How Do You Know If You Have Anxiety: Signs, Symptoms, And When To Get Help

Updated October 21, 2020

It is common to experience anxiety in life. It is a natural response to stress, pressure, or when you feel threatened. It could also signal something more significant such as generalized anxiety disorder depending on the level of anxiety and how often it occurs. Feeling anxious is common when waiting on test results, driving through rush-hour traffic, or dealing with problems at work. Anxiety could affect daily living when symptoms are not addressed. However, since anxiety symptoms affect people differently, it is important to learn how torecognizethem and when they may require professional help.

Common Vs. Problematic Anxiety

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There are various experiences throughout life that cause anxiety. The feeling of anxiety is related to the body’s fight-or-flight response. It gets triggered in challenging situations such as test-taking, a job interview, or when you do something for the first time, such as going on a date. Such anxiety may be beneficial because it helps you stay focused and motivated. You’re likely to work harder on your test or be on alert when out alone at night. While anxiety may help some, it may become a problem for others.

When anxiety is a problem, it occurs with more vigorous intensity. Normal anxiety is usually expected in certain life situations. Problematic anxiety may be irrational or chronic while affecting daily activities. A person may worry more than usual, have problems with memory and concentration, or avoid people and specifications.

For example, a person with a social anxiety disorder may avoid being around people, even if they know them. Problematic anxiety may include symptoms so intense it hard to socialize with people at home and work. A person with excessive worry and anxiety may have a generalized anxiety disorder. They may feel this way about a variety of things for an extended time. They could also experience cognitive and physical symptoms.

When Anxiety Is Too Much

Some forms of anxiety are routine while being helpful to raise awareness or keep you alert. Yet, anxiety at times may make things more challenging and even lead to reduced productivity and excessive worrying. Such aspects are similar for people with generalized anxiety disorder, but sometimes people may not realize they have a problem with anxiety. While some may experience anxiety, it doesn’t mean a disorder is present. Anxiety impacts your life in different ways, including your relationships and how you socialize with others. Here examples of a disorder affecting daily activities:

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  • You feel really anxious about work and decide to stay home.
  • You decide to skip socializing with friends because of anxiety.
  • You find it hard to establish or maintain a relationship because of anxiety.
  • You worry too much about things making it hard to focus during the day.
  • You don’t enjoy certain activities like you used to or have trouble engaging.
  • You have trouble sleeping at night because anxiety keeps you awake.

It is one thing to go through different situations where anxiety may contribute to the outcome. You may also experience physical side effects or symptoms of anxiety that should be addressed. Common symptoms include:

  • Restlessness, agitation, or tension
  • Nervousness, irritability, or dread
  • Feeling panicked or danger
  • Heavy sweating and rapid breathing and heart rate
  • Muscle trembling or twitching
  • Lack of concentrating due to worrying
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia, and fatigue
  • Physical discomforts such as an upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, or gas
  • Avoiding socializing with others

Some symptoms may signal a panic or anxiety attack. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by other actions such as completing an action repetitively, being obsessed about something, or have a strong need to prevent anxiety by avoiding certain things. A person may have issues with anxiety when it stems from past traumatic experiences (post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) or has an irrational fear or phobia. A panic attack occurs suddenly and may include some of the previous symptoms mentioned along with chest tightness, dizziness, fear of losing control, or feeling detached from reality.

There are different disorders associated with anxiety, with generalized anxiety disorder being a typical example. People with this disorder always worry about things, even things part of their routine. They worry more than necessary about things and may experience physical symptoms like trouble sleeping, headaches, and an upset stomach. When anxiety affects the quality of your life, or you find yourself struggling to get basic tasks done, it may be time to talk to your doctor.

When Should You Get Help For Anxiety?

Close to 20% of people in the United States deal with an anxiety disorder every year. While some may not know they have a disorder, it is treatable. Some may not get help because they don’t realize they need it. Some want help but think they can’t get it if they don’t have health insurance. Others find it challenging to find a therapist, or they are pushed away by issues surrounding mental health stigma.

Sometimes anxiety itself keeps people from getting help. They worry about finding the right help, and if therapy is something to consider. People that don’t realize they have anxiety may have gotten comfortable or accustomed to their symptoms. A person may feel bad but not attribute their feelings to an anxiety problem. There are options for anxiety help, including online therapy, in-person counseling, and other support through local community health agencies via reduced or free support.

People often wait to get help when this could make things worse or lead to further suffering. Talk therapy is effective with anxiety. You can talk to someone about your anxiety and learn how to manage symptoms. The sooner you seek help, the better.

Self-Help Methods For Anxiety

People can have concerns about anxiety and not have a disorder. Things in life from having a busy schedule to meeting deadlines and demands may lead to feeling anxious. Many swear they need a cup of coffee to help them function, but keep in mind, too much caffeine could also contribute to your anxiety. Taking control of your anxiety includes making lifestyle changes and understanding healthy ways to deal with stress. Here are ways to help yourself manage anxiety:

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  • Connect with a buddy. Know someone you can talk to when you feel alone or isolated. Such feelings bring anxiety and worry. Seek self-help anxiety support groups online to connect with peers and others who relate. You may make new friends or establish another line of support.
  • Practice stress management techniques. Being under high levels of stress may lead to anxiety. Managing your stress may include getting others to help with your workload. It may also involve knowing when to take time out for yourself to collect your thoughts and energy.
  • Learn how to relax. Engaging in natural activities such as meditation and exercise is great for reducing and relieving stress. You can take up a hobby like dance or martial arts—complete simple exercises such as running, walking, or playing with the dog or your kids.
  • Avoid worrying too often. People may not realize they have a habit of worrying. You can challenge your thoughts and try to keep worrying to a minimum.
  • Get plenty of rest. More sleep helps the body create natural energy to keep you energized and refreshed during the day. It also keeps anxious thoughts away. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep regularly.
  • Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine. These substances fuel anxiety and make it more challenging to calm yourself. If you smoke, quit. Nicotine has the same effect. People often smoke to relieve stress, but it acts as a stimulate, making anxiety levels worse later.

As you learn more about anxiety and how it affects your life, you’ll know what methods to consider and how to integrate them into your daily routine.

When To Get Professional Help

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Sometimes self-help strategies are more effective when used with professional support. When anxiety interferes with daily responsibility and how you socialize with others, it is time to seek professional help. Anxiety can disrupt routines and make life difficult, but you have options, and it is essential to know when to get help.

You should seek professional support if your anxiety creates symptoms you experience regularly. Your doctor may ask about your symptoms and rule out any underlying conditions. Sometimes taking medication or herbal remedies cause anxiety. Your doctor will want to learn more about your living habits to get a better idea of what is going on behind your symptoms.

You may get a referral to a therapist to visit in-person. Although, there are online therapy options to consider as well if you are not ready for in-person sessions. Depending on your anxiety and how it affects your lifestyle, your doctor may discuss different treatment options, such as forms of talk therapy and anxiety medication.

Anxiety affects people in different ways, but there are natural options to consider along with working with a mental health specialist. After understanding what anxiety is and how it affects you, there are ways to manage your symptoms to make living life more comfortable.


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