What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

Clinical anxiety disorders have symptoms that are more telling of a persistent, consuming, life-interfering mental health disorder

Anxiety disorders are a common health issue affecting about 40 million U.S. adults each year.[1] While having some type of anxiety disorder is not rare, many people often mistakenly think their symptoms of healthy nervousness or anxiety are signs of a clinical anxiety disorder, which is not always the case.

It can be troubling when people chalk their stress and anxious feelings up to having an anxiety disorder because this can minimize the seriousness of anxiety disorders. True clinical anxiety disorders are far more troubling than a normal bout of nervousness or worry. Clinical anxiety disorders should be handled with treatment from a health professional. This is not to say that feelings of anxiousness, nervousness and stress are not troubling, however what separates these routine, healthy feelings from an actual clinical mental health disorder is significant.

Looking at the following symptoms of clinical anxiety will help individuals determine the seriousness of clinical anxiety disorders and why they often require careful treatment intervention.

Separating Clinical Anxiety from Normal Feelings of Fear and Nervousness

Anxiety is something that everyone experiences from time to time. People will experience fear, nervousness, concern, worry, anxiousness and even panic symptoms due to a variety of different factors: starting a new job or school, having to make an important decision, giving a speech or presentation, etc. However, these symptoms and feelings will fade away once the worrisome issue has passed. Clinical anxiety disorders will persist and even worsen over time to the point that that the anxiety will be debilitating and interfere with the person’s ability to function in everyday life activities such as relationships, work and school.[2]

Normal feelings of anxiety are going to occur when problems or frightening situations arise. The reaction is completely sensible, but for people with clinical anxiety, their feelings of anxiety are often prompted outside of normal triggers. Furthermore, their feelings of nervousness will continue long after an anxiety-inducing situation has passed. For example, if a person is giving a presentation at work, he may experience extreme nervousness and anxiety before and during the presentation, but when it’s over these feelings will subside. People with clinical anxiety will feel extreme nervousness, panic and anxiety for nonsensical reasons. They may continue to experience their dread and worry long-term, and these symptoms can be attached to specific events or may be a generalized presence every day.[3]

How Do I Know When My Feelings of Anxiety are a Problem?

While there are multiple forms of clinical anxiety disorders, the symptoms revolve around excessive, irrational fear and dread. The anxiety will be consuming and can come with physical symptoms such as dizziness, rapid breathing, nausea, dry mouth, quickened heart rate, dry mouth, sweating, trembling and panic. The fear and feeling of anxiousness is uncontrollable and can trigger panic attacks and interfere with a person’s ability to think clearly and behave rationally. Individuals may be hypervigilant, tense and jumpy, restless, irritable and seemingly always anticipating the worst; they may seem pessimistic or overly caution about potential, even irrational, signs of danger.[4]True forms of clinical anxiety can and will prevent a person from normal, everyday functioning.

What Happens When I Have an Actual Anxiety Disorder?

There are numerous forms of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Each of these clinical disorders has its own unique symptoms, but overall they share the all-consuming feeling of excessive terror, irrational fear and extreme anxiousness. These feelings can persist for weeks, months and even years without treatment.

While receiving a diagnosis from a medical professional is necessary to implement effective treatment, it is also vital because anxiety disorders can easily be confused with other medical conditions. Anxiety is a common symptom associated with a number of physical and mental health illnesses and conditions, so it is imperative that a physician rule out other significant causes or conditions a person may be experiencing such as substance abuse, depression, ADHD, eating disorders, heart disease or hyperthyroidism.

There are many safe and effective forms of treatment for anxiety disorders, such as psychotherapy, medication, stress relaxation techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, exposure-based treatment, and even making simple lifestyle changes to factors like sleep and nutrition.

Find Professional Help for Your Anxiety Symptoms

If you or someone you care about show signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder, please know that ignoring these symptoms will not make them go away. Your worry and concern regarding your symptoms is only making matters worse. By reaching out for help, you will be able to remove a significant amount of pressure and concern, because you have someone else looking out for you. When you speak with a recovery professional you can find answers to your questions, as well as learn helpful information. Recovery professionals can also connect you with the people and services that can help you recovery if you’d like. You can find the treatment help that will work for you and get back to your normal self.

Our toll-free helpline is operated 24 hours a day by recovery professionals who are happy to offer their assistance, a listening ear, and a helping hand. To learn more about your symptoms of anxiety call and speak with a recovery professional today.


[1] Gupta, Sanjay, M.D. (2014, June 25). Q: What’s the difference between an anxiety disorder and just feeling anxious? Everyday Health: Paging Dr. Gupta. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/paging-dr-gupta/whats-the-difference-between-an-anxiety-disorder-and-just-feeling-anxious/.

[2] (2015, May). Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml.

[3] (2013, June 6). Anxiety vs. Nervousness 101: Managing ‘Mild’ Anxiety. Elements Behavioral Health. Retrieved from https://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/news-and-research/anxiety-vs-nervousness-101-managing-mild-anxiety/.

[4] Anxiety Disorders. National Alliance on mental Illness. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders on 2016, March 5.