How To Tell If You Have Anxiety: 10 Signs And Symptoms
Updated December 31, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Maria Abada, LPC
Anxiety can manifest itself in numerous ways, and there are many reasons why it can happen. Important exams, having to make a speech, or going on a first date with someone can all be ordinary sources of anxiety. However, anxiety can also be chronic and not based on specific scenarios and could indicate an anxiety disorder. If you are unsure that you are experiencing anxiety, this article will discuss the mental and physical symptoms so that you can learn how to tell if you have anxiety and start managing it today.
The Signs of Anxiety
People may experience anxiety differently. There are different types of anxiety disorders – some people have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Others may struggle with Panic Disorder. Some people may have difficulty with specific phobias. Despite there being differences between the types, here are some of the most common hallmarks of an anxiety disorder:
1. Excessive Worrying
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, individuals with anxiety disorders often worry excessively or have a sense of dread, usually lasting six months or longer.  These anxious feelings can stem from school, the workplace, social interactions, personal relationships, as well as health and finances, to name a few causes. For those with anxiety, keeping these feelings under control can be challenging, even if they realize that their worries or fears are irrational.
2. Difficulties Sleeping & Restlessness
It is very common for anxiety to keep people awake at night, especially the night before an event that is contributing to the fear and tension. Getting a good night’s sleep can feel impossible for some individuals who find themselves tossing and turning in bed because of anxiety. Sleep is essential for just about every function in the body, including your mental health. In fact, sleep problems can also be a contributor to anxiety and make things worse.  There are many ways for people to improve their sleeping habits, but those with severe anxiety and insomnia can benefit from consulting with a physician who can recommend a sleeping aid.
Even if someone manages to get to sleep and get an adequate amount of it, someone who might have anxiety may feel unsatisfied and experience fatigue throughout the day or become easily tired. Anxiety can be emotionally-exhausting and can make getting through the day more cumbersome. When you are tired, your mood can also suffer and may even lead to depression, a condition that is frequently comorbid with anxiety disorders.
4. Concentration Issues
Having difficulties concentrating is a common symptom of anxiety that can also be considered a side-effect of worrying or sleep problems. If you struggle to complete work or school assignments and find yourself blanking-out, anxiety may be blame. Those who have this symptom might also procrastinate either knowingly or unknowingly. That is, if they aren’t already distracted by anxious thoughts, they might find ways to distract themselves from those feelings and the things that are contributing to their stress.
5. Irritability & Tension
Anxiety can cause people to feel on-edge frequently. Sometimes, those who are lost in thought about something worrisome might feel caught off-guard, or they might become easily-angered and might lash out at others when stressed out. Individuals who struggle with anxiety might also find that they lose their patience much quicker than in the past. Unfortunately, this common symptom can be detrimental to a person’s social life and personal relationships.
6. Increased Heart-Rate & Palpitations
Some of the most prevalent physical symptoms of anxiety involve the heart. When faced with a situation that creates stress, a person may notice that his or her heart rate goes up or begins to feel irregular. These feelings are very common during panic attacks, as well as those who struggle with a social anxiety disorder. Panic attacks are typically short-lived; however, those with a panic disorder will experience them regularly. 
7. Sweating & Hot Flashes
Like some of the previous examples, some of the signs and symptoms are the result of something else. For instance, an increase in body temperature often comes from one’s heart-rate and blood pressure going up. Therefore, those who are experiencing higher heart-rates while having anxious feelings may also find that they are also feeling more body heat and start sweating, similar to exercising.
8. Trembling & Shaking
The stress associated with anxiety can cause a person’s limbs to shake uncontrollably, especially the hands. There are different types of tremors, such as the ones that are associated with Parkinson’s Disease; however, the ones that are associated with anxiety are often caused by adrenaline and the fight-or-flight response. Although this feeling is temporary, it is still uncomfortable and can also create more fear and anxiety. An individual who exhibits tremors and shaking might avoid specific triggers. 
9. Chest Pains & Shortness of Breath
Like the changes in heart and temperature, a person’s breathing may also be affected by anxiety. They may feel like they cannot get enough oxygen in their lungs and feel a sensation of tightness or pain in their chest. This is known as dyspnea, and it is a symptom of many different medical conditions, but anxiety may be the reason why you are if you are experiencing other signs.
10. Feelings of Terror or Impending Doom
Anxiety is dreadful, and it is common for people to try to go out of their way to avoid things that can cause it; however, for those who are unaware that they are struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, these particular symptoms can be quite severe and paralyzing. These anxious feelings can sometimes appear out of nowhere as well, but according to the American Psychological Association, these symptoms often pass within a few minutes, and although they are scary, they aren’t inherently dangerous and are sometimes disproportional to the actual events that cause anxiety and panic. 
How You Can Tackle Anxiety
Anxiety doesn’t have a single cause, but there is some common ground between the disorders, and thus, treatment plans can be quite similar between patients, and it typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Medication must be provided from your primary doctor or psychiatrist who can diagnose you if you believe that you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder. Keep in mind; there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to medication for treating anxiety; dosages can vary as well as the type of drug used. Nonetheless, there are some first-line treatments.
Benzodiazepines are a class of fast-acting anxiolytic drugs that can temporarily, yet effectively, provide relief for severe cases of anxiety and may also have the added benefit of treating insomnia. However, these medications can cause dependency issues, and therefore, must always be prescribed and taken carefully under your doctor’s supervision. 
A heart medication known as propranolol can also be prescribed to help control many of the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart, high blood pressure, and shaking. It is commonly provided to those who have anxiety related to social situations and performance, such as making a speech or playing music for an audience. 
Antidepressants are also commonly prescribed to those with anxiety disorders as well as OCD and, of course, depression. These take time to work, but the reason why antidepressants can be helpful for these conditions is that they can involve the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is believed to be involved in both anxiety and depression.
Counseling & Therapy
Lastly, one of the most effective methods for addressing anxiety is therapy. Therapy is a helpful resource for treating anxiety because it gets to the bottom of why you are feeling anxious in the first place, and from there, you can find solutions. A therapist who is trained in helping individuals with anxiety will give you the skills to manage and cope. Many patients who attend therapy can find ways to overcome it entirely.
Finding a therapist that works for you is easier than ever, and if you feel hesitant about attending an in-person counseling session, online ones might be right for you. At BetterHelp, you can receive affordable and convenient access to licensed and professionals who can help guide you through your journey in combating anxiety.
Anxiety affects millions of people around the world, and although everyone has different reasons for feeling anxious and stressed out, you are not alone, and support is always available. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn how to tell if you have anxiety, and you will feel encouraged to reach out and find assistance. Regardless if this is all new to you or if you have struggled with symptoms for years, always keep in mind that anxiety doesn’t need to be a permanent state, and you can begin to overcome it with someone who understands what you are feeling. It’s never too late.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2020). Sleep Disorders. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/sleep-disorders
- American Psychological Association. (2020). Answers to Your Questions About Panic Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/panic-disorder
- Timothy J. Bruce, Ph.D., and Sy Atezaz Saeed, M.D., University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, Peoria, Illinois Am Fam Physician. 1999 Nov 15;60(8):2311-2320.
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