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What anxiety feels like for me…

Women's Health Week

The experience of anxiety can be different from person to person. We talk to four women about what anxiety feels like for them.

What anxiety feels like for me…
What does anxiety feel like? Four women share their experiences in this honest snapshot.
Visual story

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. Everyone experiences it from time to time. It can feel overwhelming, but you can learn to manage it with the right support.

When you feel threatened, your body responds by producing a stress response to keep you safe. This response tells you to fight the threat, flee from it or freeze.

These are normal reactions, but if your body reacts this way to situations that are not life threatening, it can cause anxiety.

What anxiety can feel like

Jan, aged 52, year 7 teacher

“I get the palpitations first and as soon as I sense those, I notice my breathing gets faster. I hate this feeling. Then my palms are sweaty and I think ‘I can’t do this – I don’t want to do this’.

“But I push myself and I walk out on stage and welcome the new parents to the school. I keep thinking ‘please don’t stuff it up, please let them think you are going to be a good teacher to their children.’

“And then it is all over and I can calm down again, until next year!”

Jane, aged 30, personal assistant

“I hate being late. As the clock gets close to the time to start work, I start to feel it. I’m going to be late.

“My heart starts racing, ‘Why didn’t I get up earlier, I am an idiot’, then I can feel it in my stomach and I start to feel sick. ‘What if the boss notices and calls me in and says that I am fired?’

“I find myself predicting all these horrible things that could happen and then I just want to turn around, go home and call in sick. It’s crazy, particularly because I am hardly ever late!”

Michelle, aged 38

“I can’t fly. I will not walk through those plane doors. The feelings of panic are so intense when I even think of taking a holiday somewhere far away, I will not do it.

“What if I have a panic attack on the plane? I might die and no one will be able to help me and I won’t be able to get out.”

Robyn, aged 54

“It has got to the stage that I can’t even drive to the shops. I am so frightened that something bad will happen. For every bump I think I have hit something. I turn the car around and go back and check and then start off again.

“I might get five metres down the road and think I hear something and then I have to stop and check again. Once I have checked, I calm down and tell myself it is okay. I start driving and the panic just rises.

“Imagine if I hit someone, or a little animal. I would rather not drive.”

Do these stories feel familiar to you?

If you have similar experiences and thoughts to these stories, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re not alone. You don’t need to struggle with anxiety – there are ways you can help to manage it.

Start by exploring these webpages:

Women's Health Week day 4: Mind health
Mental wellbeing and brain health

Explore more of our day on mental wellbeing and brain health now.

Mind health

All rea­son­able steps have been tak­en to ensure the infor­ma­tion cre­at­ed by Jean Hailes Foun­da­tion, and pub­lished on this web­site is accu­rate as at the time of its creation. 

Last updated: 
17 January 2024
Last reviewed: 
01 March 2024