How to Explain Anxiety to Someone Who Doesn’t Have It

this is a drawing of a man consoling another man as he explains his anxiety

How to Explain Anxiety to Someone Who Doesn't Have It

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Having to explain your anxiety symptoms to someone is a common way to feel more anxiety at the moment, but it is possible to do and be helpful. If you are reading this to help a friend or partner that has anxiety then listen more than talk to understand how the person is truly feeling.

Here is How to Explain Anxiety to Someone Who Doesn’t Have It.

If you have anxiety, you’re probably going to resonate with most, if not all, of what we talk about here in today’s blog. You might even catch a few chuckles, finding some humor in just how much you can relate. But now you want to know how to explain anxiety to someone, rather than talking things out in your head as you may often do… 

Talking to someone else about your mental health can be a tough thing to do for several reasons. Not just because anxiety is complicated but because opening up about something that feels so personal to you can feel vulnerable, overwhelming, or even embarrassing.

After reading this, I don’t just want you to walk away with tips for how to explain anxiety to someone or phrases to relay word for word. In learning how to explain your condition effectively, I hope you also find a deeper understanding of it for yourself. Even if it’s just somewhere between the lines — I want you to remember that you aren’t alone and that you are not your anxiety.

So when you’re explaining your anxiety to someone, remember: you are NOT describing who you are, but rather this frustrating thing that likes to get in the way of your life. And whether it’s self-sabotage or stress, who can’t relate to things getting in the way of their life, right?

Read: Anxiety Is Ruining My Life

What is anxiety?

The only thing that even comes close to how challenging it is to have anxiety is to explain it. Anxiety is no simple matter. And the fact that there are several types of anxiety, like situational anxiety, and even more symptoms doesn’t always seem to help us all that much.

A person could have anxiety and go for years without the slightest clue because, in all honesty, anxiety is a big fat liar. It can give you a panic attack for no apparent reason, have uncontrollable diarrhea or stress over day-to-day things.

Read: Can Anxiety Cause Diarrhea?

Anxiety can keep you up all hours of the night, making you believe something that might not even happen tomorrow is more important than sleep.

So what exactly is it that’s so busy lying to you, making you feel uncomfortable, nervous, and, well, anxious all of the time?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

It’s a brief definition, really, for how complex anxiety is, but it touches on anxiety’s key elements: feelings, thoughts, and physical symptoms. This is important because once you grasp how your anxiety impacts these three things, you will have an easier time conveying them to someone else. 

Don’t fret, we aren’t going to just talk about anxiety without giving you some actionable advice to use right away. We have 5 actionable tips for anxiety relief in a natural way and within minutes.

How to explain anxiety to someone

Take these 5 key points when explaining anxiety to someone who doesn’t have it. Unfortunately there is no set way to succeed in this every time.

  • Be pateint
  • Explain it in terms they will relate to more
  • Give real-life examples
  • Ask them their biggest fear and work out from there
  • Ask them to recall a time they felt sad and work out from there

Anxiety can make you over analyze how someone spoke to you just because the interaction was slightly more off than usual. It can make you think of a million thoughts in your mind and then overthink 99% of them until you reach a point of mental exhaustion — the anxiety keeps going, of course, you just end up too tired to accomplish anything else you had planned.

In other words, some days you’re the hamster, and some days you’re the wheel. You are propelling yourself forward with nervous energy yet going nowhere because your fears or worries keep you at a standstill.

As much as you may struggle to understand your anxiety yourself at times, you came here to find out how to explain anxiety to someone, and the hamster on a wheel analogy just won’t cut it.

After all, you can’t just describe a condition so complex as overthinking or nervousness. You know that terms like these only brush the surface when it comes to explaining anxiety, and you want to make sure that the person you’re about to confide in understands how you feel.

Anxiety can feel different from one person to the next, and this is one reason why it’s so important that you are as authentic and honest as possible about what you are dealing with. After all, you’re the human being here — so you don’t have to fit your words inside of a box.

