What It Means to Feel ‘Angsty’ and How to Cope


The term ‘angst’ denotes anxiety and emotional turmoil. Someone who is feeling angsty may feel, display, or express worry, dread, apprehension, restlessness, or insecurity, says Heather Hagen, LMFT, Executive Director of Clinical Outpatient Services, Newport Healthcare.

In this article, we explore what being angsty looks like, situations and mental health conditions that may cause angst, and some strategies to help you cope with it. We also explore the colloquial usage of this term.

So, What Does Being Angsty Look Like?

Someone who is feeling angsty may experience:

*Intense emotions: Someone who is angsty may experience heightened emotional states, where they feel anxious, scared, distressed, angry, or frustrated, says Hagen. They may be prone to emotional outbursts when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

*Mood swings: The person may cycle through different mood states. They may feel stressed and worried at one moment, angry or irritated the next, and then guilty or sad shortly thereafter.

*Restlessness: The person may feel restless often and peace of mind could be hard to come by.

*Existential dread: The person may grapple with existential questions like the meaning of life and the purpose of our existence. They may experience a deep, unfocused sense of dread about the human condition or the state of the world in general, says Hagen.

*Cynicism: The person may have a cynical view toward life and the motives of people around them.

*Rebellion: The person may have difficulty with rules, authority figures, and societal norms. They may tend to engage in rebellious behavior, either through minor acts of defiance or more significant transgressions that flout rules or laws.

*Creativity: The person might find that they are able to better express their emotions through creative mediums like art, music, poetry, or writing.

These Situations Might Be Causing Your Angst

These are some of the potential causes of angst:

*Adolescence: Adolescence can involve several mental and physical changes. During this time, teenagers may find themselves grappling with questions of identity, belonging, and their place in the world, which can cause angst.

*Relationship strain: Whether it’s maintaining existing connections or making new ones, relationships can be tough, says Hagen. Rejection, breakups, disagreements, misunderstandings, and conflicts can strain relationships and lead to feelings of depression and isolation.

*Competition: Competition often evokes energy and excitement, but it can also bring on uncertainty and stress, says Hagen. “Competition can occur in a variety of places including sports, school, work, family, friendships, social media, and more.”

*Personal failures: Experiencing setbacks or being unable to meet personal, social, or familial expectations can lead to feelings of disappointment and angst.

*Unresolved emotions: Suppressed emotions, past trauma, or unaddressed issues can resurface and contribute to ongoing emotional turmoil.

*Uncertainty: Fear and uncertainty about the future can cause stress and anxiety.

*Sudden changes: Abrupt or unpredictable events can lead to fear and panic, says Hagen. “The fear of the unknown often brings our angst to life in triggering situations.”

*Sociopolitical issues: Concerns about societal injustice, political issues, discrimination, and environmental crises can lead to feelings of helplessness and frustration.

*Information overload: Constant exposure to distressing news can cause information overload and despair.

*Creative expression: Artistic expression can be accompanied by feelings of self-doubt and a fear of criticism or rejection, leading to creative angst.

What Does the Slang Form of ‘Angst’ Mean?

The word ‘angsty’ is also used colloquially to describe someone who feels like:

*Everything is terrible and their life is really difficult

*No one understands them or what they are going through

*They are alone in the world because everyone else is against them

The colloquial usage of the term is often ironic or condescending. For instance, it may be used to describe someone who stresses over minor, inconsequential problems and blows them dramatically out of proportion.

Let’s Talk About Some Specific Types of Angst

There are quite a few different kinds of angst. Read ahead to see if any of these types resonate with you:

*Teenage angst: Teenagers often experience a transition period of physical and emotional changes, where they may feel uncertain, overwhelmed, anxious, and unloved. This can cause them to experience and display feelings of angst, commonly referred to as “teenage angst.”

