How Anguish Affects You

Updated January 01, 2019

Reviewer Laura Angers


Simply put, the anguish definition can refer to being in severe pain. While this is a broad sense of the term, anguish can be mental and physical. It is a reasonable, typical, and even a rational response to a horrible situation.

So what does anguish mean exactly and what kinds of situations can cause it? Someone may experience anguish when going through a divorce, or through the loss of a loved one. These examples of grief have the potential to wreak havoc on your well-being. A traumatic event can change you as a person, especially if anguish goes on for long enough.

This article aims to inform readers how anguish affects people differently, especially if it is left uncontrolled. Even though anguish can be destructive, treatment and coping mechanisms are available for anyone, and this article will also give you the information and resources to receive help.

Mental Anguish Vs. Physical Anguish

Before diving into the specific ways anguish can impact a human, it can be useful to distinguish the difference between mental and physical anguish. Depending on who is talking, the anguish definition could be used loosely or be more restrictive.

Mental anguish is usually the response to an event that is considered traumatizing. The two examples listed earlier can lead to depression, anxiety, fatigue. Some people may feel frightened because of a particular event, such as a spouse who has been a victim of domestic violence. Regardless of the type of response, it is detrimental to the individual's state of mind.

On the other hand, physical anguish can be a little different. Physical anguish can also be a response to the mental side of things. For example, a case of depression is ruining the appetite of someone and leading to starvation. Perhaps the emotional distress produces a feeling of actually dying inside.

However, physical anguish doesn't necessarily always need to be associated with mental anguish. Someone can experience physical anguish by accidentally slamming a door on his or her fingers. While painful, an event such as this most likely won't have the same lasting impact as one of the examples of mental anguish would.

Also, many health professionals like to make a distinction between pain and anguish - effectively making them two different things. For example, doctors may reserve the word pain for physical instances and use the anguish definition to refer to mental distress and suffering. The logic for this is because the nociceptors are fine in cases of physical pain, and it's why depression, grief, and bereavement aren't under the definition of it.


On the other hand, to the ordinary person, pain is a more generic term, and just like with physical pain, people will use the same metaphors for psychological distress. Weapons are some of the most common metaphors that you will see for both. For example, someone might describe the physical pain in his or her body as "shooting or stabbing" while someone can describe his or her response to a situation as being "stabbed in the heart."

Semantics aside, people can feel the sense of anguish physically and mentally. What does anguish mean to you? To most people, pain is a broad term and anguish is merely a level of it. No matter the area it exists in, anguish can have a negative impact on various aspects of life.

The Effects Of Anguish

Anguish has the potential to change people, here are some of the ways that it can affect you and your personality:


Motivation is often one of the first areas of the brain that mental anguish attacks. When people are depressed, the desire to do anything is diminished. Depression caused by anguish can impact an individual's drive to do basic tasks, like waking up and going to work.

Now it's understandable that someone may need to take personal time off work, especially if it's due to anguish brought on by the death of a loved one. However, long-term and untreated depression can spiral out of control and result in a variety of different things. Using employment as an example, it can result in:

  • decreased productivity
  • more absences
  • reduced likelihood of retaining a job

Since mental anguish and depression can prey on a person's motivation to work, it is something that needs careful attention. It can potentially cause someone to lose their job which affects their livelihood. If the bills are not being paid, more problems will be stacking up on top of anguish.


Attitude is also another state of mind factor that gets affected by anguish. Even the most positive people can be prone to a shift in attitude following a tragedy. Pessimism can outweigh any sense of optimism for people dealing with anguish.

Pessimism can sometimes manifest as self-loathing too. An individual may blame themselves for an adverse event or may even feel alone and desolate. Unfortunately, it can also negatively impact your social life.

In times of distress, it's common for people to push away the people that care about them. Someone may try to offer a helping hand, but the desire to be alone overrides the possibility of meaningful social interaction.

It can also negatively affect your voice and your mannerisms, and there is the risk of saying something that you don't truly mean. Unfortunately, this can discourage friends and family from trying to help you.

Physical Symptoms

While this was briefly touched upon earlier in this article, this section will go into more detail how mental anguish can lead to physical problems for people. If unaddressed, some of these symptoms can be life-threatening.


A loss in appetite is typical following an event that caused a state of anguish. For those dealing with depression and anxiety, the thought of eating might rarely cross a person's mind, and it just isn't as important as other thoughts. The physical signs of hunger will also get pushed aside.

Not eating will inevitably result in quick weight-loss. This weight-loss is because the person is taking in fewer calories than what was required to maintain their current weight. However, this can be taken too far; starvation is a possible scenario. Your body needs a certain amount of calories to keep your organs functioning around the clock.

Anguish can also affect your sleep and energy levels. Anxiety caused by something traumatic can undoubtedly cause insomnia. The thoughts will be racing, and you will be tossing and turning in bed; it may seem impossible to get comfortable. Studies show that anywhere from 70 to 91 percent of patients with PTSD can't sleep properly.

This example illustrates just how significantly mental anguish can disrupt sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your metabolism, hormonal levels, and it can make you less alert on the road. Drowsiness is a leading cause of car accidents.

On the opposite spectrum, depression caused by anguish can make a person chronically fatigued. Even with enough sleep, excessive tiredness and daytime sleepiness are cited by depression patients. Sometimes sleeping is all that they want to do to escape their thoughts and reality.

Treatment For Anguish

There are many different strategies out there designed to help people experiencing psychological distress. One of the most effective ways to address anguish is by talking about it. You may choose to discuss how you feel with a friend or family member, or you have the option to talk about it with a professional. Licensed counselors and therapists are available at and can help you sort out your thoughts and feelings.

While it may be difficult to gather up the motivation to do them, participating in various activities can help boost your mood too. Exercise has a cornucopia of benefits, and one of them is reduced stress. Surrounding yourself with fun, positive people or things is a good idea because it can put you in a better mindset. Things may seem bleak presently, but these are some options to help regain control of your life.

If the anguish is too unbearable and has had a profound effect on your life, such as your eating and sleeping habits, medication may be an option for you. Make sure to consult with a physician who can make the right judgment for you.


Anguish is the natural response to an event that is tragic and traumatizing. The emotional and psychological distress from a particular situation can negatively affect certain aspects of your life.

Your motivation may be at an all-time low, and you may not want to get out of bed and go to work. Your attitude and the way you communicate and cooperate with other people may be impacted as well. Lastly, the mental anguish can also become physical. For example, by attacking your eating and sleeping habits.


Anguish may be chronic, but it does not need to be permanent. Hopefully, this article has accommodated you with a great deal of insight into what does anguish mean exactly and how you can conquer it. You can start receiving help and learn valuable information by visiting and getting in touch with a licensed professional that can suit your needs. Counseling and therapy have helped countless people overcome anguish, and it can help you too.


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  1. Maher, M. J., Rego, S. A., & Asnis, G. M. (2006). Sleep Disturbances in Patients with Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder [Abstract]. CNS Drugs, 20(7), 567-590. doi:10.2165/00023210- 200620070-00003

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