Your question: Why do I feel high when I have anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. Through this article, you will first learn the origin of why you feel “high” when you feel anxiety, as well as some strategies you can apply to reduce this annoying feeling.

Anxiety is a universal experience. We all experience it to a lesser or greater extent, however, not everyone does it in the same way. There are no right or wrong ways to experience anxiety, as it is something we cannot help but feel. Therefore, we can hear many ways of feeling anxious, and all of these are valid and respectable.

One feeling that is not often talked about is when anxiety makes you feel “high”, as if you were under the effect of some drug or stimulant substance. This feeling is common, and does not represent any real problem beyond how uncomfortable it is to experience it.

Anxiety is a state of alertness, which occurs when the amygdala (SOURCE) detects a stimulus that it considers dangerous. Your whole body reacts when you feel anxiety, experiencing symptoms such as tachycardia, tremors, sweating, muscle tension and a feeling of being “on edge” or afraid of “losing control”.

These symptoms can be confused with the feeling of being “high”, under the effect of a stimulant substance. The clear difference is that anxiety causes this effect even if you have not taken any drugs or substances.

Although it may scare and worry you, these physical symptoms that you may mistake for being “high” cannot hurt you. However, the chronic feeling of anxiety creates a profound discomfort in your daily life that must be addressed and alleviated.

Why do you feel “high” when you have anxiety?

The feeling of euphoria you experience when you feel anxiety is related to the physiology of anxiety itself. When you experience anxiety, your brain releases hormones and neurotransmitters in response to the feeling that you are facing a potential threat.

These chemicals make your body feel alert and stimulated. You may feel energized, your heart may race, and your muscles may become agitated. This is completely normal, because during anxiety it is necessary for your body to make you feel this way, because that energy or feeling of “high” that you experience is what allows you to act on the threat at hand.

What can you do?

Some strategies that you can take into account to reduce that “high” feeling when you have anxiety are:

Relaxation and breathing

Anxiety destabilizes your body with annoying symptoms that are difficult to control, but through progressive relaxation and slow breathing you can cope with your anxiety episodes and diminish the symptoms. Whether you are alone or in public, relaxation allows you to relieve these symptoms.

Close your eyes and inhale and exhale in 3-second intervals. In the meantime, repeat in your mind key phrases that generate motivation and pride. “You can deal with this situation,” “You have been through this before and have been able to get through it,” “You have the strength to deal with this problem,” to name a few examples.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This technique consists of using your senses to dissuade emotional discomfort at a given moment. It is useful when you experience a lot of physical agitation or when you feel you have a lot of unpleasant thoughts, and you find it difficult to control your emotions. Wherever you are, you will focus on identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. This will allow you to focus your attention on specific things during the period of anxiety, and slowly, the feeling of intense worry will diminish.

Physical activity

Exercise is useful not only because it allows you to train your body, releasing hormones and neurotransmitters associated with satisfaction and happiness. It also allows you to create social bonds in other spaces and feel more relaxed in general terms.

In my experience…

The feeling of being high from a substance is very similar to the symptoms of anxiety. Although they may scare you, the symptoms of anxiety are transient. But, you need to learn to control them through strategies such as breathing and questioning automatic thoughts to prevent anxiety from creating major complications in your life.

Remember that you have the ability to improve your psychological state, even if during moments of anxiety or depression you feel hopeless. We can always make small changes that will pay off in the long run. The fact that you are contacting me to seek professional attention in psychological counseling is already a step, and I recognize and applaud you for that. You are already doing something and wanting to change always leads you in the right direction.

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