how relatable is anxiety to people without anxiety?
August 4, 2018 12:07 AM   Subscribe

If you have anxiety, could you read this Medium article and comment on how accurately it describes your experience?

I'm wondering if this is something you'd need anxiety to understand. If anxiety, in the dysfunctional sense of that article, is different in kind rather than degree from what I would colloquially call anxiety.

I don't consider myself an especially calm, relaxed person, so I went into that article expecting to relate to what was described. To my surprise, I found it only slightly more meaningful than one of those things where they teach a computer which words people say after other words and then have it spew out grammatically correct but incoherent text. I just...have no idea what this article is talking about. As a description of what I would call anxiety, it's not even wrong
posted by meaty shoe puppet to Science & Nature (43 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Reading that article is giving me too much anxiety to continue reading that article.
posted by quadrilaterals at 12:28 AM on August 4, 2018 [18 favorites]

Ditto on noping out, but the symptoms in the first half don't correspond to my personal experience - I tend to dissociate instead, and studiously avoid the spiralling thoughts, which is exhausting.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:36 AM on August 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

Pretty good. The gazelle metaphor was excellent, and the whole "not wasting people's time" part. I have both anxiety and medical conditions that mean I have to go to the ER for minor injuries just in case, which means I spend a lot of time mentally and then literally apologising for being sick.

I take a daily anti-anxiety med now and what I told my prescribing doctor is that it's great, I can make a mistake like forgetting someone's name, fix it and then not spend an entire hour feeling bad about it. Just 5-10 minutes!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:37 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been diagnosed with generalized anxiety, and this describes the thought processes pretty well, but not the actual feeling of it. This is speaking as someone who is always acutely aware of barf bags on planes. The article feels like if someone were to describe how it feels to ride a roller coaster: saying "it's so exciting" doesn't really give you an idea of what it's like.

I don't know, if you read the article a bunch of times as quickly as possible, it might sort of capture it.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:45 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

The essay didn’t resonate with me but then none of the essays or comics over the years that try to express how anxiety or depression feels ever sound familiar to me. I just think it means that that’s just how art works. It doesn’t resonate with everyone.
posted by bleep at 1:18 AM on August 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

I do not relate to the article.

When anxious, I had the overwhelming feeling that nothing was the right course of action. Getting up would feel bad. Doing the dishes would feel bad. There was a sense that everything would lead to something bad, regardless of what I knew otherwise. Skipping out on events, neglecting chores, doing nothing is not -enjoyable-; it's just how I averted the psychic pain that accompanied every choice. You get to realize day to day living involves a lot of choices.

I believe there are several very different flavours of anxiety and it's unfortunate that they all get lumped into one category.
posted by solarion at 2:00 AM on August 4, 2018 [47 favorites]

I had the same reaction as quadrilaterals. This article should be re-titled, "How to Vomit and other negative things." or "Confusing readers with endless metaphors." I really don't understand the purpose of the article except to try to be cute, and that type of writing may be cathartic for the writer but really annoying to the reader. It's only relevant to the writer because it (I think) describes their experience with anxiety which is different for everyone. It's like when someone is telling you what to visualize, and you're totally not even on that same wave length. Totally awkward.

I wouldn't overthink the fact that you didn't relate to this. You didn't relate to this because the writer didn't care about their audience otherwise it'd be more engaging and less confusing to read. I know I'm being harsh, but this is one of the worst essays I've read in awhile, and I teach writing and read bad essays every semester.
posted by jj's.mama at 2:23 AM on August 4, 2018 [19 favorites]

I think the essay would have been more relatable if the writer said, this is how my anxiety presents itself. Not a "this is your brain on anxiety" how to manual. Anxiety looks and feels different for everyone.
posted by jj's.mama at 2:26 AM on August 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

An addendum to my comment: I definitely believe (having heard experiences and feelings from people I know) the article represents one flavour of anxiety. It's just not my flavour.
posted by solarion at 2:34 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I too stopped early on. This is not my anxiety. I do think it's quite close to one of my family-member's anxiety, though.

I don't think at all when I'm having an attack. I'm not afraid of anything real. I have a physical reaction that is close enough to a heart attack that I have spent many hours multiple times at the ER under observation.
posted by mumimor at 3:31 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oh man.
There are parts of this that I definitely associate with anxiety in my 20s. It reads young to me, but entirely recognizable. It surprises me that they mention being middle aged at the end because for me there is something about the tone of this that makes me nostalgically smile - in that "Ah...youth" gazing-at-a-middle-distance way.

