So many instances in life can spark a random bout of anxiety. Even if you don’t know where the fear stems from, it sometimes doesn’t take much for us to get that knotted pit in our stomachs. From hearing “we need to talk” to having strange visitors past midnight, these are some things that skyrocket people’s anxiety.
#1 We Need to Talk
I remember that my ex-girlfriend would always say “we need to talk” whenever she just wanted to talk about something. However, whenever she said it and needed to speak with me, it was never about our relationship. I had little heart attacks every time. There are better phrases to preface conversations with…
#2 With the Boss
My boss is notoriously known for getting serious when he closes the door to talk to someone. Usually, they’re in trouble. I never get in trouble, but had a bad week and made some errors when he called me into the office. The boss walked in, closed the door, and said, “You've taken more responsibility and are doing well. I'm increasing your pay rate." Then he walked out. Like, what just happened?
#3 Oreo Cereal
My mom texted me to call her ASAP while I was at work. She never texts me while I'm at work because she knows I can't answer. I freaked out and began to worry. I had to excuse myself and call, thinking it was something horrible. I called and asked her what was wrong. She asked me if she should pick up cereal from the grocery store since she didn't want to make another trip later in the week. I was so relieved. But yeah, getting Oreo cereal wasn't worth the panic attack.
#4 Get in Line
My husband does the "you get in line, I'll go grab that last item" thing to me constantly. Then he wanders across the store, stops for samples, finds three other things he wanted, and then appears at a distance just as the checker rings up the last item. So, we all have to wait for him to get back and add his stuff. I'm too nice, so it took two years of this before it occurred to me to just finish my transaction and make him start fresh in a new line. He hates waiting in line, which is why he pulls this in the first place. I still have to wait for him, but at least I'm not holding everyone else up.
#5 Swishing Sounds
My house is old and I have mice. There's this one section we clean out monthly by the kitchen. We cut a hole in the wall and nailed a metal plate to it cause mice and rats fall down and can't get back up so they die. Cue me, sitting down, browsing Reddit at like 12:00 a.m. All of a sudden, I heard a massive thunk and then a bunch of squishy, sloshy noises.
It died down after about 10 minutes. I was ready to throw fists with the chupacabra that just probably ate my dog until I heard her start barking and clawing at the wall. And that's how I learned of that part of the wall. Turns out, a rather large rat fell into the hole from our attic and was clawing its way through the decomposing bodies of other mice and rats, hence the swishing noises.
#6 Alarming Sound
Our apartment has an alarm system which basically just makes a noise when either the front or balcony doors are opened. For the most part, it’s fine and there’s nothing weird about it. But for some reason, the alarm will randomly trigger during the day from time to time. It was real fun the first time it happened.
#7 Sinister Music
Xenoblade Chronicles . When I take some time out to play that game, I often just think, "Wow, what beautiful scenery! What relaxing music! This game is so atmospheric, I could just wander around this map forever —” Then you hear that enemy music sneaking up on you, but don’t see anyone yet. It gets me every time.
#8 Speed Limit
I was a kid with my dad, he was driving on an interstate highway (two lanes in each direction). A cop was way ahead, going exactly the speed limit and no one dared to pass anyone. There were easily 15 cars in the line ahead of us. The cop stayed on for about 15 minutes before exiting. Then everyone started speeding again.
#9 Ring My Bell
I’ve started using a camera doorbell to avoid having to answer the door. I'm a pretty social person in general, but the people who come to my door are never people I want to speak with. It’s either religious or political stuff that gets left at my door and that’s it. There simply isn't a reason to get the door.
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#10 Knock Knock
To this day, I still remember this one particular Saturday morning. The police had come to my house, knocked on our front door and informed us that my uncle had unfortunately passed away. He had passed away the night before. Honestly, I still get a little unsettled when anyone knocks on my door in the morning.
#11 Up All Night
Typically, something that immediately induces anxiety in me is something at work that either I messed up or may have messed up. This results in me realizing it in the middle of the night and panicking. Then I’m up all night. It’s also always something that never seems to actually matter at the end of the day.
#12 Saying No
Saying "no" to my employers. They are perfectly reasonable employers and it's a perfectly reasonable "no," but I could barely sleep last night. Anxiety disorders really suck. The good news is that when I finally told my employers, the complete response was, "No problem, I totally understand!" They really are great folks.
#13 Situational Awareness
Walking past a group of teenagers is never good. A year ago, I was out hiking with a friend when a bunch of teenagers caught up to us, blasting music from their phones and generally just being loud and obnoxious. After a couple of minutes of this and me casting them the occasional stink eye, one of them said to the others, "I think we're annoying those people over there." They got a bit quieter after that and picked up their pace so we weren't in close proximity. At least some teenagers have situational awareness.
