By Juliette Virzi
When you live with a health condition, oftentimes there are some unwanted — or “embarrassing” — symptoms you have to learn to live with. This is something many people who live with anxiety are familiar with.
Maybe you “flake out” on social plans with your friends so often, they’ve stopped inviting you out. Maybe you talk too fast or stutter when you feel the weight of anxiety on your shoulders. Or maybe your emotions feel out of your control, and you can’t stop them from coming out in the “wrong” way at the “wrong” time.
No matter what your experience of “embarrassing” anxiety symptoms looks like, we want you to know you aren’t alone. The only way we can break the shame and stigma surrounding symptoms of anxiety is to talk about them, so to open up this discussion, we asked our mental health community to share with us the anxiety symptoms they were most embarrassed of.
Before we begin, we want to preface by saying that feelings of embarrassment are very real, and like all feelings, are completely valid. But even though it’s natural to feel embarrassed sometimes, we want you to know it’s more than OK not to be OK and there is no shame in struggling with anxiety.
1. Excessive Sweating
“Constantly sweating and biting my nails. I always get so embarrassed when someone gets grossed out about me biting my nails or someone mentions that I’m sweating.” — Skye Y.
“Sweating. I start getting overheated because of my heart rate rising and then I get more anxious that I am sweating. My hair is very thin, so it gets soaked within minutes. It’s a horrible cycle and someone always points it out and tries to help. Which is good because I’m too embarrassed to ask for an ice pack or I may just be checking out at the grocery store and it happens. I’d rather it be my pits than my head.” — Jenny K.
2. Nausea and Vomiting
“Nausea and vomiting. Usually it happens after prolonged anxiety. Like going out of town and being surrounded by people. It’s so embarrassing, though. Especially having to explain to people who don’t deal with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) how something so trivial, like spending time with family, can lead to so much anxiety. I just look like a weirdo having to go off by myself, take nausea meds and lay down.” — Rebecca M.
3. Compulsive Skin Picking
“I pull skin off my fingers and it’s embarrassing having sores on my hands and Band Aids all the time.” — Melanie B.
“Whenever I have an attack, I always end up picking my skin. I’d pick at scabs, spots or even my toenails until they bleed. Everyone tells me to stop, but it’s never that simple.” — Chelcie R.
4. Being Unable to Leave the House
“Not being able to leave my house because it’s too overwhelming… I hate explaining over and over again why I’m canceling plans. I’m running out of excuses.” — Emily K.
5. Not Knowing When You’ll Cry Next
“Crying all the time, and taking everything personally. I hate that people feel like they have to walk on eggshells around me, but I can’t help that I’m overly sensitive.” — Josie H.
“Easily crying when overwhelmed with anxiety. It makes me want to dig a hole because I might get another judgmental comments regarding my habit.” — Bas A.
“When my anxiety gets going, I start to stutter really bad and then comes the shaking. When I start to stutter, I get mad at myself and I start to shut down. I work in a restaurant as a cashier and my stuttering gets me made fun of. It’s not funny. I hate it.” — Maddie C.
“Whenever I’m talking about something I’m passionate about, or when I’m trying to say something witty and clever, my mind freaks out. I get insecure and anxious about saying whatever I was going to say right. I stutter a lot or I blank out.” — Isabel L.
7. Getting Rashes or Red Splotches
“I start to get really hot and my skin gets all splotchy and red. I get so itchy that either when I try and fight the urge to scratch, I feel like I look really funny and the anxiety just gets worse, or everyone just stares because I can’t stop scratching, which only gets my body even more red and worsens my anxiety too.” — Katelyn M.
“I get splotches all over my arms and chest. If I get too wound up, I cry. Like freaking out cry. And it’s over little things. But I’ve learned how to breathe, take a step back and recognize my triggers.” — Katie F.
8. Stomach or Gastrointestinal Issues
“IBS symptoms which lead to rushing to the bathroom suddenly at inopportune moments, or farting continuously whenever I get excessively anxious about anything. It can be quite debilitating at worst, and at best quite embarrassing.” — Caro H.
“My IBS symptoms. I turn down dinner dates because I’m afraid that if I eat the wrong thing, I will get cramps have an accident. Same if someone asks me to go somewhere. Traveling is out of the question if I eat the night before. I also developed vomiting when I get extremely anxious. That is the worst.” — Kate C.
9. Talking Too Fast
“I have always been told that I talk fast anyhow, although I tell everyone they’re listening slow. When my anxiety acts up, I ramble and babble on incessantly.” — Doni P.
10. Lashing Out in Anger
“It seems to always make me come off as angry. I don’t mean to be, but I’ll start arguments, or keep one going. I’ve woken my girlfriend just to argue over things that make no sense and it’s because I’m panicking over things I shouldn’t be, over things that don’t matter or maybe they do, but only in that moment not in the bigger picture. I hate it.” — Brandon C.
“When I get overwhelmed I internalize it and it ends up coming out in outbursts of misplaced anger. I end up snapping at my husband when he’s done nothing wrong or yelling at the kids for silly things. Then I just hate myself and I feel so guilty. They don’t deserve that.” — Heather D.
“Freaking out on people when I’m anxious. Not particularly panic attack type freaking out, but snapping at people. Even the smallest things that they do can make me lash out when I’m anxious. I try to apologize every time, because I honestly don’t know I’m doing it.” — Kaleena K.
11. Passing Out
“I actually pass out! I have hurt myself a few times. My brain is like a light switch… too much anxiety and I wake up on the ground wherever I land. It’s awful.” — Ivy I.
“I start getting my words confused and say things that make no sense. Then I replay it over in my head about how I made a fool of myself and pick the whole conversation apart. Then convince myself they must hate me. Overthinking is not fun.” — Kerry G.
13. Unexpected Panic Attacks
“The fact that I can get panic attacks anywhere. I just rush to the nearest private room so people don’t see me having a panic attack.” — Sergio Z.
“Nervous system tremors and shaking. It is tied to my anxiety and panic attacks, but it quite debilitating as a woman. Everyday things you took for granted you have to learn to do in new ways. Like you can’t do mascara with shaky hands, or hold a curling iron for your hair. Eating without spilling on yourself… we don’t think about these things until we aren’t able to do them.” — Johnna W.
“When I cry and shake in front of someone else. I’ve been doing this alone since I was 11 years old, but when someone is near me and I feel that wave of anxiety come on, it is terrifying. Many people don’t understand what’s going on there.” — Breanne S.
15. Being Unable to Talk on the Phone
“I can’t make phone calls. I can’t talk to people at checkout counters. Can’t order my own food. It’s embarrassing that people get mad at me when I ask them to do it. And it’s not fair. And it hurts.” — Darby E.
Can you relate?