Unsure About Your Anxiety? How To Get Diagnosed With Anxiety By A Health Professional
Updated January 27, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Dutil
Although we tend to think of mental health issues as easily identifiable, the truth is that many mental health disorders have the potential to go unnoticed as not all the symptoms present within a disorder are severe enough to warrant a trip to a doctor or therapist's office.
For example, anxiety is commonly associated with panic attacks. While these attacks can occur in individuals with an anxiety disorder and are therefore easy to spot, not everyone who experiences anxiety experiences panic attacks. Other symptoms of anxiety can also slip under our personal health radar and can negatively impact us, even without our full awareness.
If you have experienced less visible or clear-cut anxiety, you may often second-guess yourself regarding your mental health. You may even wonder whether you are overreacting or truly dealing with a mental health issue. If you believe that you may have anxiety, consider the information below to learn more about anxiety and how you can get properly diagnosed by a mental health professional.
What Is Anxiety, and When Is It a Problem?
When someone hears the word “anxiety,” they might picture someone who is constantly worried or afraid about most aspects of their life and is dealing with physical side effects as a result. While this may be the case for some individuals, it is a limited picture of the spectrum of anxiety experiences; the scope of anxiety disorders can range from severe and life-altering to minor and intermittent.
Another common misconception regarding anxiety is the belief that anxiety is bad when it appears in our lives in any way, when in fact, anxiety is a healthy emotion that is designed to help us with survival. When something scares or worries us, it triggers our fight-or-flight response, boosting the adrenaline in our systems and manifesting in several physical and mental ways: quickened pulse, sharpened awareness, tunnel vision, and so on. While danger can trigger this response, so can a far less life-threatening situation like a job interview or public presentation. These responses of anxiety are completely typical and will often wear off after the situation resolves; furthermore, they are usually not strong enough to prevent you from completing the interview or presentation.
While these kinds of anxiety are natural, anxiety disorders take these responses one step further and leave individuals in a constant state of fear and nervousness that often impacts their ability to function normally in their day-to-day lives. Rather than experiencing anxiety when it strikes, these individuals are always anticipating dangers to come up in their lives, which prevents them from following through in all or specific aspects of their lives. Anxiety disorders can range anywhere from mild to severe, which is why it can sometimes be hard for some individuals to determine whether they have an anxiety disorder, especially if they have been living with feelings of anxiety for a long time.
What Symptoms Accompany Anxiety Disorders?
If you have been looking for more information on how to know if you have anxiety, the first place to look is at the symptoms that are associated with anxiety disorders. Here are some of the major symptoms that come with anxiety disorders:
We typically know how much we should worry about a situation based on how serious it is. For example, if you are simply waiting to hear back about a small medical issue from your doctor, you are going to be less worried than you would if you were waiting to hear back about whether or not you can keep your current job. People who have anxiety disorders, however, will typically worry excessively about a given situation and will not have a typical stress response to varying situations. If you are dealing with an anxiety disorder, you are most likely preoccupied with worry on a regular basis.
Feeling Agitated and Irritated
The human body is not designed to take on large amounts of stress and nervousness for extended periods. Hormones that are released during this process have a negative impact over time when they are constantly being released; a side effect of this consistent release and storage of chemicals in the body is agitation that can often result in an individual lashing out at others with no provocation. Feeling and showing signs of unjustifiable agitation could be another sign of an anxiety disorder.
Restlessness (Both In and Out of Bed)
While it is not a symptom of an anxiety disorder on its own, feeling restless or “on edge” for the majority of your days during most of any given week is a sign that often accompanies other symptoms in this list. In addition, this restlessness can also cause problems at night as those experiencing it may have trouble falling or staying asleep due to feelings of nervousness and fear.
Tension and Fatigue
An anxiety disorder can often a person feeling tense and tired; fear and nervousness while constantly dealing with intrusive thoughts can result in muscle tension and overall fatigue. If you are feeling tired and tense and struggling to find ways to de-stress, your feelings may indicate that you are coping with an anxiety disorder.