Be as specific as possible about what you are going through because many people who don’t have anxiety have no idea what it is or what it’s like. When you talk about your anxiety to someone, start by giving it a name. For instance, do you have social anxiety? Phobias? Generalized anxiety disorder?

These are just a few types of anxiety. And maybe you don’t know what yours is yet because you haven’t seen a therapist or been formally diagnosed. If so, that’s okay! — you can still talk to someone about the significant distress you’ve been experiencing.

At any rate, you know your situation better than anyone else, so talk about how your condition applies to you and what it means. Talk about the impact your anxiety has on your behaviors, thoughts, moods, and emotions. One helpful way to think about and share this is to give a specific example of how anxiety affects your life.

Try to communicate a symptom to them, and give a scenario where you tend to experience it. For example, feeling your chest tighten up or like your heart might just beat out of it, and how you feel this way around groups of people or when you ruminate (think about a situation again and again).

You don’t have to share every last detail unless you want to. But making a connection between your symptoms and life scenarios will help bridge the gap for that person.

How do you explain severe anxiety?

When you have severe anxiety, it can sometimes feel like you’re physically suffocating. Talk about your physical symptoms, whether it’s shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, trembling, or sweating. And that when these symptoms escalate, it makes it hard to think clearly.

When explaining your severe anxiety to someone, tell them that your fears and worries about different things or situations are irrational — that they are out of proportion to the actual threat. And when these symptoms occur, it triggers more anxiety, and a cycle of panic perpetuates.

How do you explain anxiety to a loved one?

Anxiety can be such a source of frustration in any relationship. As long as emotions are involved, anxiety will work its way in and complicate them. In romantic relationships, lacking a sense of freedom or safety makes it much more challenging to enjoy sex and intimacy. When loving someone with anxiety, it’s hard to be present and enjoy the moment when your worried about their, fears, and anxious thoughts pulling them away.

All of this might make sense to you, but when explaining anxiety to a loved one, try to keep the focus on sharing what helps. There will be times when your loved one believes that a particular emotional response is connected to them when it’s your anxiety. So help them to understand the difference by opening up about your triggers. Then talk to them about how they can help when you experience symptoms — this includes informing them of what not to do.

How to explain anxiety for someone who doesn’t understand

Sometimes people who don’t understand anxiety will try to console you. They may genuinely think that sentiments like “other people have it worse” or “you don’t need meds” will help you find some perspective. But you don’t need perspective — you need support!

When you’re talking to someone who says things like “you’re overreacting” or “just calm down,” it’s time to gently explain that these statements don’t help; sometimes, they just create more anxiety. Talk to them about these triggering phrases that contribute to negative reactions.

Regarding the people who have dismissed your anxiety without intending to, it’s not their fault that you haven’t explained it yet, and it’s not your fault for just trying to be appreciative and brush it off. But the bottom line is that you deserve to have people around you who understand your anxiety. The better they understand, the better support you can receive, and the better off everyone will be!

How do you explain anxiety to someone who doesn't have it?

Anxiety can contribute to a variety of symptoms, from mild to severe. And you might experience some, but not all.

We know that it can be difficult to put into words because it can feel like no day is the same as the one before when you have anxiety. How you feel on a given day can depend on the triggers present, not to mention your mood, physical health, and the state of your relationships.

You might not always be able to predict your anxiety or how to explain it to a tee, so stick with what you know. Talk about what anxiety feels like for you.


What are anxiety’s effects on your mind?

Do you worry a lot?

Do you feel like you’re losing touch with reality?


What about anxiety’s effects on your body?


Do you often feel restless or sick to your stomach?

Do you experience anxiety or panic attacks?

Do you have trouble sleeping?


Talk about what that is like.

Where possible, make connections between the two. For instance, the fact that your constant worrying keeps you up at night.

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. So when thinking about how to explain anxiety to someone, you can also think about symptoms and experiences in ways they can relate. You might say, “you know those days when you feel nervous or unable to relax but can’t quite figure out why?” or, “what about that feeling of wanting reassurance that another person isn’t upset with you? Well, I feel this way a lot.”

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