When Anxiety Takes Over Your Life, You’re not You

October 13, 2019
A mind taken over by anxiety is unable to enjoy even the simplest things. It's trapped in a state of worry, suffering, negative internal monologue, and the feeling that all you can really do is "get by" from day to day.

When anxiety takes over your life, everything falls apart. Anxiety is like an annoying, uninvited guest that takes advantage of your hospitality. It’ll refuse to leave when you tell it to and, without you even realizing it, will throw everything out of whack in your mind.

When that happens, your personality can change. You’ll lose your potential, your balance, and your well-being.

From a psychological point of view, humans are great at turning “beauty” into “the beast”. What do we mean by that? Well, anxiety itself isn’t your real enemy. In reality, you’re the one who turns it into the awful monster that robs you of your peace of mind.

In a controlled and balanced way, anxiety can actually be a great ally for you. It’s there to help you react to threats. It gives you a push, motivation, and an ability to achieve things. The problem is that, in many people, anxiety ends up becoming their worst enemy.

Modern society is the perfect breeding ground for anxiety to take hold. It thrives in uncertain, precarious conditions. Nowadays, our world is filled with potential threats. It’s full of things that are out of our control. But to make matters worse, society actually rewards anxious behavior.

Being constantly busy, having a full schedule, or doing five things at the same time is “normal” and something we’re meant to desire. We label anyone who’s different lazy or carefree. But giving anxiety that power can have some serious and unintended consequences. Living your life on auto-pilot isn’t living, it’s just surviving. 

“The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s.”

-Scott Stossel-

A man leaning in a windowsill with his head in his hand.

What happens when anxiety takes over your life?

Robert Edelmann, professor of clinical and forensic psychology at the University of Roehampton in London, made some interesting points in his book, Anxiety: Theory, Research, and Intervention in Clinical and Health Psychology. 

He believes that anxiety in and of itself isn’t a psychological anomaly and certainly not an illness. It’s a normal process. The problem is when people start using it improperly.

People can go months, years, or even decades building up tension, fear, and worry. Unresolved experiences, constant stress, and negative internal dialogue can make the pressure in that tank even greater. But the air can’t go anywhere so it keeps building up dangerously.

But rather than blowing up, all this energy finds its way inside you. It penetrates into the fiber of your being and transforms you. That’s what happens when anxiety takes over.

You’ll stop trusting yourself and self-sabotage

Anxiety turns you into a different person, someone who goes against their own principles and expectations. As time goes on, your mental discourse will turn more and more negative until you simply sabotage yourself. That anxiety-controlled inner voice will cast doubt over every single thing that comes into your head.

Your goals, desires, and plans for the future will also be put under the microscope of this insidious anxiety. It’ll that you’re going to fail again and again. It doesn’t matter how much effort you’ve put into a given task or project. In the end, you’ll doubt yourself so much that you’ll end up giving up.

Your relationships will suffer

When anxiety takes over your brain and your life, it starts to chip away at your relationships with other people, too. When your brain is focused on other things all the time, you’ll start to neglect those around you without even realizing it. It’s hard to pick up on other people’s needs when you’re feeling anxious, pressured, and uncomfortable.

It’s hard to stay intimate, optimistic, and resolved when there’s an emotional whirlwind going on inside you. Without a doubt, what that does is wear away at your bonds with family members and create constant problems. It also affects your social life because it’s difficult to be a friend and make friends when anxiety is ruling your mind.

A woman sitting alone on a bench.

Everything loses its interest when anxiety takes over

If you’re living with this level of anxiety, inertia will take hold. You’ll simply go to work and come home. You’ll have conversations where you talk, respond, smile, and listen. Ultimately, you’ll do the things you used to enjoy, pretend to have fun, and may even seem happy. But in the end, you always return home feeling empty inside.

Anxiety disorders flood your brain and body with noradrenaline and cortisol. What those hormones do is make you stay alert 24/7, as if you have to be in permanent survival mode. That makes it absolutely impossible to enjoy something or relax. Your anxious brain leaves no room for serotonin or endorphins. 

This leads you to become a stranger to yourself. You can’t have a good time with anything, and nothing feels like it has any purpose or meaning. All you can do is wander through that existential emptiness. But you can’t let it keep controlling you, as it’ll exhaust you both physically and psychologically.

Thus, don’t hesitate to ask for help. There are no simple cures for anxiety disorders. The only way to get through one is with specific strategies and mental techniques. But it is possible!

  • Hofmann SG, Dibartolo PM (2010). Introduction: Toward an Understanding of Social Anxiety Disorder. Social Anxiety.
  • Stephan WG, Stephan CW (1985). Intergroup Anxiety. Journal of Social Issues.