#14 Inside Voice
People yelling is my biggest one. It doesn't matter if it's directed at me, it doesn't matter if it's not anyone I know. Sometimes, it can even be on movies or TV. I absolutely cannot handle it. Forget me being any sort of intelligible in response if I do get directly yelled at. It's a hard deal-breaker in a relationship or a job for me if someone is a yeller.
#15 Show and Tell
I can't stand when old people talk to me on the bus. I don't mind a bit of friendly chatter but I've had the worst luck in that whenever I've used public transport for a short trek, no one talks to me. I'm taking Greyhound and it's a six-hour drive to SoCal? I get the chattiest person with no social awareness. I have my headphones, pretending to be asleep and they still got tap me and try to show me things on their phone.
#16 Can’t Take the Hint
I went on one date with a man who was way too intense and he’s been calling and texting ever since. I tried being honest but he didn’t take the hint, telling me we’re going to be together. For reference, he knows where I live but stopped bothering me for a couple of days after I was bluntly honest about our relationship status.
I felt at ease that he finally understood. Then I got a text telling me he knew I’d be asleep soon and was very explicit about all the ways he’d wake me up. Keeping the distance feature from dating apps in mind, I switched to the app, looked at his profile, and watched the distance. Watching it even drop down to one mile closer made my heart beat so hard my dog could hear it.
#17 Starting with A
My real name starts with A, so in class, for almost everything, I'm the first one to do it. This is not so bad, but sometimes I'm like, "Wait, what? Do I have to do it again?" But the teacher just said it and I don't want to be that kid who just delays the class. The worst part is when I actually miss what I had to do and everyone just looks at me. Then the teacher goes, "Okay, can you do it again please?"
#18 Excuse Me
I can’t stand being in people's way. If I'm at a grocery store and someone else is trying to get past me, but I can't move because there are people in front of me, I'm sweating. I hate being in people’s way. Traffic, the store, anything. My wife won't let me go to Costco with her anymore because I get so on edge.
#19 Emails From the Ex
Any email from my ex-wife brings anxiety into my life. I suffered over six years of emotional and financial harm from her. But, it’s not only that. The only time she ever contacts me is to complain or complicate my life. For example, she’ll do things like deny visits with my son or demand more child support from me.
#20 Random Call
Answering questions in class. I know this is a voluntary thing, but as soon as the professor asks a question I know the answer to, my heart rate skyrockets as I think about answering. Usually, I don’t raise my hand, but it certainly makes me anxious just thinking about it. Then it gets a thousand times worse if they have a random call.
#21 The Doctor Will See You
Giving samples and anything else pertaining to my health sends me into the anxiety stratosphere. Especially when they want you to fast overnight because then I get super lightheaded after, which is a major panic attack trigger for me. Then the excruciating wait for the results. I have to have my annual physical soon and I’m making myself crazy.
#22 A Little Speech
I was a junior in high school and running for the class office because my teacher wanted someone from his class to participate. I was told all I had to do was stand in front of a few people and tell them why I was right for this office. Fast forward to me being pushed onto a stage in front of 1,700 people to give my little speech. I had forgotten everything I was going to say. I forgot why I was there, the class I was in, my instructor’s name, and even my own name. I looked at my note cards a few times, but they were useless since I had even forgotten how to read.
#23 Vacation in Mexico
My daughter fell off a hammock while on vacation in Mexico once. She was crying, which was expected. It’s when she screamed, “I can’t see! Mommy, I can’t see!” That’s when things got real, real fast. She was blind for what must have been 20 minutes and we were in panic mode. It was the longest ambulance ride ever followed by a night’s stay in a Mexican “hospital” and we were back to vacation. But yeah, when your kid goes blind in a country you don’t call home, you freak.
#24 You Didn’t See Me?
A woman tried to merge into my lane. She hit me. We did the standard thing of pulling over to the side. She didn’t get out of her car to speak with me, though, so I walked to her car window. She greeted me with, “You didn’t see me?! Why’d you hit me?!” It went from a slightly irritating moment to, “Oh, she’s going to lie and this is going to be a fight!”
#25 The Office
When my mom was in the hospital, she said if I ever got called to the front office that she had passed away. She then said that she loved me and everything would be alright. One day, I was in second period and got called to the office. I ran down there crying, thinking my mom was gone. Turns out, they found my water bottle and returned it to me. I told my mom the story, it made her time in the hospital a little better, but she's better now and out of there.
