“I Feel Like I'm Losing My Mind”: What This Means and How to Cope

upset woman

 EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Many of us have had the thought, “I feel like I’m losing my mind” at one time or another. This thought may surface in times of heightened stress, but it can also be a manifestation of a mental health condition, such as anxiety, panic disorder, or depersonalization. Sometimes the thought itself can induce even more stress or anxiety. Feeling as though you are losing your mind is a very scary idea!

The good news is that if you are self-aware enough to have this thought, it’s not likely that you are actually losing your mind. That being said, dealing with this type of thought, and the feelings that go along with it, can be very challenging. If you are feeling like you are “losing your mind,” there are things you can do to cope, and to start feeling like yourself again.

What It Feels Like

Saying to yourself, “I feel like I’m losing my mind” isn’t just a thought—it usually comes with a plethora of physical and emotional manifestations. Usually people who have this thought are experiencing more stress than usual, are recovering from a trauma, or are experiencing an uptick in an anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or another mental health condition.

Symptoms

Everyone experiences the feeling of “losing my mind” in different ways. Many of the symptoms are related to your stress response (“fight or flight” response) being triggered.

Some of the ways that this may be experienced include:

  • Racing, uncontrollable thoughts
  • Feeling as though you are in danger, even if you aren’t
  • Rapid heartbeat, strained breathing
  • Experiencing headaches and stomachaches
  • Feeling detached from yourself, or the world around you
  • Feeling a sense of panic or impending doom
  • Having the thought that something is wrong with you
  • Having trouble relaxing or concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping

What Causes This Feeling?

Just as everyone experiences “I feel like I’m losing my mind” a little differently, there are several different reasons why you might be having this thought. Sometimes there is a combination of reasons why these thoughts and feelings are being triggered.

For example, you might be experiencing more stress than usual in your life and that, in turn, exacerbates your anxiety disorder. Sometimes increased anxiety can also trigger an episode of depersonalization or derealization that can also feel like “losing your mind.”

Stress

There are many types of situations that can trigger stress, including a difficult job situation, family or marital conflict, stress from a health crisis, parenting stress, or stress from hearing about troubling world events.

All of us experience and process stress in our own way, but when the stress is prolonged and particularly intense, it can make us feel like we are out of control, or like we are “losing our minds.”

Stress triggers hormones in our body—cortisol and adrenaline—which puts our body in a state of “high alert.” This makes us feel as though our thoughts are spinning out of control. These hormones also make our heart beat rapidly, and our breathing shallow.

We react to stimuli differently when we are in a state of heightened stress, and may flinch at sudden noises and generally feel on edge. All of this can make us feel like we are “losing it.”

Anxiety

You can have increased anxiety because of a particularly stressful situation. People who have anxiety disorders may become anxious for seemingly no reason at all. Either way, anxiety and anxiety disorders can make us feel out of control, and can make us feel as though we are “going crazy” or losing our minds.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders that are related to a feeling of losing one’s mind include:

  • Obsessive thoughts about death
  • Feeling detached
  • Racing heart and rapid pulse
  • Unable to stop worrying thoughts or unsettling thoughts and images
  • Not being able to sit still or concentrate
  • A feeling of dread, doom, losing control

Panic Attacks

Experiencing a panic attack can be a very scary experience. If it’s the first time you are experiencing one, you might not know what is even happening, and you may feel as though you are losing your mind. Panic attacks can come on suddenly, and although most of the time you can identify a trigger, sometimes panic attacks can seemingly come out of nowhere.

One of the reasons panic attacks can make you feel that you are losing your mind is that you may experience the feeling of something terrifying happening when there isn’t anything like that happening at all. So, your rational mind might know that everything is OK, but another part of your mind is convincing you that that is not the case. This disconnection can make you feel like your thoughts are out of your control and that something is wrong with you.

Panic attacks include physical symptoms like increased sweating, trouble breathing (even hyperventilation), racing heartbeats, nausea, dizziness, and chest pain. Many people who experience panic attacks end up having several of them in a row, which can add to the feeling of feeling out of control, and like your mind is betraying you.

Depersonalization/Derealization

If you have experienced a trauma or a period of intense anxiety and/or panic attacks, you might start to experience depersonalization or depersonalization. Both depersonalization and derealization are dissociative disorders, which are characterized by a disconnection between one’s thoughts and one’s self or identity. Up to 75% of people have experienced dissociation at one time or another.

Many of the symptoms of depersonalization and derealization are apt to make someone think, “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling like you are detached from your body
  • Feeling as though you are on the outside of your life, looking in
  • Feeling numb, emotionless
  • Feeling like you don’t know who you are
  • Feeling a loss of your identity
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression

How to Cope

Probably the most important thing you can do if you are having thoughts like “I feel like I’m losing my mind” is to keep in mind that there are many completely rational reasons why you are thinking and feeling this way. Importantly, it’s highly unlikely that you are actually losing your mind. You are more likely simply having a rough time or are dealing with a mental health challenge.

That said, you shouldn’t just brush off these thoughts or hope that they will go away on their own. If you feel like you are losing your mind, this might be a wakeup call for you to tend to your stress and your mental health.

Self-Care for Stress

If you are experiencing increased stress, your “stress response” has likely been triggered, and the goal now is to counter that stress with the “relaxation response.” In essence, you want to tell your body’s nervous system that there isn’t any impending danger ahead, and that your body’s systems can settle down and relax.

Some simple ways to do this include:

  • Deep breathing exercises: You can concentrate on elongating your out-breath to calm down your nervous system
  • Meditation: Get an app on your phone, plug in your headphones, and listen—even a few minutes will help. A study showed that mindfulness meditation helped to decrease stress in nurses.
  • Exercise: Exercise floods your body with endorphins and other “feel good” hormones
  • Talk it out: Simply sharing your feelings with someone you trust (including those “I feel like I’m losing my mind” thoughts) can provide a needed release for you, and help you feel less alone

Therapy and Medication

If you are dealing with symptoms of anxiety, panic, or depersonalization/derealization, it can be helpful to seek professional mental health help, particularly if your experience is intense, is interfering with your day-to-day life, or doesn’t seem to respond well enough to self-care and other forms of stress relief.

Anxiety disorders, including general anxiety and panic disorder, respond well to various types of therapy and medications, including:

  • Psychotherapy/talk therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure therapy
  • Anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants (usually SSRIs)
  • Beta-blockers

Depersonalization/derealization symptoms also respond well to therapy and medication. Common treatments include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Antidepressants

A Word From Verywell

Again, most instances of “I feel like I’m losing my mind” are simply a reaction to stress or an exacerbation of a mental health condition. Most can be solved with stress relief or help from a mental health professional.

However, there are some instances where racing thoughts and feeling out of control may indicate a more serious mental illness. If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, suicide, are hearing voices, are unable to sleep or eat, you should seek emergency medical care.

Was this page helpful?
9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Anxiety Disorders.

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms.

  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dissociative Disorders.

  4. Harvard Medical School. Understanding the stress response.

  5. University of Michigan Health Service. Anxiety Disorders and Panic Attacks.

  6. Katerndahl DA. The sequence of panic symptoms. J Fam Pract. 1988;26(1):49-52.

  7. Harvard Medical School. Understanding the stress response.

  8. Green AA, Kinchen EV. The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Stress and Burnout in NursesJ Holist Nurs. 2021;39(4):356-368. doi:10.1177/08980101211015818

  9. Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. Tennessee Statewide Crisis Phone Line.