Anxiety: A manifestation of feelings rather than a feeling itself

Anxiety is something that almost everyone experiences in their lives from time to time. Even though most people experience anxiety at least once in their lives, it is something that very few people can define or describe.


This might be because anxiety is unique to the person experiencing it, as a fingerprint. Because anxiety is not a feeling itself, but a manifestation of a feeling or feelings, it can complicate our understanding of what caused the anxiety. We also experience anxiety in different parts of our bodies. Some symptoms are changes to our mood, while other symptoms affect us physically.

Some clients experience tightness of their chests, while others might feel a churning or a tightening in their abdomens.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety include;

  • excessive worry
  • irritation
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • excessive sweating
  • headaches or migraines
  • dizziness
  • heart palpitations
  • stomach upsets
  • shortness of breath
  • frequent urination or diarrhoea
  • muscle tension or twitches
  • irregular sleeping patterns or restlessness

People with anxiety usually experience a combination of these symptoms. Since one person might experience a different combination to another, it can sometimes be difficult for them to realise that they are feeling anxious. Some people think that anxiety is only excessive worry or stress.

Although the experience of anxiety is a normal response to a difficult situation, if you are experiencing a greater number of these symptoms over a longer period or to a degree where it interferes with the enjoyment of everyday life, you might want to seek help from a professional, since this might be an indication of an anxiety disorder.

None of these symptoms in isolation is enough for a person to be diagnosed with anxiety, and these symptoms can also indicate other health or mental health issues.

When seeking counselling for anxiety, it might be helpful to remember that anxiety itself is a manifestation of feelings and to work with your counsellor to gain a deeper understanding of what is causing the anxiety.

My experience of working with anxiety is that we often start in a place that might sound obvious and familiar, but once fully explored over several sessions, we end up in a place (memory) in their past. It can be that a childhood need was not sufficiently met and every time the client experiences a similar situation, they react in the same way they did as a child.

This is because the client might never have learnt how to deal with this situation in a healthy way. Once the client gets to such a realisation, the experience can be safely relived, and the client can obtain the skills to move forward by having their childhood needs met by the counsellor through imaging. This requires the client and counsellor to have a good rapport.

Once the client gains a greater understanding of their inner world, they also gain the skills to master or at the very least manage their feelings.

Anxiety can be a mask for a variety of feelings like grief and fear, and it is often paired with depression. If these feelings are not recognised and worked through, a person's anxiety might increase in intensity and duration.

How to spot the difference between anxiety and a panic attack

Although symptoms like sweating, dizziness, and shortness of breath might indicate anxiety, these symptoms - in combination with some or all of the following - is an indication that you might be having a panic attack.

  • sweating
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath
  • choking sensation
  • chest pain
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • fear of losing your mind
  • fear of dying
  • feeling hot or cold
  • numbness or tingling
  • racing heart (heart palpitations)
  • feeling detached from yourself

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should call for medical assistance immediately.

Not everyone who experiences anxiety might need counselling or medical help, but it is always a good idea to get to the underlying cause as soon as possible to prevent long term health effects or panic attacks.

If you feel that you are struggling to work through difficulties without getting anxious, then it might be a good idea for you to sit with a counsellor in a safe space to allow yourself to safely explore what is going on. Find a counsellor who will use a treatment plan designed around your specific needs and experience. It is not a one size fits all method.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, W6 8AF
Written by Sonica Mushi, MBACP (Reg), BA (Psych) L4(DIP)
London, W6 8AF

I am an integrative counsellor trained in Psychodynamic counselling, CBT, Schema Therapy, (EFT) based on attachment and a Person-Centred approach. I see individual clients and couples in Hammersmith and work with my clients on a plan that is designed around their needs.

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