Anxiety feels like a crashing computer

Anxiety feels like a crashing computer

Some people have a hard time imagining what anxiety exactly is or what an anxiety attack feels like. It’s more than just feeling a bit stressed for a test, or feeling scared in a dangerous situation. That’s why I like to describe my anxiety attacks as a crashing computer.

Computers receive input and process that into output. But my computer isn’t always working properly. Sometimes there’s just too much going on. And then the input becomes too much for my computer to handle. So it stops working. It crashes.

Anxiety attacks are like a crashing computer.

That’s basically how I experience anxiety attacks. Sometimes, there’s a lot going on. I’m worrying about work. I’m worrying about my health. I’m worrying about the past. I’m worrying about the future. I’m scared that I’ll fuck up. I’m afraid that I’ll ruin something.

A lot of thoughts are popping in my head, a lot of computer programs are open. And then it gets too much. The program freezes. My mind freezes. Blackouts happen. When I get blackouts, I’m not even able to remember passwords or pin codes. And the more I try to remember them, the more anxious I get and the worse my memory gets.

If this happens on an exam, it means I’ll fail or get a bad grade, even if I knew the answers half an hour earlier, even if I studied hard. If this happens during a conversation, I’ll either turn completely silent, start crying or spit out sentences that don’t make sense.

It’s a terrible feeling. And I can’t even do much against it. I try to ignore the feeling, I try to shut down the thoughts, I try to keep the conversation going, but it all makes the feeling worse. It’s too much for my computer to handle.

Anxiety is a crashing computer

Anxiety as a crashing computer: quote

Solving the problem.

The one thing that helps me battle my anxiety is very similar to the way I would fix a broken computer as well. When my computer freezes or crashes, I leave it alone for a bit. I don’t try to reopen applications, I don’t try to enter more text, I don’t try to hit any buttons. I just let it be. And then I restart the computer. I run anti-virus programs and take it to repair if I must. 

In a similar way, the best way for me to snap out of an anxiety attack is by being alone. By removing myself from the stressful environment. I like going for a walk, drawing, writing or meditating in those situations. Then I try to find out what went wrong; I analyze my thoughts and my feelings. I also visit a therapist a few times a month, which is a bit like computer repair for my brain. 

Lately, I’ve taken some other measure to help me with my anxiety as well. I keep a mood journal, I stopped drinking coffee and meditate for 20 minutes every evening. All these things combined are helping me a lot to improve myself and reduce my anxiety. I still have bad moments, but I’m learning how to deal with them and make them go away.

I’ve written about anxiety before on my blog, you can check out ‘How I  Experience Anxiety‘ and my Mental Health category to learn more about it.

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59 Comments

    1. I’m so happy that people think these posts are helpful. I’m trying to raise awareness and show people that they’re not alone and that they can get better.

  1. What a great post! The computer analogy is perfect. I’m 52 and I’ve suffered from anxiety all my life, part of my type A perfectionist personality I guess. And partly because there have been a couple of people in my life I can never please no matter how hard I try. As I started going through menopause, panic attacks started getting worse. I hope they subside as hormones settle down. Ugh. It’s not fun. And it feels awful because the rational side of my brain is always trying to tell the anxiety to just stop it, but there’s no controlling it. Just letting it be and getting through it is all I can do.

    1. I hope it gets better over time 💖 I recognize the feeling of “the rational side trying to tell the anxiety to just stop it”. Whenever I realize I’m having an attack, I feel so irrational. But there’s not much I can do about it.

  2. Hello from a fellow anxious girl…it’s so hard to cope, and I find that I go through amazing periods where nothing phases me and other periods where I have panic attacks about even going to the grocery store. Therapy has helped, and now I’m working through an anxiety workbook and learning to reshape the thoughts that cause me to obsess and get anxious. Keep trucking on…all we can do is work to make it better. <3

    1. Good luck <3

      I think I'm a bit the same. I often have periods where it's way better, and then suddenly it gets worse and I'm anxious and worried about everything. The workbook sounds very useful though, I might need something like that as well.

  3. This is great. I definitely feel the same way. I freeze and feel like my brain is shutting down. I have learned that “sorting through programs” helps with my “restart.” I just take one thing and focus on that thing. My husband does a pretty good job of helping me sort through it and get through those moments of anxiety.

  4. I love the fact you have written a blog post about anxiety, people are now talking about it more and I think it is great. I have never had an anxiety attack but I know a lot of people who suffer from them x

    1. I love guided meditation! I used to do 20 minutes of unguided mindfulness meditation every day, but lately I’ve been using guided meditation videos and headspace instead, and I like it so much more than unguided meditation. It just works a better for me and helps me to stay focused.

  5. It’s good to see that you’re sharing your experience of anxiety. It can be a difficult thing to do and it takes great strength to tell your story to others.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Natasha x

  6. Great post – my anxiety has been increasing recently – I have been in denial about it, I think. I need to investigate and maybe get a little help. Thank you for sharing. Kaz x

  7. This is such a fantastic way to describe an anxiety attack! I often struggle with communicating to my husband what I am going through (especially whilst in the middle of an attack). I think this explanation may give him a bit more insight, thank you.

    1. I actually showed it to my boyfriend as well for the same reason. Especially during an attack, it’s so hard to clearly describe what’s going on, it often makes me feel even more anxious. But I think he understands it better lately and just leaves me alone to calm down or gives me a hug (depending on how bad it is) instead of trying to continue having a conversation with me, so that’s really nice.

  8. I love that analogy. It’s a really good way of trying to explain what anxiety is like to people who may not understand. I don’t always take myself out of the situation which worried me even more sometimes but I like to focus on things to try take my mind of it, whether that’s working on my blog, reading a book or maybe even going to the gym, it all helps that little bit more 🙂

    1. Thank you!

      Walks outside are so nice, I do it whenever I feel stressed at home. I used to live next to a forest and I spent so many days (and nights) just going there for walks and looking at the stars.

  9. I also struggle with anxiety, and depending on what is causing it, depends on what I do to recover. Sometimes it’s working out. Sometimes it’s just vegging out. It definitely feels like a crashing computer, and the recovery time can depend on how big of a crash it was.

  10. You described this so well. I also struggle with anxiety and I am a HSP as well. For me it just works to let it go I guess, and sometimes accept that a day will be very stressful, as they are luckily not full blown panic attacks..

    Thanks for sharing <3

  11. This is such a great post. Thank you for sharing your insight on this topic. It’s hard for people to understand if they don’t go through it themself, but you put it in such a good way.

  12. Wonderful post, Sarah!

    I really like your useful analogy and the steps that you take to deal with your own anxiety. I’ve always suffered from anxiety and have found meditation to be a real lifesaver.

    Everyone’s different , of course, and I like that you offer a few other options as well in your post.

  13. I have really intense social anxiety, I can’t make connections with people at all in person, but it’s something that I’m trying to work on. I actually started working in a florists recently, and it’s brought me out of my shell quite a bit, I’m still confused on why I even have anxiety and why it effects me so much x

    http://www.sheintheknow.co.uk