12 haunting photos that capture how depression and anxiety can feel.

She captured in images what can be so hard to put into words.

Anxiety and depression are fairly prevalent.

One of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S., in 2012 the National Institute of Health found that almost 7% of adults had experienced a major depressive episode in the previous year. Even more prevalent is anxiety, with about 18% of U.S. adults reporting an anxiety disorder.

And yet it can be hard to explain depression and anxiety to someone who has never experienced those things.


That's why Katie Joy Crawford created a photo series she calls "My Anxious Heart."

Crawford, who is a photography student, has general anxiety disorder. She explains:

"Through this body of work, I am visually interpreting my own emotional and physical journey so that others may be able to understand this weight that so many bear in our society. The physical ramifications of the disorder, such as a racing heart, dizziness, shortness of breath and lightheadedness, frequently go unnoticed or are misinterpreted by those who have never suffered from anxiety. Although the physical symptoms make up a great deal of the disorder, the emotional outcome is exceedingly difficult to encapsulate as well. Anxiety bars the sufferer from the risk of discovery, the desire to explore new ideas, and the possibility of exiting a comfort zone. It makes sure that it will never be alone. It finds you when you're in the midst of joy, or alone in your own mind. It is quiet and steady, reminding you of your past failures, and fabricating your future outcomes."

Do any of these images resonate with you?

"I was scared of sleeping. I felt the most raw panic in complete darkness. Actually, complete darkness wasn't scary. It was that little bit of light that would cast a shadow — a terrifying shadow." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"They keep telling me to breathe. I can feel my chest moving up and down. Up and down. Up and down. But why does it feel like I'm suffocating? I hold my hand under my nose, making sure there is air. I still can't breathe." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"A captive of my own mind. The instigator of my own thoughts. The more I think, the worse it gets. The less I think, the worse it gets. Breathe. Just breathe. Drift. It'll ease soon." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"Cuts so deep it's like they're never going to heal. Pain so real, it's almost unbearable. I've become this ... this cut, this wound. All I know is the same pain; sharp breath, empty eyes, shaky hands. If it's so painful, why let it continue? Unless ... maybe it's all that you know." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"You were created for me and by me. You were created for my seclusion. You were created by venomous defense. You are made of fear and lies. Fear of unrequited promises and losing trust so seldom given. You've been forming my entire life. Stronger and stronger." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"No matter how much I resist, it'll always be right here desperate to hold me, cover me, break down with me. Each day I fight it. 'You're not good enough for me and you never will be.' But there it is, waiting for me when I wake up and eager to hold me as I sleep. It takes my breath away. It leaves me speechless." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"I'm afraid to live and I'm afraid to die. What a way to exist." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"It's strange — in the pit of your stomach. It's like when you're swimming and you want to put your feet down but the water is deeper than you thought. You can't touch the bottom and your heart skips a beat." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"My head is filling with helium. Focus is fading. Such a small decision to make. Such an easy question to answer. My mind isn't letting me. It's like a thousand circuits are all crossing at once." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"A glass of water isn't heavy. It's almost mindless when you have to pick one up. But what if you couldn't empty it or set it down? What if you had to support its weight for days ... months ... years? The weight doesn't change, but the burden does. At a certain point, you can't remember how light it used to seem. Sometimes it takes everything in you to pretend it isn't there. And sometimes, you just have to let it fall." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"Numb feeling. How oxymoronic. How fitting. can you actually feel numb? Or is it the inability to feel? Am I so used to being numb that I've equated it to an actual feeling?" Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

"Depression is when you can't feel at all. Anxiety is when you feel too much. Having both is a constant war within your own mind. Having both means never winning." Photo and caption by Katie Crawford.

In addition to finding Crawford's work on her website, you can also follow her on Facebook.

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