Like to me this feels like unripened anxiety. This feels like the anxiety I remember from maybe 8 or 9 to perhaps 25 or 30. My personal experience with middle-aged anxiety is that it has much more texture and nuance than this in addition to this.

For me, "holding it together" isn't a gazelle on a plain as much as Marie Antoinette on a cart being led to the guillotine, but still. Same appearances v. inevitability, IME.

Every day is just a constant internal dialogue: "Hold it together, keep it together... ignore these other things... chin up... dignity... dignity... its almost over... you can do this... " before falling into bed every. single. day.
posted by Tchad at 3:44 AM on August 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

I think the article describes one specific type of anxiety manifestation that you might or might not connect with, using a writing style that you might or might not connect with.

If you're asking this question because you're interested in differentiating between "normal" anxiety and something more clinical, I'd say part of the difference is the extent to which it becomes actually debilitating, either by completely blocking your ability to do something or by creating extremely intense or exhausting adverse reactions while you're forcing yourself to do it (say, hands shaking so hard you can barely hold things, or heart beating so hard it's painful, or being so stressed that you truly can't think clearly or quickly, or other sensations described in the article). Another part of the difference is how often you feel such intense reactions, and whether they make sense given the situation (i.e., feeling intense stagefright when you're performing for the first time is one thing; feeling intense stagefright about getting your routine grocery shopping done is another.)

On preview, the constant sense of having to hold it together that Tchad describes is also a part of it for me. I think most people have felt that here and there. Feeling it all or most of the time is what turns it into a different beast.
posted by trig at 3:55 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I stopped about half way through. I had problems with the metaphors and I don't have out and out anxiety attacks. What I do have is problems getting out of my comfort zone. When things aren't going well, I freak out, so I do as much as I can to stay comfortable.

My inner dialogue is more a series of things that will go wrong further and further down the line.

I started writing some examples, but I was starting to get anxiety writing those down, so instead I'll just stop here.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:56 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

The conceit of the article -- the how-to formula, the second person-- seems meant to avoid self-pity but ultimately it's distancing.
As someone with quite a large amount of anxiety I don't usually need to share every symptom in another person's writing about anxiety to identify with the overall feeling. But there is one detail here that is so different from my own that no matter how good the writing had been I would have felt it was a different universe of anxiety. It amazes me that an anxious person can reach blindly into the flap of an airplane seat, rummage around and take out an already crumpled-up airsickness bag without feeling anxious about touching something disgusting. :)
posted by nantucket at 4:16 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

The article is very tongue in cheek and feels like a literary version of a W&K Old Spice ad.
posted by parmanparman at 4:30 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Okay, maybe it is just me but I think it's poorly written. I understand the conceit but it's not well done. So I found it to be a bad read and not relatable to anxiety--or anything of my experience--for that reason alone.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:32 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

It isn't strictly how my anxiety presents, but I don't think it was meant to actually be a model for how every anxiety disorder presents, but rather an example of how anxiety isn't JUST a habit of overthinking things and being a bit of a worrier but a way that your thought processes twist things and impact stuff like basic decision making and bodily processes, which I think a lot of people do not adequately understand. So it isn't my anxiety, but reading it starts to trigger some of my own panic disorder.

This is anxiety as a mental health condition. Many people have anxiety as a mental health condition and it isn't particularly like this. But anxiety as a mental health condition is not the state of not being an "especially calm, relaxed person". It has significant negative impacts on functioning, no matter how it presents. If you aren't having significant negative effects in your day-to-day life, then congrats, you don't have anxiety in this sense of the word, but it's a good idea to remember that people who do are, yes, having this hard a time of things even if they aren't exactly like this.
posted by Sequence at 5:08 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

In answer to your question, I think it’s possible for those without anxiety to understand something of what those with do.

In terms of this article, not really. The piece may or may not describe someone’s experience of diagnosed anxiety but it’s overly written and too concerned with it’s own tone and style to be effective as an essay.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:08 AM on August 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

When that article came up on the blue I didn't get very far into it because it didn't feel like my experience and it seemed too much of a thought salad to follow comfortably. I skimmed it through closely this time and found a few nuggets of commonality with my own issues but on the whole, it didn't describe my flavour of anxiety.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:47 AM on August 4, 2018

I couldn't read it. I found it too annoying. Not my anxiety and way too much about vomiting which is not a major symptom for me and is also gross.

