Perhaps you know someone who struggles with anxiety, or maybe you live with it yourself. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness in America, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
However, the mental condition has been kept largely under wraps as a taboo topic of conversation — until recently, that is. Now, more than ever, people are sharing their stories in hopes of destigmatizing the mental disorder.
So what is it really like to live with anxiety? Here are real women stories to give you a snapshot of what day-to-day life with anxiety entails. See what they had to say below.
“[Anxiety is a] nagging self-doubt in the back of my mind; the idea that I could always be doing better.” – Sally, 25, Actress
“My anxiety is highest in the mornings. I think that’s part of the reason why my internal clock is set to 7:20 or 8:30 a.m. no matter what day of the week or what time I went to bed. Even as a person that doesn’t have a routine 9-to-5 job with literally no stress in my life, it’s still something that I experience daily…I get an urge that I need to be surrounded by people, happy thoughts, and doing something. Laying in bed and doing nothing heightens it even more. I also get social anxiety. I get nervous and clammy and awkward and I think of any situation sometimes to get out of something. I overanalyze and am constantly critiquing what I say and how I act.” – Julie, 27, Flight Attendant
“Anxiety feels like overthinking anything and everything.” – Sarah, 25, PR Intern
“Living with anxiety means a commitment to being honest with myself, learning new and healthy ways to be patient with my thoughts and worries. It also requires me to connect with my intuition, take action in my life, and make intentional decisions.” – Jayne, 32, Performer and Fitness Instructor
“Overthinking [and] stressing about anything and everything – most of the time knowing it’s irrational.” – Camille, 34, Salesperson
“Some days are better than others, and certain situations have definitely triggered my anxiety more than I would like to admit, but it’s better than it was three years ago. I have also come to accept that my anxiety will always be something that I live with, and that’s okay with me. It’s made me a more compassionate and understanding person, and I’ve been able to help friends who are still struggling with it. And I guess that makes it all worth it.” – Denise, 25, Editor
“It plays like a continuous loop in my head. It’s over-analyzing every word, action, and thought. Should I have said this instead? What if this happens? Who did I offend? Why did I do that? Is he [or] she mad at me? Some days it’s bad, some days it’s manageable, some days it’s nonexistent. The only consistency is that my anxiety is inconsistent. It loves to pop up unexpectedly.
As far as managing my anxiety, working out is usually my go-to. I find that when I have a good/hard workout in the morning and let my brain go into autopilot, I usually have less anxious days. I also use CBD oil in the evenings to fall asleep or read a book. Otherwise, I find myself replaying my entire day in my head and analyzing what I did [and] said and think about what I should have said [or done], which then usually leads to me tossing and turning and waking up multiple times in the middle of the night.” – Erika, 28, Sales Representative
“Anxiety, especially a panic attack, feels like you’re blacked out. Your heart races, your head feels clouded, and your body starts shaking. Your mind tells you to relax, but you have absolutely no control of your body and actions. [It’s] the worst feeling ever.” – Annette, 23, Model and Social Media Manager
“Living with anxiety is like a constant check and balance system. Are these emotions valid or is this my anxiety? It causes me to doubt real valid emotions constantly. Anxiety also causes me to be detrimentally non-confrontational. I never know if I’m fighting for something because my erratic emotions think I should, or if this is something I should really stand up for. Was that argument wrong? Did the other person just make a point that sways me? [It causes] constant doubt and questioning.”– Debbie, 29, Purchasing Agent
“In my life, anxiety seems to go hand-in-hand with depression. If I have a day where I’m feeling really low, I also experience waves of anxiety. My heart rate increases to a level where I swear others can hear it, I develop a heightened sense of awareness to things around me, and I’ll fidget with things, namely my cuticles. When it hits, I try to take a walk or watch videos on YouTube that will make me laugh in an effort to zap me out of it, but more often than not I just barricade myself in my office or bedroom for a while until it passes. I consider myself lucky though. I don’t have it nearly as bad as others that I know. I feel that my episodes of anxiety are tolerable/manageable rather than completely debilitating. Gotta find that silver lining somewhere!” – Mary, 32, Service Desk Technician
“Anxiety is something I have lived with my whole life but got [worse] when I had my first kid, and worse when I had my second. I just recently got medicated for it and wish I had done it a long time ago. I over plan and prepare to prevent myself from kick-starting the anxiety. I’m very aware of the things that set me off, [such as] being late, so I make sure to adjust accordingly. It’s something that I work at every day and I make a conscious effort to never have it affect my kids. I’m so grateful to have my husband and family who understand and are supportive. It’s not fun, but it’s something I finally accepted and have grown to be better since.” – Eva, 33, Stay-at-Home Mom
“It’s paralyzing at times, triggers my multiple sclerosis, causing me to have tremors, and puts my stomach in endless knots. My career and autoimmune disease are the cause of it, so at some point soon a change must happen.” – Barbara, 39, Publicist
“Anxiety is oftentimes embarrassing. I feel judged by people that don’t have anxiety. They don’t understand why I feel the way I do or why my brain works the way it does. Instead of being able to work through my anxiety, I have to explain myself or justify my thoughts.” – Parker, 26, Medical Office Assistant
“What’s it like to live with anxiety? It’s re-reading every single email response three times over, worried that you may have made a typo. It’s walking out the front door and down the street only to have to turn around, walk up the stairs, and double-check that your front door is locked. It’s including exclamation points in every email (despite despising the punctuation) to ensure that your tone comes across positively. It’s being hyper-aware of filler words and stumbling over your speech or going radio silent when you notice you’re using them. It’s succeeding at your job but questioning said success and feeling like an impostor. It’s finding solace in your girlfriends, only to wonder if they secretly resent or judge you behind closed doors. It’s falling in love but having trouble trusting that the other person’s emotions are faithful, real, and lasting. It’s overanalyzing every single text, wondering what the tone might be — often assuming the worst. It’s a quick spiral when alcohol and emotions come into the picture. It’s the overwhelming feeling of being pulled in a million different directions but still wanting to respond and show up for those pulling, in fear of what life may be like if you don’t. It’s doing absolutely nothing wrong but fearing that you’re about to be found out. It’s being honest about your emotions, only to be called crazy. It’s constant cognitive dissonance and subconscious comparison. It’s wanting to keep things short, but always writing a novel in hopes of being understood. And, if I’m being totally honest, it can feel like the end of the world. Thankfully, it’s not. Instead, it presents an opportunity for growth, compassion, and empathy — all things the world could use a little more of.” – Becky, 27, Writer