- High levels of distress
- Persistent worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive mental repetition of thoughts or problems
How Does Anxiety Affect Daily Life?
How anxiety interferes with daily life differs from person to person, depending on their triggers and symptoms. The fear and stress of anxiety can make even everyday tasks challenging. An individual facing anxiety may be performing their typical routine when suddenly a trigger makes them feel panicked, short of breath and nauseous. For example, an individual with social anxiety may suddenly experience intense fear and panic when asked to speak in front of a class. The terror they feel may be so severe that they are unable to speak and must quickly leave the room. Not knowing when anxiety will strike can lead to uncertainty and stress.
Some examples of how anxiety affects your life include:
- Difficulty getting out of bed to attend school or work
- Excessive fear of meeting new people
- Trouble running routine errands
- Inability to participate in a child’s school functions
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Struggling to focus on work tasks
- Failure to make important decisions
- Excessive fear of attending group gatherings
- Trouble maintaining relationships
- Inability to drive or fly on a plane
First-Hand Accounts of Life With Anxiety
Anxiety personal stories serve as a first-hand exploration of the daily challenges encountered by those living with anxiety and provide hope through shared successes.
For some people, anxiety feels like:
- Overwhelming fear
- Being hit by a ton of bricks
- A see-saw
- A wave
According to Kerryn, 39, “ I couldn’t function. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me.” If you struggle with anxiety, remember you are not alone. Considering joining a support group to connect with others facing similar struggles or reach out to a loved one you feel comfortable opening up to.
Tips for Managing Life With Anxiety
Managing life with anxiety can feel insurmountable at times. Fortunately, dealing with anxiety and living a happy, successful life is possible through a combination of professional help and self-help tips.
Professional anxiety management can include:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Self-help tips for managing anxiety include:
- Scheduling worry time to limit its ability to dominate the day
- Practicing deep breathing exercises
- Exercising regularly to reduce stress
- Getting adequate sleep
- Limiting caffeine intake to minimize its anxiety-promoting activity
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation
- Volunteering for an organization
- Accepting loss of control
- Maintaining a daily routine to reduce uncertainty