*Spiritual angst: Spiritual angst can take different forms. People of deep religious faith may fear God’s wrath or judgment and try to counter such angst with vigils, fasts, confessions, or self-punishments, to atone for what they see as their sins, says Hagen. On the other hand, she explains that people who feel uncertain about their faith may question themselves and their purpose. This uncertainty can be a major source of angst.

*Creative angst: If you’re a creative person or someone who’s in a creative profession, you might be feeling frustrated if your work isn’t coming out in the way you envisioned. You might also feel anxiety over whether or not people will like your work.

Could Your Angst Be the Result of a Mental Health Condition?

Angst may sometimes be caused by mental health conditions. These are some of the conditions that may trigger angst, according to Hagen:

*Anxiety: Anxiety disorders involve excessive worry and angst about different aspects of life.

*Depression: Many people who live with depression often feel anxious and worried. Not being able to control how you feel or not wanting to feel the way you do can trigger angst in everyday situations.

*Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): OCD involves intrusive and unwanted thoughts or repetitive behaviors. These obsessions and compulsions often cause distress and disruption to people’s daily lives, causing angst.

How to Deal With Feeling Angsty

These are some strategies that can help you cope with angst:

*Develop self-awareness: Recognize your feelings of angst and pay attention to what triggers them.

*Limit stressors: Identify sources of stress that contribute to your angst and take steps to minimize them. This might involve setting boundaries, managing your time effectively, or reducing your exposure to triggering situations.

*Connect with others: Share your concerns with trusted friends or family members. Sometimes, simply talking about your feelings can provide relief.

*Express yourself: Find healthy outlets for your emotions. Write in a journal, create art, play music, or engage in any form of self-expression that resonates with you.

*Focus on the present: Try to stay focused on the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can help you anchor yourself in the here and now.

*Practice gratitude: Reflect on the positive aspects of your life. Cultivating a sense of gratitude can help shift your focus away from negative feelings.

*Try meditation: Meditation and breathing exercises are an excellent way to lessen feelings of angst, says Hagen. There are many different online courses, apps, and techniques available to get you started, she adds.

*Be kind to yourself: Be compassionate toward yourself. Treat yourself with the same empathy and understanding you would offer to a friend who is struggling.

*Practice self-care: Hagen recommends practicing healthy habits such as following a balanced sleep schedule, eating a healthy diet, and incorporating physical exercise into your daily routine.

*Seek professional help: Don’t be afraid to reach out if you feel you need extra support, says Hagen. “There are therapists and counseling groups for all ages and needs that are ready and equipped to help you.”

My Partner Is So Angsty—How to Cope

If your partner is angsty, these are some strategies that can help you cope:

*Listen actively: Create a safe and nonjudgmental space for your partner to express their feelings. Listen actively and try to understand things from their perspective.

*Avoid judgment: Avoid passing judgment on your partner’s feelings or actions, as it can exacerbate their distress.

*Offer your support: Offer your support and make sure your partner knows they can count on you, says Hagen. “Being a shoulder to lean on and supporting each other through the good and the bad is important.”

*Encourage healthy habits: Practice healthy habits with your partner, such as trying a yoga class, meditating, or going for a walk, says Hagen. “Helping your partner through their angst by encouraging and accompanying them in healthy activities can make all the difference.”

*Celebrate small wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your partner’s progress and efforts in regulating their emotions. Encourage and reinforce any positive steps they take.

*Don’t take it personally: Remember that your partner’s feelings of angst are not necessarily about you so don’t take them personally. Try not to internalize their emotions or interpret them as a reflection of your relationship.

*Urge them to seek professional help: If your partner’s feelings of angst are persistent and affecting their well-being, encourage them to seek professional help from a mental healthcare provider.

*Don’t ignore your well-being: Supporting your partner can be emotionally demanding. Make sure you’re taking care of your own well-being by engaging in activities that bring you joy. Seek mental healthcare for yourself or the support of loved ones if you need it.

By Sanjana Gupta and Medically reviewed Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD