Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated December 5, 2021

don't feel like yourself anxiety disorder symptom

Don't Feel Like Yourself (don’t feel like myself) is another common symptom of anxiety disorder, and especially for those in the moderate and above ranges of anxiety and hyperstimulation, such as anxiety and panic attacks.

Many chronically stressed people also get this symptom from time to time, so it is a common symptom shared by many people.

This article explains the relationship between Not Feeling Like Yourself and anxiety and stress.

Don't Feel Like Yourself Common Symptom Descriptions:

  • For some reason, you don’t feel like your normal self. While you can’t put your finger on what’s different, something feels wrong about how and what you feel.
  • You’ve noticed that something feels “off” about how you think and feel.
  • You feel something is wrong within yourself, but you don’t know what it is or why it feels different.
  • You feel strange and unusual for some reason. You can’t describe why you feel this way, but something feels wrong within you.
  • While it’s hard to explain, you don’t feel like yourself no matter what you do.
  • Something feels “wrong” or “different” within yourself.
  • You feel physically, psychologically, or emotionally “off.”

This symptom is also often phrased as:

  • Anxiety where you don’t feel like yourself.
  • Don’t feel like myself anxiety.
  • Not feeling like yourself anxiety.
  • I don’t feel like myself anxiety.
  • I don’t feel like myself anymore anxiety.
  • Not feeling like yourself anxiety.

All the above are common descriptions of the “Don’t Feel Like Yourself” anxiety symptom.

This feeling can involve your physical body, psychological self, emotional self, or all of them together. Their mix can also change over time.

Not feeling like yourself can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist for long periods. For example, you have this feeling occasionally and not that often, have the feeling off and on, or feel that way all the time.

This feeling can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms or occur by itself.

This feeling can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and stress, or occur “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.

This feeling can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This feeling can change from day to day, moment to moment, or remain as a constant background during your struggle with anxiety disorder.

All the above combinations and variations are common.

This symptom can seem more disconcerting when undistracted and have time to think.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test, Anxiety Disorder Test, or Hyperstimulation Test.

The higher the rating, the more likely anxiety could be contributing to or causing your anxiety symptoms, including feeling like impending doom symptoms.

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Causes:

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning symptoms be discussed with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms, including "Not Feeling Like Yourself."

Click the link for Additional Medical Advisory Information.

1. The Stress Response

Anxious behavior, such as worry, activates the stress response, causing many body-wide changes that give the body an emergency “boost” of energy and resources when we believe we could be in danger.

This survival reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid like a “deer caught in headlights”), or the fight, flight, freeze, or faint response (since some people faint when they are afraid).[1][2]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about the stress response and its many changes.

Some of these changes include:

  • Stimulates the body into action.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, increasing nervous system activity.
  • Increases activity in the fear center of the brain (amygdala and others) and decreases activity in the rationalization areas of the brain (cortex and others).  Since the amygdala also plays an important role in our emotions, an increase in amygdala activity can affect how we process emotions.
  • Heightens most of the body’s senses.

To name a few.

The higher the degree of the stress response, the more dramatic the changes.

Moderate and above degree stress responses can alter our perceptions and emotional well-being, making it seem like something is wrong.

Suddenly not feeling like yourself is a common experience for anxious people, especially those with anxiety and panic attacks.

As long as the stress response is active, it can feel like something is unusual or “wrong” within.

Moreover, since fear can be traumatic, some people dissociate from traumatic experiences to protect themselves psychologically and emotionally. Dissociation can make it seem like you aren’t a part of yourself, which can also contribute to this symptom.

Visit the “Dissociation” anxiety disorder symptom for more information about this common symptom.

2. Hyperstimulation (chronic stress)

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the many stress response changes.

However, the body can't recover when stress responses occur too frequently, such as from overly apprehensive behavior.

Incomplete recovery can leave the body in a state of semi-stress response readiness, which we call “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are powerful stimulants.

Hyperstimulation is also often referred to as “hyperarousal,” “HPA axis dysfunction,” or “nervous system dysregulation.”[3][4][5][6]

Hyperstimulation can cause the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated.

Consequently, as long as the body is hyperstimulated, it can make it seem like you don’t feel like yourself due to the many physical, psychological, and emotional changes caused by hyperstimulation.

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many ways hyperstimulation can affect the body and how we feel.

Many anxious and chronically stressed (hyperstimulated) people experience this symptom because of the effects of hyperstimulation.

When I (Jim Folk) first experienced this symptom, it scared me because I thought I was either on the verge of a complete mental and emotional collapse or was about to lose my mind.

As this symptom persisted and intensified, I thought I was doomed for sure.

As my fear about this symptom increased, so did the degree of hyperstimulation increase, increasing the intensity of this symptom.

It truly became a vicious cycle of anxiety, stress, symptoms, fearing my symptoms (more anxiety), more stress, more symptoms, more fear, and so on.

Unfortunately, this is a common scenario for many anxiety disorder sufferers. Being concerned (worried, fearful) about their sensations and symptoms generally causes them to escalate and persist since concern (worry, being fearful) stresses the body.

As worry and stress increase, the likelihood of increasing symptoms in type, number, intensity, duration, and frequency increases.

While this symptom can be unsettling, and even alarming for some people, fortunately, it isn’t a sign that you are losing your mind. It’s just another symptom of acute stress (an active stress response) and chronic stress (hyperstimulation).

Dissociation

As mentioned, some people dissociate when afraid – mentally and emotionally separate themselves from an experience – especially with threats in the high to very high degree range.

Dissociation can not only occur during a stress response, it can also become a behavioral issue – where a person regularly dissociates from certain thoughts and emotions that arose during a previous traumatic experience.

Chronic dissociation can be another cause of this symptom.

Any combination of the above factors can cause and contribute to not feeling like yourself.

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Other Factors

Medication

Side effects of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can mimic, cause, and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist if you are unsure if your medication is playing a role in your symptoms, including this one.

Visit our Medication article for more information.

Recreational Drugs

Many recreational drugs can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Many recreational drugs can also profoundly affect the nervous system, which can aggravate existing anxiety symptoms since anxiety also affects the nervous system.

Visit our Recreational Drugs article for more information.

Stimulants

Stimulants bring about their stimulating effect by causing the secretion of stress hormones and other chemicals into the bloodstream, stimulating the body.

Increasing stress hormone secretion can cause and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms since stress hormones fuel them.

Visit our Stimulants article for more information.

Sleep Deprivation

Going without adequate sleep can affect the body in many ways, such as:

  • It prevents the body from sufficiently refreshing itself
  • Stresses the nervous system
  • Impairs brain function
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases blood sugar
  • Increases moodiness
  • Increases cortisol secretion to compensate for feeling tired (cortisol is a powerful stress hormone)

These effects can cause and aggravate anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Sleep Deprivation article for more information.

Fatigue

Fatigue can cause many anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, such as difficulty thinking, foggy head, lightheadedness, dizziness, body pain, heart palpitations, trembling, memory loss, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath, to name a few.

Visit our Fatigue article for more information

Hyper and Hypoventilation

Over breathing (hyperventilation) and under breathing (hypoventilation) can also cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Hyper And Hypoventilation article for more information.

Low Blood Sugar

Even if low within the normal range, low blood sugar can cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Low Blood Sugar article for more information.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies, such as low vitamin B and D, to name two, can cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Nutritional Deficiencies article for more information.

Dehydration

Dehydration can also cause anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms, such as concentration problems, lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, headache, involuntary panic attacks, muscle twitching, and heart palpitations.

Visit our Dehydration article for more information.

Hormone Changes

Hormones affect the body in many ways. A change in hormones can cause many anxiety-like symptoms and aggravate existing anxiety symptoms.

Visit our Hormone Changes article for more information.

Pain

Pain stresses the body. As such, pain, especially chronic pain, can stress the body sufficiently to cause hyperstimulation and aggravate pre-existing hyperstimulation.

If you are anxious, hyperstimulated, and symptomatic, pain, especially chronic pain, can aggravate all of them.

Visit our Pain article for more information.

Treatment:

When Not Feeling Like Yourself is caused or aggravated by other factors, addressing those factors can reduce and eliminate it.

When this symptom is caused by anxious behavior and active stress response, calming yourself down will end the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside.

Keep in mind it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this symptom is caused by hyperstimulation (chronic stress) and the involuntary panic and anxiety attacks it can trigger, reducing and eliminating hyperstimulation will reduce and eliminate hyperstimulation-caused symptoms, including episodes of a strong sense of impending doom.

As your body recovers from hyperstimulation, it stops exhibiting involuntary stress-caused symptoms, including this symptom.

Eventually, symptoms of chronic stress completely subside as the body regains its normal, non-hyperstimulated health.

However, eliminating hyperstimulation can take much longer than most people think. It’s common for symptoms of hyperstimulation to linger as long as the body is hyperstimulated.

But as with all symptoms of hyperstimulation, this symptom will subside when the body’s stress is returned to a normal level and the body has sufficient time to recover and stabilize.

Because this symptom is just a symptom of chronic stress (hyperstimulation), it’s harmless and needn’t be a cause for concern.

Keep in mind that it can take a long time for the body to recover from hyperstimulation's adverse effects. Despite the lack of apparent progress, we have to persevere with our recovery efforts and remain patient as the body recovers.

