What is Anxiety? – Reflecting On The Most Common Mood Disorder

what is anxiety

Have you ever found yourself asking the question “what is anxiety?”

For everyone reading this; this is not a medical explanation of anxiety.

This is what anxiety is to myself, and many real people.

Dealing with anxiety for over a decade, I have been through a laundry list of anxiety symptoms.

For the person dealing with anxiety, maybe you can relate to some of this.

To the person who is actually asking the question “what is anxiety?” I am going to explain what it feels like to be a real person with real anxiety.


What is Anxiety?

This question is very complicated because there are many different types of anxiety disorders.

Personally my struggles have been with General Anxiety Disorder.  That being said, my General Anxiety has presented itself with symptoms of seemingly every other form of anxiety as well.

There has not been a day in recent memory where I have not had to face anxiety to some degree.

Anxiety feels like the walls are closing in on you.  For myself, it essentially is a state of frequent, unexplainable stress.

While others may experience anxiety differently, this is a basic idea of General Anxiety Disorder,

The mind enters a state of autopilot, where almost everything is blown out of proportion.

Everything from insignificant chores, to completing everything on the to-do list is enough to warrant a stress response.

Anxiety is like a virus in the brain that likes to paint every possible scenario black.  You worry about everything, and more often than not the “worst case” is the “first case”.


It can impact your school, career, relationships, friendships, and more.

When I was in college, I would lay awake in bed unable to sleep because I would be worrying about the next days assignments.

At my old job, my anxiety would elevate the importance of even minor tasks.  Every time I made a mistake, I would become extremely stressed.

In the back of my mind I always feared getting fired.  The reality of it was, I didn’t even like the job, and when I finally quit it was liberating.

However in the moments of work, my anxious mind would not let me see things as such.  Instead my thinking was clouded by a haze of worry.

This definitely took an unnecessary toll on my energy levels.

For those of you who experience anxiety, I am sure you can relate to the fatigue that accompanies it.

Rather than focusing on the present, our energy is wasted worrying or feeling stressed.


As for relationships…

On days my anxiety is high, I know from the very moment I open my eyelashes.

My chest is tight and my thoughts are racing.

This is the recipe to put me on edge, and leave me cranky for the day, wishing to avoid all human interaction.

However avoiding my family and my girlfriend is not realistic on most days.  When anxiety is high, I really have to rationalize what I let bother me.

There has been plenty of times where I have got in a ridiculous argument with my girlfriend, simply because I was too anxious to think clearly.

Upon settling down, I realize how immature I may have been.

If you let anxiety control you, it can definitely damage some of the most important relationships in your life.

Anxiety has even caused me to miss out on fun events and adventures with friends.

I have passed up on road trips for worry of getting poor sleeps.  I have passed up on parties to avoid interacting with people I do not know.

Even overseas trips, I let pass me by for fear of the unknown.

Needless to say anxiety likes to be the center of your life.


Anxiety Vs. Panic

What is anxiety and when is it panic?

what is anxiety

In order to break down the difference between anxiety and panic, let’s use this photo as an example.

For the average person without anxiety their stress levels probably look something like the first third of this image.

In day to day life they are pretty calm, with some minor bumps signified by stress, and caused by real life situations such as work or school.

A person suffering from anxiety looks like the small bumps,  lots of minor stresses, often for seemingly no reason.

And finally we have panic, marked by the extreme spike.

Panic in essence is a dramatic rise in anxiety.  For many, panic is caused by a phobia such as spiders, social situations or claustrophobia.

For others panic attacks happen without reason.

I can tell you from personal experience, a panic attack is the thing of nightmares, and one thing I would truly wish upon nobody.

I can only relate a panic attack to having any and all serenity leaving your body, and being dominantly replaced by extreme worry.

Physically, in my experience, it feels like a car is placed on top of your chest, and your stomach no longer wishes to contain anything.


Why Do We Get Anxiety?

Anxiety has the biological responsibility of keeping you alive.

If you are in a situation that the body registers as dangerous, your brain will release neurotransmitters and hormones that will temporarily make you feel energetic, alert, and consequently anxious.

This may be helpful if you were being chased by a predator, but the chance of that happening in day to day life is highly unlikely.

However, today’s modern world contains many stresses that constantly bombard us.  We live life at 110mph, with hardly so much as a pit stop in between.

If you have a deficiency in the calming neurotransmitters such as GABA or Serotonin, OR if you suffer from adrenal fatigue (improper functioning of the adrenal glands, which modulate stress) you may not be fit to handle these stresses.

These imbalances may very well be manifesting themselves as an anxiety disorder.


 Signs You May Have An Anxiety Disorder

Everyone may experience anxiety from time to time in their life, but how do you know if you actually have an anxiety disorder?

First off, if you related to this article at all, there is a good chance you do.  My anxiety has been a rough ride, and many of the symptoms I explain are more intense than average.

Other symptoms to look out for include:

  • Sleeping problems due to racing thoughts or heart
  • Being overly self-conscious, having low self-esteem, or worrying too much about imperfections
  • Muscle tension
  • Ruminating thoughts you can’t let go of
  • When something comes up you need to do it immediately
  • You replay a stressful event many times in your mind
  • Perfectionism
  • You repeat certain actions compulsively such as washing your hands or cleaning
  • You have a lack of hope
  • Regular tightness in your chest (excessive nervous feeling)


In conclusion

Identifying if you actually have an anxiety disorder can be a big step in recovery.

Before I realized I had an anxiety disorder, I didn’t know what anxiety was.  I was down on myself for being such a “worry wart”.

Finally realizing and admitting to myself I had a disorder was what caused me to take steps to improve it!

If someone you love is struggling with anxiety, the worst thing you can do is make them feel like there is something wrong with them.

Show them love and support.


I hope you found this helpful.  If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments!


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About the Author

Sharing my past experiences battling anxiety, fatigue and depression in hopes that I can help you with your own personal struggles.

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