Your question: Why is my anxiety killing me?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. 

As unbelievable as it sounds, anxiety is to some extent necessary in life. Anxiety allows us to be in a state of alertness when a potential threat is approaching. In this way, we can run away from a life-threatening situation, or we can prepare for a difficult exam, as healthy anxiety moves us and drives us to take action.

However, anxiety becomes a problem when it is too intense and recurrent, generating difficulties in different aspects of life such as work and interpersonal relationships.

You may even feel that anxiety is “killing you”, since when it is chronic, anxiety is both physically and emotionally overwhelming. It is a common feeling, which indicates that you should pay attention to what it is that generates such intense anxiety and then apply strategies to improve.

Although anxiety can be torturous, it really can’t kill you. But it can certainly deteriorate your physical and mental health if you don’t act to decrease it and adjust it to normal levels that don’t affect your daily functioning.

What does it feel like to have anxiety?

Psychology (1) has studied anxiety as a complex phenomenon, which has specific characteristics that affect people in different areas. Anxiety is characterized by overwhelming physical and emotional symptoms that usually start from a catastrophic and intimidating thought. Anxiety is closely linked to fear because, although they are not the same, they generate intense worry and agony in the person about being hurt by a potential threat.

Cognitive symptoms: fear of losing control; fear of death; fear of “going crazy”; fear of negative evaluation by others; frightening thoughts.

Physiological symptoms: increased heart rate, palpitations; shortness of breath, rapid breathing; chest pain or pressure; choking sensation; dizziness.

Affective symptoms: nervous, tense, wound up; frightened; sadness; irritability.

Why do you experience anxiety?

Anxiety appears when your brain detects something that is threatening or stressful, and demands that your body acts accordingly. This object, scenario or person that your brain considers to be an anxiety generator, is not always a real threat, since it is more related to your subjective perception of danger and stress. Some of the most common causes of anxiety are:


Work is stressful because it involves meeting demands, and our income depends on it to meet our needs. Work can cause you anxiety when there are sudden changes, when you are assigned new tasks or when you have too many responsibilities to manage.


Education can generate anxiety at any stage or level of education. The pressure for students to pass their exams and balance their time properly to meet all the pending assessments and at the same time, leave space for their personal life, is quite stressful.

Interpersonal relationships

Whether they are family relationships, friendships or couples, socialization causes anxiety because it often involves conflict and natural arguments between human beings. Interpersonal relationships are the cause of your anxiety when you have experienced many stressful encounters, which make you feel frustrated, annoyed, frightened or sad, with important people in your life.

Identity and self-esteem

Anxiety is also related to your perception of yourself and your identity. You may experience anxiety because there are things you don’t like about your body or personality or because you feel that you are generally dissatisfied with your life in more ways than one.

What are the consequences of anxiety?

In the short, medium and long term, anxiety can cause severe consequences that affect the quality of life. Initially, the most notorious problems related to anxiety are related to difficulties in concentration and the feeling of exhaustion that causes work and interpersonal problems.

However, eventually, anxiety can cause physical problems. The relationship between anxiety and stomach problems has been evidenced (2), showing that anxiety increases the risk of abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome.

Likewise, anxiety is related to cardiovascular problems (3), especially in older adults. All these problems, although they may alarm you, are totally preventable, and once you start working on reducing the symptoms of anxiety, you begin to notice an improvement in your quality of life.

What can you do to feel less anxious?

The first step is to identify the cause, which very often, is more than one. Once you have done this, it is time to take action to alleviate the problems that are causing you anxiety, whether it is by easing the pressure at work by asking for more help in your position or by better organizing your time at college to lessen the academic pressure. In general, there are several strategies you can take into account to reduce the feeling of anxiety.

Breathing and relaxation

Inhale through your nose for three seconds, exhale through your mouth for another three seconds. This while you close your eyes and feel how slowly the tension in your body decreases. You can apply this exercise for at least 10 minutes a day at different times, and just after experiencing an episode of anxiety.

Fix your sleep schedule

This can be difficult to do, as many people with anxiety develop sleep problems that are difficult to change. However, you should aim to establish specific sleep schedules in order to decrease your overall anxiety. This can be done with the help of a professional such as a psychologist or a sleep doctor who can help you establish routines for better sleep.


Physical activity improves quality of life. Whether in a gym, practicing a sport or from the comfort of your home, exercising will be beneficial to improve your physical and emotional condition, because when you exercise you release endorphins related to the feeling of happiness and fulfillment.

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.

Connect with yourself

Anxiety can greatly affect your relationship with yourself and your self-esteem. Therefore, moments of solitude doing activities that you enjoy are very effective in reducing anxiety symptoms. Whether it is writing, going to museums or movie theaters, walking around monuments in your city, dedicating moments of the week to a personal activity that you enjoy doing, will bring you benefits.

In my experience…

Although you may feel like anxiety is killing you, it is not the end of the world. Anxiety is undoubtedly exhausting and can drain your energy, but you have the ability to cope with it and work to improve your physical and emotional condition. Anxiety does not have to determine your life, as you have the strength and determination to cope with it.

I believe you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this medium proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!