That said, reading it made me super tense. It was like having someone yell gobbledygook at me, omg, what are you saying? If I were stuck with that article I'd probably end up extremely anxious.
posted by kitten magic at 5:55 AM on August 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Could not relate to maybe the first third of the article at all. Seemed like a writing exercise and I did not know what it was for. Seems like it was written by someone in a wriing workshop. Like why would I want to go on a journey about how to be anxious? And if I did, I'd stick to more physical manifestations because those are relateable to non-anxious people. But not everyone's physical experiences are the same. I do not get anxiety that makes me feel like I am going to vomit. Maybe if I did this would have made some sense.

If it was about describing anxiety I found the odd second-person perspective not at all helpful for that. I have read other articles that explain anxiety the way I experience it pretty good for me. Anxious people get obsessed by their own feelings and given them (or can't not give them) heightened importance relative to all the other stimuli around them. This article does that. But it's not particularly well written (like if you're in the throes of anxiety, as this author claims to be, you're not waxing poetic about gazelles) and did not encourage me to read the rest of it.

Nothing against the author, if this is her truth, that's AOK fine, but it didn't resonate with me and I could not finish reading it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

It wasn’t a perfect match for my anxiety by any means but parts of it were intensely relatable. The need to plan for every eventuality without being SEEN to be planning or worried at all, the knowing that you need to try some sort of rescue breathing but getting all tangled in WHICH ONE IS RIGHT, the compromise measure of “I will accept help but not too much help,” lying to the Uber driver about your life for no good reason except the truth is too vulnerable, the obsessive rehearsal of conversations you will probably never have in case the worst thing happens which it probably won’t but you need to be ready in case it does - that is all very, very familiar to me.
posted by Stacey at 6:07 AM on August 4, 2018 [13 favorites]

I agree with jessamyn that I found the stylistic choice to use second-person perspective took me out of this article, and wound up skimming most of it. I also found the sort of jokey tone and gazelle metaphor didn't help convey the sense of OH SHIT OH NO that anxiety fosters.

Also for me, as a person with anxiety that usually manifests as anxiety about health/concern about impending death, I actually find it helpful to be around other people. The author of this article seems to be concerned about what other people are thinking about her and whether anyone is looking at her, but my brain has convinced me that the way to handle an extended period of unfounded health anxiety is to be in as many public-facing spaces as possible. That way if I do actually start to die someone will notice and get help! It doesn't make a lot of sense, I'll allow.

I think there really is a great diversity of experience with anxiety and depression. Maybe not connecting to the article just underscores how different everyone's experiences are, though I don't think it's impossible to convey the experience of anxiety/depression symptoms to someone who doesn't have those diagnoses.
posted by little mouth at 6:14 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

the gazelle business was the best part of it except it only replicates realism if you read through it all in 30 seconds. otherwise it replicates only the tedium of anxiety but not the sheer speed and density of the dumb preoccupations people can not only get themselves into but feel the neurotic need to work all the way through in detail until they wind down. stopping as soon as you realize something is dumb and fairly pointless and not a great metaphor never seems to be a feasible option. once you are on the gazelle roller coaster you are at the mercy of the ride operator for how long it last, and you are just the rider, not the operator. this is why many anxious people are obsessed with control. or so I hear.

obvs not all anxious people fear vomiting or think about it at all; I don't. that's what I believe is known as an example. the whole thing is not what I would call relatable so much as entirely comprehensible. if it is relatable to anybody, it will not be because they too have nausea-gazelle-related compulsive fear-thoughts and I very much doubt the author intended that to be the takeaway. the completely pointless covert over-preparation for the wrong disasters is I think the closest to universal of the experiences described.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:31 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

My anxiety is often/always accompanied by terrifying nausea, and this was triggering but not helpful at all. Like, 0% helpful. I would go so far as to say it's mean-spirited, or at least not an act of good faith towards the author's fellow anxiety-havers. It would be better if this article had never been written, honestly. I don't see who or how it's supposed to help.
posted by witchen at 7:44 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

As someone who's experienced clinical anxiety I found this article in really poor taste. Writing a tongue in cheek article about a mental health condition is a shitty thing to do, full stop.