We also have to do our recovery work FIRST before the body can recover. It’s the cumulative effects of our recovery work that produce results down the road. And, the body’s stimulation has to diminish before symptoms can subside.

Nevertheless, faithfully practicing your recovery strategies, passively accepting your symptoms, containing your anxious behavior, and being patient will bring results.

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Short-term strategies:

Even though eliminating hyperstimulation will eliminate chronic anxiety symptoms, including Not Feeling Like Yourself, some people have found the following strategies helpful.

However, keep in mind that each person can have a unique symptom experience since each person is somewhat physically, chemically, psychologically, and emotionally unique. What might work for one person might not for another.

Reduce stress – Since stress, including anxiety-caused stress, is a common cause of this symptom, reducing stress can reduce episodes of this symptom.

Any stress reduction strategy can help improve this symptom. Visit our article “60 Ways To Reduce Stress And Anxiety” for natural stress reduction strategies.

Recovery Support members can read chapters 4 and 14 for many natural ways to reduce stress and anxiety.

Regular good sleep – Regular good sleep can reduce stress, cortisol, and the body’s overall level of stimulation. Their reduction can reduce and eliminate anxiety symptoms, including this one.

Regular deep relaxation – Deep relaxation reduces the body’s overall level of stimulation and stress, leading to a reduction in anxiety symptoms, including this one.

Therapy

Therapy is the most effective way to eliminate anxiety symptoms since unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors that cause anxiety and stress issues are the number one reason why anxiety disorder and its symptoms persist. [7][8][9]

Dealing with your anxiety issues (Level Two recovery) is the most important work overall if you desire lasting success.

If you have difficulty containing, becoming unafraid of your symptoms, becoming unafraid of the feelings of anxiety, eliminating your symptoms, overcoming your anxiety issues, or have what seems like out-of-control worry, consider connecting with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists.

All of our recommended therapists have personally experienced anxiety disorder and have overcome it. Their personal experience with anxiety disorder combined with their Master's Degree and above professional training makes them a good choice for achieving lasting success over anxiety disorder, its symptoms, and worry.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the best way to attain Level Two recovery success.[9] In many cases, working with an experienced therapist is the only way to overcome stubborn anxiety.

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FAQ

Can anxiety make you feel like you’re not yourself?

Yes, anxiety can make it feel like you’re not yourself. While this feeling can seem unusual and even disconcerting, it’s not harmful and will subside when you address your anxiety issues and reduce stress.

Can anxiety cause “Don’t Feel Like Yourself” symptoms?

Yes, anxiety is a common cause of not feeling like yourself. While this symptom can feel unusual, it’s not harmful and subsides when you address your anxious behaviors and reduce stress.

Can the anxiety symptom “Don’t Feel Like Yourself” become permanent?

The anxiety symptom “Don’t Feel Like Yourself” can persist as long as the body is hyperstimulated since hyperstimulation can cause persistent symptoms. However, eliminating hyperstimulation can eliminate symptoms of hyperstimulation, including not feeling like yourself.

Is the “Not Feeling Like Yourself” anxiety symptom dangerous?

The “Not Feeling Like Yourself” anxiety symptom isn’t dangerous even though it can feel uncomfortable. Since it’s just a symptom of stress, including anxiety-caused stress, it will subside when you reduce your stress and give your body time to recover.

What is it when you don’t feel like yourself?

Not feeling like yourself is a common symptom of anxiety and stress. While it can feel unusual, it’s not harmful and will subside when you address your anxiety issues and reduce stress.

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Prevalence

In an online poll we conducted, 88 percent of respondents said they experienced this symptom because of their struggle with anxiety.

NOTE: This feeling can also be caused or aggravated by antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. If you think this may be the case, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. A change in medication or dosage may be required.

If you believe you are ready to come off the medication, NEVER discontinue an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication abruptly. Again, talk with your doctor and pharmacist about the recommended discontinuation procedure.

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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our anxiety disorders signs and symptoms page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including Don't Feel Like Yourself anxiety symptoms.

References

1. “Part One: Foundations.” Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, by Mark F. Bear et al., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016, pp. 1–518.

2. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). "How does the nervous system work?" Informed Health Online, 19 Aug. 2019.

3. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.

4. McEwen, Bruce S. “Neurobiological and Systemic Effects of Chronic Stress.” Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks). U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2017.

5. Kinlein, Scott A., et al. “Dysregulated Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal Axis Function Contributes to Altered Endocrine and Neurobehavioral Responses to Acute Stress.” Frontiers In Psychiatry, 13 Mar. 2015.

6. Chang, L. et al. “Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in irritable bowel syndrome.” Center for Neurobiology of Stress, 22 Jan. 2009.

7. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

8. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

9. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.