#26 Crunchy Chips
The sound of someone crunching on chips. The crinkle of their hand in the bag, the horrible anticipation while they raise the chips to their mouth, and then brain searing crunch. I cannot stop myself from counting the crunches until they swallow and the whole thing happens all over again. It sends me into instant anxiety-rage and almost physically hurts. Misophonia sucks.
#27 Fooling Around
A few years back, I heard someone knocking on my apartment door and trying to open it. I was super sketched out, especially when I checked the peephole and whoever it was covering it with their finger. I didn't know what to do and they wouldn't go away. So, I mustered up the courage and opened the door. Turns out it was just some girl who was at the wrong apartment. She was just playing around and didn't mean to scare me. I felt foolish, though her behaviour was definitely weird. Since then, I've been pretty hesitant to answer the door.
#28 Laughing Teens
When I have to walk past a group of teenagers and they all start laughing, it’s anxiety-inducing for me. It’s even worse when you can't figure out if they're laughing at you or something entirely unrelated. It’s like the middle and high school trauma from years back comes oozing out of the folds in your brain.
#29 Out of Nowhere
Absolutely nothing. Or so it sometimes seems. That's always fun to experience. When your body decides that it should suddenly feel like you've witnessed a horrific accident, when in fact you're just in the bathroom brushing your teeth. Then your thoughts may have idly strayed towards thinking about the future.
#30 Second Grade
When I was in the second grade, I had a huge crush on this girl. We were playing a game with some friends. In the game, we were married and I remember her asking me if she wanted to be boyfriend and girlfriend. I said that I thought we were married and she said, “No, not in the game.” I was so shocked and just said yes. Later, she dumped me for a different kid in our class.
#31 On His Radar
I was behind a cop on a country road yesterday. I had my cruise control set to the exact speed limit like I always do, and he was absolutely hauling it a good 10 miles over, no lights. I knew where he was going. There was no emergency. Sure enough, I saw him way up ahead on the really long stretch of road, pulling into his usual radar spot. I wanted to stop and call him out on it so badly, but I didn't know what he'd do to me.
#32 Midnight Visitor
A few weeks ago, I got back a little later than normal from my weekly D&D game (so it was after midnight). So I changed and started winding down for the day. At about 1:30 a.m., I heard a knock at the door. I waited. Another knock at the door. Because of the weather, I couldn’t see anything out of the peephole.
By this time, I woke up my roommate and said, "Hey, there's someone knocking at our door. They've been at it for a while. I'm going to answer, but I want you to get ready." So, we gathered by the door with a bat and I answered. It was just a woman who stood there for 20 minutes to let me know that I'd left my keys in the door.
#33 Dog Breeds
People bringing their dogs into an enclosed space that I happen to be in. I am extremely allergic to some dogs (my throat closes and I can't breathe). But, I’m never sure whether I’m going to have a reaction or not — hence the anxiety. Many dogs I have little or no reaction to, but with some, I have an extreme reaction. This includes some of the so-called "non-allergy" breeds. I don't want to stop people enjoying time with their pets, but it does make me very anxious.
#34 Phantom Cries
I was just chatting with my friends about “phantom cries.” I have a newborn and I’ll hear her screaming her head off (in my head) typically when my hearing is obstructed. It happens when I have headphones on, in the shower, with a sound machine on, etc. My heart stops every time and it’s terrifying, but she’s sound asleep.
#35 Car Door
The sound of a car door slamming outside and the jingle of keys. Not gonna lie, my childhood sucked . If I heard the car door slam, it meant one or both of my parents were so mad at me for whatever reason. Slammed doors meant that they hadn't bothered to pull into the garage but had pulled up out front of the house and something bad was coming. It kind of conditioned me. I've been moved out for a decade and my gut still tenses when I hear a car door slam outside.
#36 In Other News
Do you know how people say “we need to talk” when they want to have a serious conversation with you? My family does the exact opposite and tries to just not to tell me about the bad news because I'll get upset. They still haven't figured out yet that I get upset because they intentionally hide the bad news from me.
#37 Swing Set
When my son was about five, he was playing on a swing set at the local playground. He fell about six feet and landed in such a way that it knocked the wind out of him. He couldn't catch his breath for the longest three minutes of my life. I was carrying him to the car and heading to the hospital when he let out a gasp and started breathing again.
#38 Distancing Themselves
I stutter or shut down completely when people shout. I don't know what to say and if I do say anything, it's very emotionally charged and I barely remember it afterwards (if at all). It’s all because yelling makes me disassociate. I get jumpy, start flinching, and don't recover for at least a couple days. It stinks.
#39 What Day is It?