Whether the writer hit the mark in terms of capturing the experience of anxiety is secondary to me. What captures my attention is the dismissive, superficial tone and apparent disregard the writer has for true anxiety, which is not a caricature but a debilitating state to find oneself in. It's not a joke.

And no, I don't think it tracks with the way I experience anxiety. It felt like someone took a shot at a writing prompt and failed miserably, both in tone and intent.
posted by onecircleaday at 7:44 AM on August 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

I have generalized anxiety (comorbid with depression, inattentive type ADHD) and did not relate to this article. Like onecircleaday said above, sounds like a bad attempt at writing a first person anxiety narrative - by a person who sounds like they don’t have anxiety, might I add. Even if they do, their description of it rings a bit false or like they’re trying too hard.

Anxiety isn’t a monolith. Some of what the article describes is more particular to social anxiety than generalized anxiety. I have some social anxiety, but most of my anxiety stems from an overwhelming sense of dread that I have fucked something up terribly, or that if I addressed something I have been putting off I am going to see what a catastrophe I have caused, so I am rendered immobile and instead do nothing, out of pure fear. I justify the fear in my head with an irrational belief that I can somehow foretell my own future, even though my imagination is far more creative and dark than 98% of what happens (or will happen) in reality.

Have you ever been so worried or stressed about consequences, or feared the unknown so intensely, that you did everything you could to avoid dealing with it? That’s the biggest facet of the experience for me. But it’s not the only one- how I react to my own anxiety may be different from day to day, and different from how others react to their own anxiety day to day.
posted by nightrecordings at 7:59 AM on August 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

It doesn't resonate very much with my own experience of anxiety because I tend not to worry that much about specific outcomes. When I feel anxious it's rarely because of a specific bad thing I am imagining. It's much more a physical sensation or a generalized feeling that Something Bad Will Happen or I Have Done Something Bad (But I Don't Know What It Is). But I know many people with anxiety who do plan around specific outcomes.

As many people have posted upthread, there's no single discrete thing that can be isolated and labeled Anxiety; it's just a label that we put on a whole collection of symptoms and experiences. (But the truest description I have found of anxiety was from Chidi Anagonye in "The Good Place": "You know the sound that the fork makes in the garbage disposal? That's the sound that my brain makes all the time.")
posted by Jeanne at 8:03 AM on August 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I didn't relate to it at all. When I'm very, very anxious, I'm not thinking about every single individual feeling like that; mostly I'm just thinking "I am about to die."
posted by sarcasticah at 8:14 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

The tone doesn't bother me that much; it reads to me as a bit dramatized, perhaps, in a way that a less experienced writer would put words to an internal monologue that maybe doesn't actually have words in reality. I write somewhat self-deprecatingly about my own feelings like that at times, trying to write it out in a way someone else would understand. It's like, yes, this is serious and perhaps debilitating at times, but I'm not without self-awareness of that. In fact, if anything, I'm overly self-aware, as this narrator of course is. There is a kind of dark humor that can emerge when I try to tell other people what's going on, given that I'm also observing myself telling them what going on, observing and second-guessing their reactions, etc.

I related to some of it, like the heightened self-consciousness (though I wouldn't mentally spell out most of the unspoken conflicts with people, and the world, and custom, and and and...). I recognize the overthinking, the "Is this the correct word or pronunciation? Oh well, whatever" kind of anxiety, followed by anxious dismissal of dwelling on it, because that's not what normal people do, right? Sometimes there are so many considerations at once that I feel paralyzed, though as others have noted, for me, that often manifests more like too much input, does not compute, can't hold this much anxiety in mind about this many things at once, better not to try to do anything ever.

I recognize the gaming things out mentally 5 steps beyond what might make sense to most. I recognize the knowledge probably gleaned from Google searches of whatever the correct terminology might be for breathing exercises, then trying to convince myself that this sort of thing might help me somehow. That tends to feel a bit like magical thinking, because who even knows how the body works, anyway, or why controlled breathing can help us feel better? I recognize the tingling in one's extremities of a panic attack, then that causing you to panic more and become hyperaware of every bodily sensation, because what if something is really wrong? It has been really wrong before, so it could be again, and everyone always tells you to listen to your body, so...

The vomiting thing is not my cross to bear, but I recognize people I know in that part, and I think it's real enough for those who experience it. The subtle preparation, locating the bag but not being obvious about it until one has to be obvious about it, the continual awareness and trying to escape awareness of the feeling of one's own stomach...yeah.

I get the weird white lies about oneself to the Uber driver, because you might not want to have to go through the whole flow chart of discussion that follows: I'm going to the ER for me, no I'm not sick in a contagious way; no I'm not going to bleed out in your car; no it's OK I'm fine really but bad enough to be taken to the ER for reasons so please take me to the ER now... That all seems exhausting. So sure, a reasonable white-lie explanation for why, as a seemingly healthy person, I might need to go to the ER, could be "Oh, I'm visiting a friend."

Regarding the stuff about getting older and anxious about where others are relative to oneself, well, I recognize the type of train of thought, at least. I'm not sure it manifests that way for me, but who am I to say it doesn't for someone else? This person seems to have some issues with uncontrolled, unwanted intrusive thoughts.

Anyway, it's clunky, and does feel a bit like something from a workshop. And parts of the bit about Steve the Spanish instructor feel a little too pat to have totally happened that way. In general, it feels like some things have been neatened for the narrative, and other things have perhaps been glossed over, but to me, these are more writing problems than necessarily problems that indicate that this isn't how the writer actually experiences the world.
posted by limeonaire at 8:29 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Like a lot of others above, I didn’t relate to the article at all. If I wrote about how I felt when the bad anxiety kicks in, none of it would be even slightly like what the author describes. Then again, I think they were mostly trying to be entertaining rather than trying to convey an accurate description of the experience, so.
posted by holborne at 8:56 AM on August 4, 2018

I also did not relate to it at all. (Been in treatment/on medication for anxiety disorder & PTSD for a couple of decades now). Maybe the bit about "oh, and while you're at it, act normally!" but I think that's generally true of any person experiencing stress or mental distress in a public place. I not only found the essay unlike any sort of nerves or acute anxiety I've ever experienced, I did not think it even managed to convey what an alien from Mars would imagine when reading a dictionary definition or DSM definition of anxiety.

Acute anxiety attacks for me are very physical--though vomiting is the least of my concerns during them--but the rest of the descriptors here (the thought processes, the types of thoughts, the feelings caused by them & the mechanisms for moving through them) as well as the author's take on the whole thing read to me like a person whose never actually had a loss of capacity from anxiety, whether or not she actually has.
posted by crush at 9:37 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hi there. I wrote that. I haven't read all of the comments in this thread because this thread is, ironically, making me really anxious.

I wrote that essay shortly after my anxiety ramped up to the point where I was having panic attacks pretty frequently and I couldn't explain them to myself. Writing out how it felt, getting the trajectory of "Oh shit, I might have a panic attack" to "Fuck, full-blown panic attack" on paper helped me recognize the cycle. It demystified it in a way that made me more accepting of my own anxiety. Sort of. At times.

It wasn't meant to be a description of what anxiety is like for everyone, because I know it manifests itself differently in everyone who deals with it. Mine is specific to me, and that's what I wrote about. The premise of "here's how to be anxious" was just that -- a premise. Framing it as humor instead of memoir was the only way I could make myself feel okay about being so self-centered as to write about something so personal.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:41 AM on August 4, 2018 [37 favorites]

I don't like the article deriding yogic breathing as "new age" when it has been white washed and indigenous and traditional practices and techniques have been first derided and then co-opted, but I don't expect much from a lot of white liberals who write about "science being superior." This reminds me of folks who confessed to be anxious and stick to science as a way to calm their anxieties, without really investigating what "science is" as an ideology, having gone to school with a lot of folks with this viewpoint and having to regularly challenge it. That gives me anxiety as a queer person of color.

But yes. Anxiety is sometimes like this, sometimes not. This sounds like a particularly bad series of episodes, but it exists somatically with a flood of connections and feeling too immature for life because everyone has their shit together, apparently. I don't believe it. I'm pretty much too cynical by this point, have had 5 years of therapy and recently got off Lexapro because it caused me weight gain, but I think it's your brain and body and spirit responding to stimulations that you think will keep you alive. Bless your heart if you aren't anxious, because it means that you don't think all of these will keep it alive.
posted by yueliang at 10:23 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have GAD and didn’t relate to the article much, though everyone’s anxiety is maybe different. Mine is less about body awareness (except during isolated panic attacks) and more about control. What things can’t I control? I should be able to control those things! Did I forget to do something important? Is it going cause a disaster if I did? Am I to blame? Did I take care of everything? Is my child actually safe at school, or could I have made her safer? What if my friend took my offhand remark seriously? Did I hurt the relationship? I’m definitely to blame! Etc. until despair.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:51 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

