Subconscious Anxiety: Could You Be Anxious Without Knowing It?

Is it hard for you to relax? Do you find yourself repeatedly going over your thoughts? Do you often suffer from muscle tension? If so, you could be suffering from subconscious anxiety. This type can be even more dangerous than the traditional kind as it's so difficult to identify.
Subconscious Anxiety: Could You Be Anxious Without Knowing It?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 17 November, 2022

Is it possible for a person to suffer from anxiety and not be aware of it? As a matter of fact, the problem with psychological disorders is that they can often be confused with personality traits. For example, this can happen in people who suffer from dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder. They assume that it’s just the way they are. They believe that they’re simply the kind of person who goes through cyclical periods of boredom, apathy, and feelings of extreme disenchantment.

However, the chronicization and normalization of discomfort have a cost. It reaches extreme situations. For instance, persistent apathy and stress that aren’t addressed can lead to major depression. You could also suffer from subconscious anxiety. This is a state in which restlessness and nervousness are experienced as background noise.

It’s the kind of psychophysical experience that can accompany you for long periods of time. There’s no specific trigger to explain it. In fact, it’s more of a continuous feeling of having reached your limit, both mentally and emotionally. It translates into a wide range of symptoms, such as pressure in the chest or an obvious inability to relax.

You may find the idea surprising that you can suffer from anxiety without realizing it. Nevertheless, as we mentioned earlier, as a human being, you tend to normalize certain facts, sensations, and mental approaches. These, far from being normal, are extremely harmful.

Your way of reacting to the environment and stressful stimuli can shape a pattern in which anxiety is installed in your mental register.

woman with subconscious Anxiety:
There are many people for whom anxiety is unclear and they don’t identify it as such.

Subconscious anxiety

You’d be surprised at the number of people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and don’t know it. As a rule, this psychological condition appears in adolescence, gradually becoming the general approach these individuals use to filter and process almost all circumstances. The problem lies in the fact that we don’t always understand how anxiety works.

If you’re subconsciously suffering from anxiety, you’ll probably find yourself visiting the doctor for several physical ailments. Insomnia and exhaustion are the most common in these instances. But when these physical symptoms persist and you’re referred to psychological care, you probably won’t understand the reason. After all, nothing bad has happened to you so why do you need a psychologist?

This is because you probably believe that for anxiety to appear there must be a clear source that triggers it. However, in most cases, patterns of thought are established that are accustomed to excessive worry and the anticipation of threats that don’t exist. So, you won’t necessarily be aware that the problem isn’t on the outside, but in your mind itself and how you process reality.

When anxiety persists over time and you’re not aware of it, your neural circuits can become sensitive. Eventually, they process almost everything as a threat.

How does it manifest?

Subconscious anxiety is understood as a state of constant restlessness and nervousness. However, despite the fact that, if you suffer from it, it restricts your life, you don’t act on the discomfort and normalize it. Moreover, you don’t even know that your symptoms define a psychological disorder and aren’t merely due to you being ‘just the way you are’. Here are the ways in which subconscious anxiety usually manifests itself.

  • You take any difficulty and problem, no matter how big or small to the absolute limit. In other words, you make mountains out of molehills.
  • You constantly feel as if you’ve reached your mental and physical limit.
  • You’re always worrying.
  • You always have the feeling that ‘something is about to happen’. This experience, of always being on the alert despite there being no real danger, is a common feature of subconscious anxiety.
  • You have difficulty relaxing or disconnecting on weekends or vacations.
  • Your mind never stops ruminating, anticipating the future, turning over what’s already happened, what you haven’t yet done, etc.
  • You experience chest pressure, tachycardia, and, at times, the feeling that you can’t breathe properly.
  • You suffer from sleep disturbances.
  • Your eating patterns change.
  • You experience occasional digestive problems.

Why don’t you realize you’re suffering from anxiety?

Anxiety sometimes runs and operates below the substratum of consciousness. Therefore, you don’t realize that it’s there, altering everything. It does so silently, pulling the strings of your mind, altering its focus, setting off your worry alarm, and hyperactivating your sympathetic nervous system (in charge of epinephrine and norepinephrine).

There are several reasons that explain how you can suffer from anxiety without realizing it. One of them is linked to genetics. Studies such as those conducted by the University of Freiburg (Germany) demonstrated that conditions like generalized anxiety have a biological component. The heritability is 30 percent.

Sometimes, the brain shows a tendency toward excessive worry from an early age. There may also be a hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, as mentioned above. This means that some children and adolescents are always on the alert and exhibit more fears and phobias than most.

If the environment normalizes this pattern of behavior, these individuals can reach adulthood assuming it’s simply due to their personality and their way of being. When, in reality, there’s an underlying anxiety that’s become chronic.

The trigger for anxiety is always that of a human being endowed with the ability to imagine a terrifying future.

Man in psychotherapy treating Subconscious Anxiety:
There are effective treatments for subconscious anxiety. The most important thing is that the individual understands the mechanisms of this psychological condition

How is subconscious anxiety treated?

Subconscious anxiety is the kind of anxiety you experience without being aware of it. The first step is to understand where it’s coming from and to get to know the mechanisms of the condition that’s imprisoning you.

If you’ve lived with this kind of silent reality for a long time, any therapeutic work will be complex. That’s because your mind carries with it fierce cognitive biases, stubborn limiting beliefs, and deeply distorted thoughts that you’ve been reinforcing for years. However, there are some really effective treatments that can help you regain control of your life:

  • Pharmacological approaches, such as benzodiazepines, as well as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, are often part of the treatment. That said, every case is always treated on an individual basis.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective psychotherapeutic approach for anxiety disorders.
  • Relaxation and deep breathing techniques are complementary tools that can help.

In all cases of subconscious anxiety, the objective of treatment is to turn off the mental noise that’s always there. When this disappears, well-being will return.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.