Anxiety and feeling like you are going crazy
Feeling like you are about to go crazy anxiety symptom description:
You suddenly become afraid that you might lose your mind or that you are not able to think. You may also feel that you are not able to remember things as easily as you once did. Sometimes you become afraid of having a nervous breakdown. You also may have periods of 'crazy' thoughts that frighten you, or thoughts that ‘just pop up’ that are bothersome by their content.
You also may have thoughts that you are about to ‘lose it,’ go crazy, or lose control of your thoughts and/or actions.
You might also have ‘unwanted’ thoughts that you can’t seem to get rid of or not think of.
Thought content can be bizarre, disturbing, unreal, irrational, totally off-base, etc.
An underlying component is the fear of having a serious mental illness, or of being committed to a mental institution for the rest of your life because of an incurable mental illness.
These types of thoughts can be mildly noticeable, moderately bothersome, or greatly problematic. They can occur rarely, frequently, or persistently, and may change from day to day and even moment to moment.
All combinations and variations of the above are common.
Why does anxiety make us feel like we’re about to go crazy?
Behaving in an apprehensive manner (worry, fretting, being afraid something bad will happen, and so on) activates the body’s stress response. The stress response causes a number of changes in the body to prepare it for immediate emergency action – to either fight or flee.
A part of the stress response changes involve changing how the brain functions. For example, the stress response causes the amygdala (the fear center of the brain) to become more active and the cortex (the rationalization areas of the brain) to become suppressed. This change in brain function can heighten the perception of danger and reduce our ability to rationalize.
The stress response causes this change so that we are aware of and able react to danger quickly rather than taking time to process information, which could endanger our survival. Remember, the stress response is designed to protect us when we're in real danger. It’s primary job is to get us out of danger as quickly as possible.
Due to the change in brain functioning when the stress response is active, we can experience a heightened sense of danger but have a more difficult time rationalizing. Sometimes this change is enough to make us think we are about to lose our minds and go crazy. This is especially true the more anxious we are.
Fortunately, when the stress response ends, the body slowly makes its way back to normal functioning, which means the cortex resumes its normal functioning and the amygdala’s activity diminishes. This reversal reduces the perception of danger and allows us to think more clearly. This reversal usually brings an end to feeling like you are about to go crazy or lose your mind.
Another cause of feeling like you are about to lose your mind is persistently elevated stress. Persistently elevated stress also causes stress response changes, including those that affect how the brain functions. The difference, however, is that persistently elevated stress doesn’t ease off quickly. So, the feeling that you are about to go crazy or lose your mind can linger and seem to occur for no apparent reason.
Because this feeling can linger and seem to occur for no reason, it may seem like it is being caused by a medical or mental health problem. If you are a worrier, you then might misconstrue this symptom to mean there really is something wrong with your brain and/or mind, which can set off a high degree stress response that compounds the issue.
Believing you are about to lose your mind is a common catalyst to a panic attack, where the fear of losing your mind and the changes the stress response make fuel each other.
But even though the fear of going crazy can be frightening, it’s not an indication of a problem with your brain, mind, or sanity. It’s just another indication that your body is experiencing a stress response and/or of a body that’s overly stressed.
People who have been under a lot of stress often experience this symptom.
How to eliminate the fear of going crazy symptom
When this symptom is caused by anxiety and stress, the best way to eliminate it is to recognize it is being caused by an active stress response and/or a body that’s overly stressed. Then, calm yourself down and reduce your body’s stress. As your body calms down, this symptom should subside.
You have to keep in mind, however, that it can take a long time for the body to calm down once it has become overly stressed. Therefore, the feeling like you are about to lose your mind or go crazy could linger for awhile, and until your body is much calmer and less stressed.
Nevertheless, when this symptom is caused by an active stress response and/or persistently elevated stress, it isn’t a reason for concern. Most people experience this symptom when overly anxious and/or stressed. The difference, however is that anxious people worry about this symptom and what it might mean, whereas non anxious people don't.
Bottomline: If you want to eliminate this symptom, calm yourself down, reduce your stress, and don’t worry about this symptom. It will subside when your body is sufficiently rested.
It's important to note that there is no connection between anxiety and going crazy. While it may feel like you could go crazy due to anxiety, you actually can't. It's a physical impossibility.
Much more could be said about this symptom. We have a more complete explanation in the Recovery Support area of our website including what you can do to eliminate it.
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated April 2015.