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

Updated March 23, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety can be a natural response to stress, pressure, or a threat. But depending on the level of anxiety and how often it occurs, anxiety could also signal something more significant such as generalized anxiety disorder. 

An anxiety disorder could affect daily living when symptoms are not addressed. However, since anxiety symptoms affect people differently, it can be important to learn how to recognize them and note when they may require professional help.

Common Vs. Problematic Anxiety

It May Be Time To Talk To A Certified Professional

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

Do I have anxiety? When anxiety is a problem, it typically occurs with more vigorous intensity. While normal anxiety is usually expected in certain life situations, problematic anxiety may be irrational or chronic while affecting daily activities. A person with an anxiety disorder may worry more than usual, have problems with memory and concentration, or avoid people and situations due to their symptoms.

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 can become 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 such as headaches or stomachaches.

When Anxiety Becomes Too Much

Some forms of anxiety can be 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 symptoms may be common 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 can impact your life in different ways, including your relationships and how you socialize with others. Here are some examples of a disorder affecting daily activities:

  • You feel so anxious about work that you 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, sometimes 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 sometimes keeps you awake.

You may also experience physical side effects. These can include:

  • Restlessness, agitation, or tension

  • Nervousness, irritability, or feeling of dread

  • Feeling panicked or in danger

  • Heavy sweating and rapid breathing and heart rate

  • Muscle trembling or anxiety 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 attack or anxiety attack. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by other actions such as completing an action repetitively, being obsessed about something, or having a strong need to prevent anxiety by avoiding certain things. 

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.

A person may also have issues with anxiety when it stems from past traumatic experiences (post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) or has an irrational fear or phobia. 

There are different disorders associated with anxiety, with generalized anxiety disorder being a typical example. People with this disorder may always worry about things, even things that are a daily part of their routine. They tend to 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 may want help but think they can’t get it if they don’t have health insurance. Others might find it challenging to find a therapist, or they are pushed away by issues surrounding the mental illness stigma.

Sometimes anxiety itself can keep people from getting help. They might worry about finding the right help, and if therapy is something to consider. People who 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.

Talk therapy is effective with treating 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

Taking control of your anxiety includes making lifestyle changes and understanding healthy ways to deal with stress. Here are ways that can help yourself manage anxiety:

  • Connect with someone. Know someone you can talk to when you feel alone or isolated. 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 chronic anxiety. Managing your stress may include getting others to help with your workload.

  • Engage in relaxation techniques. Natural activities such as meditation and exercise can be great for reducing and relieving stress. You can take up a hobby like dance or martial arts or complete simple exercises such as running, walking, or playing with the dog or your kids. A recent study even found that regular meditation was just as effective as popular medication in treating anxiety. 

  • Avoid worrying too often. Anxiety is often a habit, and habits can be broken. A popular CBT technique is identifying negative thought patterns that may be causing anxiety and replacing them with more healthy ways of thinking. 

  • Get plenty of rest. More sleep can help the body create natural energy to keep you energized and refreshed during the day. It can also keep anxious thoughts away. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep regularly.

  • Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine. These substances can fuel anxiety and make it more challenging to calm yourself. 

As you learn more about anxiety and how it affects your life, you may find out which methods to consider and how to integrate them into your daily routine.

When To Get Professional Help

It May Be Time To Talk To A Certified Professional

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

You should seek professional support if your anxiety creates symptoms that you experience regularly. Your doctor may ask about your symptoms and rule out any underlying conditions. Your doctor will want to learn more about your living habits to get a better idea of what is going on behind your symptoms and how to better treat them.

You may get a referral to a therapist to visit in-person. Although, there are also 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 can affect 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.

And if natural approaches like seeping, exercising, and meditating more are not in the picture, then online therapy can make an enormous difference. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a popular treatment option against anxiety, and clinical studies show that online therapy is just as effective, and sometimes even more effective than its in-person counterpart. 

Online therapy comes with other added benefits. For example, if you are homebound by physical or mental health limitations, then online therapy is an excellent option. If you have spent months on waiting lists for therapists in your area or if you can’t find someone near you who is a good match for your particular concerns, then online therapy is available as well.

Many people live with anxiety- but we don’t have to. Help is available for a more calm and health mental state. 

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

What are 3 warning signs of anxiety?
How does anxiety feel?
What is the main cause of anxiety?
What are 8 symptoms of anxiety?
Is anxiety a mental illness?
How can I stop my anxiety?
Can I have anxiety without knowing?
What do anxiety attacks look like?
How long can anxiety last?
Does anxiety make u tired?

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