Recently, I attended a nighttime street fair that was packed to the gills with hungry people, featured a deafening noise level and offered no visible emergency exit paths. If all this weren’t enough, I suddenly experienced an uncontrollable level of itching on the outside of my upper legs. Convinced I was being attacked, I grabbed my husband. “Something’s biting me!” I hissed. When we could find no pest in sight, I found a mercifully quiet corner in which to calm myself down, did some deep breathing and popped half an anxiety pill. The itching stopped.

The next morning, after doing research, I was astounded to find that severe, sudden onset itching is a fairly common manifestation of anxiety. The crowd and environment had simply become too much for me, and my body’s fight or flight system took over. Anxiety can manifest in a myriad of strange ways—from itching to shooting pains—but perhaps the strangest is a condition called ‘selective mutism,’ which is explored in this article.

People suffering from the condition are rendered temporarily unable to talk. But one of the authors of the study insists selective mutism can be conquered—his ability to address large audiences is proof. Many experts agree that the best non-pharmaceutical way to deal with anxiety is to do some deep breathing, which relaxes the body’s fight-or-flight response.

Have you ever tried this? What are your experiences with anxiety, and how do you deal with it?