Noticing Changes Within Myself: Could It Be Anxiety?

Noticing Changes Within Myself: Could It Be Anxiety?

younger than 30

In the past, I thought anxiety entailed someone feeling upset, worried, or nervous. I thought it was situation-based, meaning something triggered it. And I thought anxiety usually manifested in a physical way that was visible to others, such as crying, shaking, sweating, or fidgeting.

The older I get, the more I realize not only how complex anxiety is, but also how common it is and how many people deal with it on a regular basis. I am also learning that the way I previously perceived or thought about anxiety was not entirely correct.

Thankfully, I would generally not consider myself to be an anxious person, and I rarely felt anxious as a child. By this, I mean I never experienced anxiety the way I perceived someone would experience it. As a child, I was never upset or nervous about going to school or being in large groups of people, and I never worried about having to do something or go somewhere. In fact, I used to love some of the elementary school-type activities that most children despised, such as public speaking competitions and large group projects.

From what I remember, I was an easily pleased child, which was similar to my experience as a teenager and university student. Which is why I am feeling confused about what I suspect might be a form of anxiety I am experiencing as a young adult.

After being diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in early 2016, it was inevitable that I would change in some ways. Even though it is almost two years later, I am noticing a recent change in my behaviors. I wonder if they’re coming from feelings of anxiety. I can say with confidence that I am not anxious in the way I used to perceive anxiety, meaning I am not upset, worried, or nervous about things. But my mind is constantly racing with tasks, and when I don’t achieve them within a set timeframe, I feel frustrated or doubtful that I will ever accomplish them.

Below I describe some changes I am noticing in myself in greater detail. I’m curious if you think they might be anxiety-related.

Constant lists

I always have a list on the go, whether it is handwritten or saved electronically on my phone. This might not seem unusual for people, but I am starting to worry that it is a bit excessive. I add and delete from it when I achieve certain tasks, and everything goes on these lists. I don’t have a bad memory. I never have. So, I am not sure where this constant need to write everything down and have several lists is coming from.

A strong desire to be productive

Unlike before my diagnosis, I often turn down social opportunities so I can stay home and be productive. I like to do my groceries when the stores aren’t busy, cook meals in advance, and spend time doing productive tasks that make for a hassle-free week, such as laundry, house cleaning, or crafting. I previously didn’t value these quiet tasks at home as I do now.

Wanting to be proactive

Keeping with the theme of wanting a hassle-free week, I strive to be proactive in gathering necessities in advance of when I need them. I think this comes from the fear of falling ill and not being able to do errands when I need to — this is tied to my constant need to make lists on the fly. I stock essential products at home in case I run out, but it isn’t like I couldn’t just go to the store for more if I ran out. I don’t really need to have duplicates of things on hand on a regular basis.

Trouble falling asleep

It’s common for many people to occasionally struggle with this, so perhaps this is just a phase I am going through. However, I have been having such a hard time turning off my brain at bedtime. I am constantly thinking of what I have to do in the next couple of days, and wondering if I have added those tasks to my list. I also go through what I needed to do that day and mentally check off what I achieved. 

While these types of things aren’t negatively impacting my life in any way, I am left wondering: Does this sound like anxiety?


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


  1. Denny Watkins says:

    Charlene, although I’m 73 and was diagnosed with PF almost two years ago, your column sounds exactly how I feel most of the time lately. I make handwritten notes; I use my tablet to
    make notes on my searches and forums; I have trouble falling asleep; usually wake up during the night; lately, I’ve
    been getting up earlier than normal. If I’m searching for information regarding this ailment and don’t find anything or anything new, I feel I’m not being productive and just wasting my time. If I am not researching PF, I feel guilty. I have never had these feelings or anxieties before in my
    life. Recently I started noticing the anxiety and the preoccupation with PF in my life. I am trying not to do so
    much searching for answers to my questions but it is very hard. Perhaps it is just information overload.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Denny,

      Thanks as always for reading my column and sharing your thoughts. Sorry to hear you’re relating to my column, as I know how difficult it is to always have an active mind. It certainly doesn’t help us get the rest that we truly need while living with PF. I absolutely agree with the strong desire to be research PF and wanting to find out information that will help us, or to compile and ask our Doctors about…it really can be exhausting mentally and emotionally, can’t it? I have never had anxiety in my life either, nor have I ever fixated on one thing for so long (even if this is a big thing) and it has helped talking to others about it to help get ideas on how to counter the feelings and anxieties. Is this an option for you? If so, I’d say maybe give it a try. It has helped me get a bit of a mental break, although I do admit I am often mentally tired because of all the thinking I’m doing lately….

      Thinking of you and hoping your days aren’t so ‘information overloaded’ these days…

  2. gil says:

    “While these types of things aren’t negatively impacting my life in any way, I am left wondering: Does this sound like anxiety?”

    I don’t know what it is called but I have it too.

