From Pain to Peace: Understanding And Overcoming Mental Anguish
If you asked me to define pain some years ago, I would’ve replied with something like, “Pain is never-ending. It is a wound that never stops bleeding.” But, if you ask me the same question, today I would answer with something like, “Anguish and pain are like waves. They come crashing down, but eventually, they retreat, leaving behind a sense of calm.” With time, I’ve come to understand that pain and distress are a part of our lives, but it’s up to us how we choose to accept and cope with anguish.
When I talk about anguish – or rather mental anguish – I refer to the emotional distress you experience. It’s an overwhelming emotional state that encompasses a range of intense negative emotions that are often triggered by life situations, events, or even inner turmoil.
I’ve heard many of my acquaintances speak about being in agony and emotional distress, but when I ask them to clarify, they balk. It’s easy to say that you’re in agony when the definition of the word escapes you. So, let’s take a moment to understand the meaning of anguish, how this emotional state can affect our lives, and how we can learn to overcome it.
What Does Anguish Feel Like?
Mental anguish is a state that can be characterized by an intense and often overwhelming emotional experience. If you are experiencing mental anguish, then you may feel a myriad of emotions such as sadness, anxiety, helplessness, despair, and frustration. This emotional distress you feel can often cause physical symptoms as well, such as a racing heart, trouble breathing, and more.
Anguish feels as if a cloud of negativity envelops your mind, making it harder for you to think clearly or find relief from psychological distress.
There are also some similarities between anguish and anxiety and some people use the terms interchangeably. Both of these terms come from the same European word “angh” meaning painfully constructed, painful, or tight. While these two terms may share similar meanings, there are some differences between them.
Anguish often involves more mental distress such as sorrow and despair whereas anxiety involves intense worry, fear, and unease.
What Causes Mental Anguish?
The root of mental anguish can be different sources – some internal while some external. Some of the common triggers or causes of anguish can include;
Trauma and Loss
If you experience trauma in your life or witness traumatic events such as accidents, abuse, or the loss of a loved one, then these experiences can cause mental anguish. Losing someone or going through something unexpected can bring forth feelings of sadness, anger, and uncertainty, all of which lead to anguish.
If you have unhealthy relationships, have gone through a rough breakup, or have conflicts with family, friends, your partner/spouse, or even co-workers, then these experiences can also contribute significantly to emotional distress.
Mental anguish can also be caused by economic or financial difficulties as well as other factors such as job loss, financial instability, etc. All these factors can cause feelings of helplessness, anger, frustration, and despair.
Physical Health Challenges
If you’re dealing with physical health issues such as chronic pain, terminal illnesses, or other life-altering health problems, then such diagnoses can also evoke emotional anguish, mental pain, and psychological distress.
Life transitions are a part of our lives and with transitions come existential questions and crises where you spend time wondering about your life’s purpose, morality, beliefs, and more. Each of these existential questions can cause you to go deep in your introspection, causing you to feel a sense of helplessness, feeling listless, and anguish.
When you feel disconnected from others in your life or lack social support, then the loneliness you face can worsen feelings of despair, causing you to experience mental anguish. Loneliness and isolation from social settings can also increase your risk of depression.
How Does Anguish Affect Us?
The impact of anguish on our lives can be profound and quite significant. Prolonged mental anguish can contribute to the development of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Even the mind-body connection can take a hit because of anguish. Emotional distress and anguish you feel can lead to physical health problems such as insomnia, high blood pressure, and weakened immunity.
Anguish can also put a strain on your relationships, making it harder for you to connect with your loved ones and even interact healthily in social settings. You may even find it hard to go to work, attend school, or perform your day-to-day chores.
Not only health and relationships, but mental anguish can impact your cognitive functioning as well. You may find it hard to concentrate and focus on your tasks or pay attention to your work, leading to low productivity and poor performance.
When you live with mental anguish for a long time, then it can eventually begin to affect the quality of your life. You may experience high levels of depression and despair. Prolonged experiences of mental and emotional anguish can often increase your risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
If you or someone you know are struggling with self-harm or suicidal ideation, then it is strongly recommended that you connect with 988 Lifeline or emergency services near you.
How to Cope And Overcome Mental Anguish?
If you or your loved ones are experiencing mental anguish, then it’s important to reach out and get the right help. Coping with anguish may require various approaches, but it’s not impossible to cope and overcome mental anguish. Here are some tips to help you cope with anguish;
- Seek Professional Help: The most common approach I’d recommend would be to reach out to a professional counselor for help. A professional such as a counselor or a therapist can offer you guidance and support, tailored to your specific needs and pain. They can also help you address the negative thoughts and emotions that might be contributing to the prolonged anguish.
- Practice Self-Care: You can also try to engage in activities that promote wellness and calm within. You can try regular physical activities like exercising, eating a well-balanced diet, practicing mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques to turn your inner pain into peace.
- Connect With Your Loved Ones: Reach out to your loved ones – friends, family, and support groups – to share your feelings and experiences. Connecting with others socially can bring a sense of comfort and support as well as offer new perspectives to cope with the emotional distress you’re feeling.
- Find Ways to Express Yourself: Mental anguish can become unbearable if you keep it inside and don’t allow yourself to feel free from the pain. To do so, you can try to find healthy ways to express yourself and seek activities such as journal writing, creating art, creating music, or other ways to express your emotions.
- Limit Your Stressors: Identify what causes you stress and anguish and find ways you can either minimize or eliminate those stressors. When you address the stressors directly then you can learn to minimize their impact on your life.
Be Kind and Self-Compassionate: No matter what you’re feeling, don’t berate yourself for feeling it. Be kind to yourself and show self-compassion. When you let yourself think negative thoughts then your anguish can turn into guilt, shame, and anger. None of these feelings can help you overcome your emotional pain. So learn to be kind and forgiving.
Anguish is a complicated mental and emotional state that can impact anyone at any point in their lives. Understanding what anguish feels like, what causes it, and how to overcome it can empower you. Mental Anguish can portray the emotions you’re feeling and can have a severe impact on your health. While it’s something we all can experience, how it manifests and presents itself can vary from person to person.
If you’re experiencing emotional anguish and inner pain, then know that help is available and with the right support, you can learn to cope and overcome feelings of anguish.
Did you find this blog helpful? Let me know what you think about anguish and what it feels like in the comments below. You can also share your thoughts with us on our social media platforms!