How To Explain Anxiety To Someone

How To Explain Anxiety To Someone

Anxiety can happen to all of us, no matter whether we realize it or not.

There are different levels of anxiety, and how bad the anxiety is, or feels, can be evaluated in relation to the negative side effects experienced and how often it happens and for how long.

Oftentimes, anxiety strikes out of the blue. It can arise from something that triggers us in the present, something we are anxious about in the future, or something that happened in the past that we are thinking about in retrospect.

When you are feeling anxious, it can be difficult to make sense of the feelings or thoughts you are having. And, as a result, it can be hard to explain anxiety to someone, whether that’s someone we are opening up to or want to open up to.

This guide will make it easier.

Talking about anxiety, and your mental health in general, is always worth it. It can be both a cathartic release and a means to receive constructive help.

Below, this guide explains anxiety, what anxiety feels like, and the effects that anxiety can have on your life, so that you can make better sense of it for yourself, as well as when it comes to explaining anxiety to other people.

Anxiety Defined

First of all, let’s define anxiety.

Anxiety is defined as an emotional state of unease and nervousness, typically due to feelings of fear or apprehension about an event with an uncertain outcome or something that has happened in the past.

In more serious cases, anxiety can be a chronic mental disorder (such as social anxiety) diagnosed by a psychiatrist that affects someone on a regular, long-term basis, with detrimental side effects to day-to-day life or overall quality of life.

In either case, anxiety can result in temporary or long-term physical side effects, the inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, low motivation, impulsive behavior, sleep depravity, and depression.

how to explain anxiety to someone

What Does Anxiety Feel Like?

So, what does anxiety feel like? We can break this down into fear, inadequacy, overstimulation, and physical symptoms.

You may identify with some or all of these symptoms, which can also depend on the severity and longevity of the anxiety you are experiencing.

Fear And Apprehension

The central emotions of anxiety are feelings of nervousness, fear, and apprehension, resulting in a state of general unease that will go wrong or did go wrong.

In most cases, it will be due to something that might happen or is going to happen in the future, often with an uncertain outcome in relation to your involvement.

But it can also be due to sudden bad news, or a recent event that you are looking back on, possibly with embarrassment or uncertainty about what you did or how you acted or performed.

Feelings Of Inadequacy

Since anxiety often strikes from nervousness about an upcoming event or situation, it can typically come with feelings of inadequacy.

This includes lack of confidence in one’s abilities and therefore the surety that something will go wrong, which can fuel the emotional state of nervousness and fear.

As a result, you might not feel good enough or confident enough to handle the event/situation ahead and get through any obstacles that might or will be presented in your path.

Overstimulation And Feeling Overwhelmed

Anxiety often feels like there is a lot happening mentally, which we can describe as mental overstimulation and feeling/being mentally overwhelmed.

Due to the apprehension, fear, and the possible lack of confidence to succeed or make it through a difficult situation or future event, anxiety often comes with a host of negative feelings and thoughts, all at once, that can feel like a complete lack of control.

With so much happening in your head, the result can be the inability to control your thought processes, emotions, and even your behavior.

The Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

How To Explain Anxiety To Someone

Anxiety is not just mental; it can come with, or lead to, physical symptoms that can exacerbate the negative emotions and thoughts that are already being experienced.

Both the mental and physical sides of anxiety may have a vicious cycle effect that fuels the other.

The physical symptoms/side effects of anxiety include elevated or irregular heart rate, ringing ears (tinnitus), headaches or migraines, and shakiness/tremors, either of the hands, head, or whole body.

The Larger Side Effects Of Anxiety

Anxiety often has a negative broader effect on one’s quality of life and/or usual routine on a day-to-day basis.

These effects may be temporary and even long-term, in which case action should be taken (seeking professional help) to treat the anxiety.

The larger side effects of anxiety include:

  • inability to focus or concentrate
  • lack of motivation
  • inability to sleep and/or stay asleep
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • loss of appetite
  • compulsive/impulsive behavior
  • social detachment and isolation
  • depression

Seeking Help For Anxiety

The first thing to realize is anxiety is more common than you might think.

You are not alone if you experience anxiety – no matter whether it is temporary, frequent, or long-term – so there is not only someone who you can talk to (professional or not) but other people who you can talk to and relate to.

If you want help, talk to a close friend or family member. You can also find anonymous helplines and chatlines online, as well as anonymous groups and forums where you can discuss your experiences with other people.

Remember: opening up about your anxiety can be a cathartic, therapeutic experience but also a means to receive help. It does not show weakness to seek help, but real courage in opening up and wanting to get better.


Anxiety is a mixed emotional state that, as a result, can make it difficult to make sense of and explain.

But whether you experience anxiety frequently or infrequently on any level of severity, we hope you found this guide helpful in understanding anxiety and how it feels on a personal level, so that you can better explain it to someone else when seeking help.

So, for a final takeaway, never deal with anxiety on your own. It is more common than you might think and can be dealt with in more than one way: with a close friend or family member, professionally, or anonymously over the phone and online.

About our Author Michelle Landeros, LMFT license# 115130
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT

Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.

Last updated: June 17, 2024