    I’ve learned to only put 3 things on my to do list. I found that allows me to be more productive and less anxious.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Gil,

      Thanks for reading my column and sharing your thoughts. There have been a few folks who have mentioned they often feel like this as well, and I can only “chalk it up” to being anxiety, although I am not entirely sure. As Denny suggested, it could just be ‘information overload’ too… I think this would definitely apply to me. Not sure though, I guess the important thing is figuring out how to manage. I really like the idea of putting less on my to-do list, then I don’t feel as guilty when I can’t achieve it all. Ensuring we don’t set ourselves up for failure (by trying to do too much) is really important for our mental and emotional health I think. I’ll take your advice and start lessening my to-do list or spreading it out a bit more 🙂


  3. William Cameron-hainey says:

    Is it normal to have shoulder joint pains as i have I.P.F.and recently developed severe shoulder pain and restricted move movement.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi William,

      Thanks for reading my column and posting your question here. I unfortunately don’t have an answer for you, but I’m sorry to hear you have developed shoulder pain and restricted movement. Have you done anything that you could recall hurting your shoulder? Do you have a bad cough? If you don’t recall hurting yourself, and you do have a cough, I have heard of people pulling muscles from coughing as a result of their IPF. Perhaps this is something to consider? I’m not sure but definitely if it is limiting your movement and doesn’t improve in a few days or isn’t manageable with topical pain-relief ointments or oral medications, I would ask your Doctor about it. I hope you feel better!

      If you wanted to join our PF forums at: you could ask this question to other members to see if they have ever experience this? They might have some insight for you.


      • William Cameron-hainey says:

        Thank youCharlene no i have not pulled any muscles or had any bouts of coughing, havean appointment see a consultant,however as i am 74 and was diagnosed with I.P.F3 years ago and prostate and bladder cancer 2 months later did chemo and radio and it seems to be clear, i am very active and travel a lot and refuse let these conditions get me down all i wanted to know is my shoulder pain anything to do with I.P.F.

        • Charlene Marshall says:

          It is a good question William. Goodluck with your upcoming appointment for it! Glad to hear that this isn’t keeping you from travelling or getting you down, that is wonderful to hear. Happy travels!


  4. I love how you share your thoughts – you are me! It helps me not to feel alone in this journey. I am anxious when my body doesn’t keep up with my brain. I have learned to give myself more time and grace. Overdoing things only hurts me. I have learned to plan ahead and not over plan. I always know when it is anxiety because I start to breath more rapidly. I sit down, get my breathing back to normal and then try to stay calm.
    btw, I have pulled my muscle several times coughing and it is yet another frustration to deal with. However, if I am coughing I am still breathing!

  5. Charlene Marshall says:

    Hi Victoria,

    Thank you so much for reading my columns and sharing your comments. I am really glad to hear that my columns are able to help you – feeling alone and lonely throughout this journey happens to so many of us, doesn’t it? I can certainly relate to you there. I can also relate to overdoing things setting you back physically, mentally and for me, even sometimes emotionally. Your strategy about planning ahead is a good one, I do this too and I am starting to understand more about why I do this as my disease progresses. Have you ever tried any meditation exercises or guided imagery? Sometimes these help me ‘reset’ my breathing from rapid to normal. I’m so sorry to hear about your pulled muscles, that has got to be frustrating for sure! Hang in there and connect any time, you aren’t alone on this journey. Best wishes to you!


  6. Irene says:

    Does anyone use an anti Anxiety medication with compromised breathing with IPF. Rivotril drops have been suggested small dose only but Dr anxious about using.
    My mum is 91 with extreme anxiety when needing to move about!

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Irene,

      This is an excellent question, and one that I am sure lots of people would be curious to learn more about. I don’t use an anti-anxiety medication personally (not yet, anyways) however I totally believe in them and encourage others to start one if they need it. I’m likely not too far away from asking my doctor about this as well. Not being able to breathe is really scary and so I can understand your Mom’s fears about moving around. I’d definitely talk to the doctor about what might be the best option for your Mom, especially if the dr. isn’t necessarily supportive of using the Rivotril drops. Worth a conversation for sure!

      Hopefully someone can share their personal experience with you regarding this, sorry I can’t be of more help. Wishing both you and your Mom well.
      Kind regards,

  7. David Patterson says:

    I’m 76 and was diag. last year. We also need as a group the most effective way to use supplemental oxygen. I evidently have had this for quite a while as I am going downhill quickly. Getting out of my recliner and walking 16 ft to the bathroom is a chore. My heart rate hits 140 and sometimes my O2 drops to 77. Then we get the fight or flight kicks. in. I wish there was information on how to best progress through this. Anxiety, sleep difficulties, O2 levels, Ofev what a mess.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks so much for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments. Sorry to hear of your IPF diagnosis, it sure is an unfair and cruel disease, isn’t it? Good idea about figuring out the most effective way to use supplemental oxygen. Have you recently had your O2 needs evaluated by your pulmonologist? The needs change with time, and seeing as your sats drop low so quickly along with an increased HR, it might be good to ensure you’re getting enough per your supplemental oxygen script. I only suggest this as mine just changed when I was suddenly dealing with more fatigue, and didn’t know why. The fight or flight you mentioned is very true for me! Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a manual that helped us live with this disease? It is a mess. If you’re interested, the PF forums: are a wonderful place to connect with others living with IPF and the folks are very helpful on there. Feel free to connect anytime and hang in there!


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