Waking up and just feeling like you're late. You spring up, grab your keys, wallet and shoes, and run out the door only to realize it's still pitch black and 4:00 a.m. Also, suddenly realizing that you're late because you completely forgot you had to do something, like show up for a final that would be an immediate fail if you missed it.
#40 Talking to Women
Talking to women. I don't care if that sounds pathetic, it's the truth. I have a difficult time talking to women because I'm constantly embarrassed of myself and worried I look like a loser. But, it doesn't stop me from trying. My face gets red, I choke on my words, my hands sweat, but I figure if I do it often enough, it can't make me anxious, right? If you do something all the time and it's not a total disaster, you can't get anxiety from it, right?
My anxiety has a tendency to fuel my MDD, which fuels the anxiety, etc. It sucks but all you can do is do it anyway. I know a lot of people out there are sick of trying and are sick of rejection and it gets them seriously depressed. But honestly, the prospect of succeeding is more rewarding than the shallow prize of not having to deal with failure anymore. I'd fall flat on my face and feel the sting of rejection a million more times if it meant basking in success just once.
#41 Front Door
Last week around 10 p.m., my husband and I were sitting on the couch having popcorn shrimp as a snack. I heard a sudden knock at the front door (which we never ever use and all the people we know use our side door). It scared the ever-living daylights out of me. I accidentally flung a handful of popcorn shrimp in the air and screamed. I have no idea why it scared me so bad!
#42 Deep Breaths
Realizing today that the $400 I get Friday is not going to be enough for the next two weeks when I have my son's birthday. He still needs stuff for baseball, I need to go grocery shopping, and all three of my boys will be ordering new glasses Friday at their eye appointment. I was really hoping to be able to buy some of the parts to get my Jeep drivable. I'm taking lots of deep breaths today.
#43 Social Anxiety
I get anxious whenever my phone vibrates. It doesn't matter if it's a call, message, email, or some dumb notification. Due to my social anxiety, my dumb brain just needs to panic a thousand times per day for no reason. Also, I hate phantom phone calls and messages. Apparently, the real ones just aren’t enough.
#44 Country Roads
My husband was driving and a police car came up behind him. So, he pulled over and went down some random roads, but the police followed. Eventually, they pulled him over and asked where he was going. He told him, “I'm going home” and they asked why we were going that way. So, he told him, “I just wanted to see how far you'd follow me and you went further than I thought you would.” He was told to stop being foolish and to go home.
#45 I Need Help
Just yesterday, a girl I had a thing with unblocked me and messaged, "I need help." I freaked out and figured it must be pretty bad if she's asking me for help. I sat there for half an hour freaking out, waiting to hear back from her. Turns out, she just wanted something stupid and for some reason thought I'd be the one who could help her.
#46 Get Them Home
Once, a place I lived at had a lockdown in the area. Someone at the bus stop told me and everybody else there about this. I was assured by my mom that there was no danger, as she hadn't gotten the call that said there was a lockdown. I got on the bus for school and the radio said, "Get them back home and take the others into the gym," which was a red flag. At that moment, my anxiety jumped. My anxiety worsened when we were ushered into the gym and told to be quiet. Turns out, there was someone who ran the gate and started to head toward the school area.
#47 All Eyes on Me
When I was getting ready for school one day, I put my phone in the front pouch of my book bag. I was feeling lazy and just stuffed it under my chair without realizing I hadn’t turned my ringer off. My friend was off sick that day and forgot that I had class. He called me to ask if I wanted to play some random video game with him and I had set my ringtone for him to some old Parry Gripp song because he hated that song. It went off full blast in the middle of class and I just slowly unzipped the front pouch and set it to vibrate, eyes on me. Every eye on me. Terrifying.
#48 A Look
A week ago, my girlfriend gave me a look that was meant to imply that she wasn't really sure how to handle the situation at hand. I misinterpreted it, thought she was really disappointed in me and about to break up. It wasn’t exactly what you could call “a fun experience” for me. Thanks a lot, social anxiety!
#49 Utter Nothing
When I lie in bed and think about the fact that there could have been nothing, no universe, no space for it to exist, nothing to even to start to make a space for it. Just utter nothing without even time to mark its passing. Nothing ever existed and nothing to ever exist. If I really let that sink in, how utterly pointless it all is, I just go into serious palpitations.
#50 Somebody’s Watching Me
When someone you don't know stands very close behind you, watching what you're doing. I went bowling and decided to go into the arcade. This guy stood less than a foot away from me, behind me. He then just watched me play the coin dozer machine and didn't say a word. Seriously, dude. What the fuzz are you doing?