What is the best definition of anxiety? (In 140 characters or less)

What is the true definition of anxiety?

It’s the kind of thing that’s so, so, SO common, but at the same time, very hard to describe. I’ve lived with it on and off for the past 22 or so years, and sometimes I still find that challenging.

It's tiring. It's maddening. Sometimes it gives me an energy boost to get through my tasks. Sometimes it makes me want to hide in a blanket fort by myself all day. Share on twitter

Anxiety is 101 different things, and what it is varies so much from person to person.

So, how do you explain the definition of anxiety to someone who has never felt it themselves? In this post, I’m going to talk about the ways that medical experts describe anxiety. I’m also going to share some descriptions courtesy of my Twitter followers! Keep reading, and let me know if any of them resonate with you.

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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.

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Definition of anxiety disorders, according to experts

First, let’s look at the definition of anxiety that Doctor Google gives us. According to a little site called WebMD:

Occasional anxiety is OK. But anxiety disorders are different. They’re a group of mental illnesses that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear.  The excessive anxiety can make you avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen your symptoms. 

Anxiety Disorders

I’ve talked about this a lot in other posts, and I think it’s an important distinction to make. It’s okay to feel anxious sometimes. One of my current taglines is: If you aren’t a little anxious right now, you aren’t paying attention.

But that all being said, if your anxiety is so bad that it’s affecting your day to day life and making it hard to function: That is not normal.

Some people have a hard time with this, the whole that is not normal thing. It feels like a call out. Like it’s something they’re doing wrong.

But honestly, it’s something that needs to be said. IT. IS. NOT. NORMAL. TO. HAVE. AN. ANXIETY. DISORDER.

  • It is COMMON. Approximately 40 million US adults per year live with anxiety.
  • It is NOT SOMETHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. If diabetes and heart disease are nothing to be ashamed of, neither is anxiety.
  • It is NOT SOMETHING YOU CHOSE. Anyone with a heart would never accuse you of doing it on purpose. That’s just shitty.

But it’s important to recognize that it’s not medically normal. Just like diabetes and heart disease, it’s not an ideal condition for your body to be in, and requires medical intervention.

What is the best definition of anxiety?

What is the definition of anxiety, according to you?

Now, let’s look at how the Average Joe or Jill would define anxiety. I’ll even share mine at the end! Do any of these resonate with you?

Anxiety is:

A feeling of dread which comes over me.  I can feel my heart sinking and tension mounting in my body.  My brain is on a spin cycle of thoughts.

Alison, Little Blog of Positivity

My whole body shuts down, I can’t eat and drink, tense muscles, I’m not really hearing what people around me say, my heart rate raises, I’m hyper focused on the anxiety and no one (except family or good friends) notice anything because I can still hide it pretty well.

Simone, Beautymone

My anxiety can feel like a heavy weight, it makes me unable to move forwards & I ruminate on all of the ‘what ifs’ whilst feeling that I am somehow wrong within every interaction that I have. My mind is so busy whilst my body feels stuck. It’s horrible once it takes hold.

Meditative Owl

Anxiety is like a dark cloud that comes out of nowhere when you were expecting clear skies. It completely takes over, even though I know it’s illogical. Panicking won’t help but still, I hyperventilate and struggle to not lash out at myself. Eventually, the cloud passes.

Kelly, Kelly Louise

My definition of anxiety would be fear of fear itself. Anxiety affects everyone differently so for me it’s comfort eating, inability to concentrate, lack of motivation. I can’t think about anything but the thing that is making me anxious. Shakes, hyperventilating, crying, chewing the skin around my nails, chewing the skin on the inside of my mouth, all the things people think are ‘habits’ are actually symptoms of something I haven’t yet learnt to control.

Emm, Emm Joy

Anxiety is like mold/mildew. I toss bleach onto it, scrub a bit, & it disappears a while. Then it manages to rear its ugly head again, because no matter how hard I scrub, life is dirty/humid. But this mold isn’t *actually* toxic. It often feels that way, but it’s mostly harmless.

Catherine, Cup of Catherine

Anxiety is stress, heart racing, nail biting, butterflies in your stomach and sheer terror. Preparing for hours to make a phone call, praying that you don’t need to make follow up calls afterwards. Anything can trigger anxiety and sometimes I mistake it for asthma

Sarah, Sarah Lou Writes

Anxiety is like a quiet storm. Its effects can take you by surprise. Especially if left to grow, it can take over your life. It causes panic, and overwhelming emotions you can’t explain. But I’m glad it can be overcome.


Overwhelming feelings of worry that something serious is wrong. Tight chest, labored breaths, extra sensitivity to noise, like my fight-or-flight won’t turn off. I fear it’ll always be lurking behind the scenes waiting to strike

Kalin, Abundance of Flavor

Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling of worry about doing something such as go out. Everyday trivial things that people without anxiety take for granted but can make you a prisoner in your own body

Alison, Freelancer Lifestyle

What is the definition of anxiety, according to me?

Anxiety is a constant battle in your mind. It’s like the proverbial devil on your shoulder, lying to you on a daily basis. Filling you with insecurity, doubt, and untruths about your self worth.

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Whatever your definition of anxiety, there is hope out there!

I’ve been there. I’m STILL there some days, and so are millions of others. People just like you live with anxiety.

  • Moms
  • Dads
  • Remote workers
  • First responders
  • Teachers
  • Religious people
  • Yoga teachers
  • Mental health bloggers

You are not alone, even for one second. So, if you need help: reach out to your doctor or a loved one. That is the best way to start your healing journey.

If you need extra support, check out my new e-book about anxiety. You can find more information here.

Which definition of anxiety hit home for you the most? Let me know in the comments, and share your own description! I would love to hear from you.

Share this with a friend, and help break the stigma.

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Related posts about anxiety:

What causes anxiety? + 7 ways to feel better

What self care really is + what it is NOT

Are you feeling anxious or is it anxiety?