@mudpuppy - thanks for speaking up as the author, it is understandably nerve-wracking! It's vulnerable to express this, and it's pretty great that you threw it out there rather than just locking it in forever, just wanted to say a hello :) sending out imperfect pieces is one of my main anxieties, and I have wanted to publish a medium article for like 3 years. Lots of good feedback here if you wanted to refine it later.
posted by yueliang at 10:52 AM on August 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't relate to the cognitive behavioral idea of anxiety as something one does to oneself. The article is written in 2nd person as a howto so as to give the sufferer some control over the experience and consequently the control to undo it, but from my perspective it blames the victim: "you are doing this to yourself." Those less sensitive to blame than me might find the approach useful.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:01 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

From my perspective, I don't see any victim blaming - "you are doing this to yourself" is one of the thoughts my anxiety continues to spiral around.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:23 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I understood and related to many of the things the article talked about. I dont get the "Im about to vomit" feeling very often, but I absolutely having trouble breathing properly, and the obsessive thoughts. Then, for me, in my more serious attacks, there's the physical trembling or shaking, sometimes uncontrollable tears, and the trying to hide that. When I go from anxiety to full blown depression is when I start obsessing about how freakish these symptoms make me, how unloveable and revolting. Of course, it goes on from there. Fun, fun, fun!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:49 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

The gazelle thing is kind of elliptical but I think I got what the author meant. It's not that you're literally thinking in metaphors like that but that you're trying very hard to come up with a way to suppress a gnawing awareness that your life (at least as you know it) is about to be over for some reason. The bits queenofbithynia referred to as "the completely pointless covert over-preparation for the wrong disasters" were also very familiar to me. Typically I also find having anxiety embarrassing and don't expect to have my worries taken seriously so I am also very concerned with acting normal while internally freaking out. And I liked referring to your extremities as feeling "carbonated" and am probably going to steal that. (Those symptoms are an acute rather than chronic thing for me and I don't get them very much, but I do recognize them.)

I'd say the main difference for me is that my anxiety tends to have more of an edge of guilt and shame sensitivity to it. My "greatest hits" reel that starts playing every so often in my head is more like, you messed this up because you are a bad person, you did something hurtful which means you are intrinsically bad and also now everyone is going to know what a shit you are, you had better sift through your memories right now to make sure you haven't done anything you would be ashamed or guilty about, everyone is about to find out you have been a fraud this whole time, etc. So the exact way it plays out can be a little different, though there's still a shared underlying substrate.

I do think obsessing about "do I even have anxiety if my experience doesn't match this" is ironically, a thought pattern that stems from anxiety. Because if you follow the "so what" a few steps, at least for me, it's not going to lead to "well if I don't actually have anxiety then maybe I'm fine or maybe I have some different problem, how interesting" but rather to things like "if I don't actually have anxiety, that means I'm just weak and can't handle my life for no reason" or "if I don't have anxiety, that means I've been deceiving people about how serious my mental health problems are," or whatever.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:54 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

[Folks, this will maybe go better if people can stick more to the "what does anxiety feel like for you, this or something else" side of things and let the writing-critique side rest.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

I relate to this article as an example of anxiety. I understand it as an inner monologue, with the second person as how the author addresses her inner self, not actually another person. The details are different, but I recognize some patterns like the sudden shifts of focus, the overpreparation, pre-phrasing of conversations that may never happen, hypervigilence, doubt about basic competence such as breathing, the shallow breathing itself, the effort to keep up appearances, the sheer volume of thoughts, wondering about how others seemingly have it together, anticipating upcoming events, among others.

(Getting a glimpse on what goes on in someone else’s head is fascinating to me, both the article and the responses here. The latter are much more baffling to me.)
posted by meijusa at 1:44 PM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was a pretty spot on description of how I actually developed a fear of throwing up in cars that lasted about ten years and made me nervous about anything more than a short drive, especially on a freeway/other place you couldn't just pull over. This was well before I was diagnosed with anxiety and I had never connected the two until now, so that was kind of enlightening! Generally it felt pretty true to my experience.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:18 PM on August 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

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