Strong Irrational Fears That Impact the Individual's Ability to Function in Society
For some individuals, anxiety disorders can bring about irrational fears that spread across all aspects of their lives. For others, however, the fear may be localized to a specific part of life—for instance, debilitating fears of public speaking or leaving home to enter public places. If you are experiencing fear that is strong enough to keep you from certain activities, you may have an anxiety disorder in need of treatment.
Dealing With Certain Physical Symptoms on a Regular Basis
If you have ever been really worried about something in your life, you know anxiety can bring about one or more physical symptoms: increased heart rate or heart palpitations, hyperventilation, excessive sweating, trembling or shaking, an inability to concentrate, stomach pains or other gastrointestinal issues, and panic attacks in some individuals. Individuals with anxiety disorders may experience these physical symptoms more severely and regularly.
Keep in mind that anxiety disorders and chronic stress responses have several physical symptoms in common, and both can wear down the human body over time. If you are experiencing one or more of the physical symptoms listed above but do not routinely feel overwhelming nervousness or fear, you may be dealing with chronic stress, not anxiety. However, severe stress can lead to anxiety or other mental and physical health concerns, so it is just as important to address this issue as soon as you can.
Many people want to know how to identify anxiety on their own, and the list of symptoms above can give you a better idea of whether you may have anxiety disorder. However, only a mental health professional can make a formal diagnosis and recommend a course of action. If you are wondering or unsure of your emotional and mental health, then you should consider reaching out to an expert.
What to Do: The Next Step in the Healing Journey
If you are experiencing or have recently experienced any of the symptoms listed above, the next step to take is to seek the help of a mental health professional, who can diagnose your specific situation and help you get the help you need. Learning to manage your anxiety symptoms will free you up to live a healthier life, and an expert can help you find and develop the tools you’ll need.
Although exercises and self-care at home may be useful in coping with anxiety, contacting a mental health professional is an important step that you shouldn’t skip. A therapist or counselor can help you determine whether you are dealing with a specific disorder (for example, generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder), as well as identify strategies and skills that will help you manage your anxiety in the long term.
Keep in mind that if you are experiencing anxiety, you are not alone. According to a recent study, approximately 265 million people worldwide live with an anxiety disorder, and barriers to treatment—distance to care, lack of mental healthcare providers, stigma, cost, and more—have kept many of these individuals from the care and treatment they need. Fortunately, online therapy services like BetterHelp have made treatment of anxiety disorders more accessible than ever before. If you have identified with any of the symptoms described in this article and would like to pursue treatment with a therapist, then you have come to the right place.
Online therapy has several particular advantages over in-person services for a person experiencing anxiety or dealing with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Online therapy is convenient and confidential; because you can arrange your sessions with a therapist around your schedule and lifestyle, you can meet whenever and wherever you’d like, and you can keep the entire process as private as you wish. Even if you are experiencing fears of leaving your home or public speaking, you can work with a therapist at BetterHelp by video chat, phone call, or text messaging. Additionally, online therapy is more affordable than in-person treatments, and you can access the best-match therapist for you, rather than settling for whoever is available at a local office. If you think you are ready to address anxiety, you can get started today. And if you’d like more evidence, consider these reviews from BetterHelp users who have worked with online therapists to address their anxiety issues:
Sherell Taylor-Page has been wonderful to talk to. She helps me whittle my anxieties down to their beginnings and work on the root of them. She offers many different types of tools to use when I am anxious that have helped immensely. She is supportive of actions I would like to take and helps me to take those next steps. I would highly recommend her.
Darlyn has changed my life in a very short amount of time. I had never participated in counseling before, but with Darlyn’s support I went from feeling stuck and anxious to having courage to initiate changes in my life, both minuscule and drastic. She offers incredible perspective and asks great thought-provoking questions. Chatting with her via messaging and our weekly sessions has become a great support system and I would 10/10 recommend her to everyone I know.
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