So how do you know if you suffer from anxiety? Sometimes it is difficult to know if you have anxiety, as it is confusing to know what is normal and what is not normal. Below are 11 ways to know if you suffer from anxiety:
- Worry all the time
- Anxiety attacks
- Difficulty controlling the anxiety
- Avoid places/situations
- Increased arousal
- Somatic complaints
Worrying frequently about a situation or event and worrying that is out of proportion to the actual fear normally associated with such event may be an indication of anxiety, such as seen in generalized anxiety disorder. Examining the events that makes one worried and coming up with a plan to address the worry may be helpful.
If you have discreet attacks of anxiety, you may be exhibiting anxiety. Anxiety attacks, or more specifically, panic attacks, can manifest as discreet periods of shortness of breath, rapid heart beat, sweating, chest pain, tingling, numbness, just to name a few symptoms. These anxiety attacks may be indicative of an anxiety disorder, as anxiety attacks can be triggered by stressors within any anxiety disorder. Panic attacks are spontaneous episodes which occur out of the blue, and may be a harbinger of panic disorder. When anxiety attacks occur, it oftentimes needs medication treatment to help deal with the severity of the attack, then once the attacks are under control, can one look at other treatment methods to deal with the attacks.
When one has anxiety that is difficult to control and interferes with daily functioning, then this may be a telltale sign that one may have an anxiety disorder, like generalized anxiety disorder. This is differentiated from non-pathological anxiety, where the worries of everyday life are more controllable, and does not affect one’s functioning. Feeling out of control is stressful onto itself, and seeking help from others can help to relieve this burden.
Avoiding places or situations may be an indication of anxiety, such as in post traumatic stress disorder or specific/social phobia. In post traumatic stress disorder, one may avoid places or situations that remind them of the traumatic event. In specific phobia, one may avoid specific situations, such as closed spaces for those with claustrophobia. In social phobia, one may avoid crowded places or gatherings of people due to fear of social scrutiny. Avoiding places and situations makes the anxiety worse over the long run. It is helpful to find a therapist who is skilled at behavioral therapy to deal with the avoidance behaviors.
Having nightmares of traumatic events may be a harbinger of an anxiety disorder. In post traumatic stress disorder, one may have nightmares of the traumatic events, and these recollections of the trauma may continue for a long time. The content of the nightmares may provide a clue as to the nature of the trauma.
Agitation, or being angry and having a low frustration tolerance may be indicative of anxiety. In post traumatic stress disorder, one may be ‘keyed-up’ and hypervigilant, as one is in an increased state of arousal after the trauma. This increased state of arousal may also manifest as being jumpy and easily startled by loud noises. Increased arousal makes counselling difficult, and medication treatment is often needed to decrease the arousal states, before other psychosocial treatments are instituted.
Disrupted sleep patterns may be an indication of an underlying anxiety. One’s sleep may be disrupted by extreme worry, as seen in generalized anxiety disorder. Still, sleep may be disturbed by nightmares as seen in post traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety often does not improve until one is able to get adequate sleep, so a treatment goal of people with anxiety should be on getting a good night’s rest, to restore the body’s natural healing processes.
Having fatigue or being easily fatigued may be indicative of anxiety. Much energy is spent on worrying and being on guard all the time…no wonder one would be exhausted from all this stress and worry! Getting rest and a good night’s sleep can help to restore the body’s natural healing process.
Somatic complaints such as muscle pain, sweating, nausea, or diarrhea may be indicative of anxiety. These general somatic complaints can be seen in generalized anxiety disorder. In panic disorder, one may experience panic attacks manifested by somatic complaints such as rapid heart beat, chest pain, numbness, and tingling sensations of the extremities. As with all somatic complaints, it is important to have a psychiatrist or other physician examine the complaint to make sure it is not caused by an underlying medical illness.
If you have recurrent, intrusive thoughts that you have difficulty getting out of your mind, then this may be a harbinger of anxiety, specifically obsessive compulsive disorder. The anxiety associated with the obsessive thoughts is often neutralized by performing rituals, as described below. Medication treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy is often needed to address the obsessions and the anxiety.
If you have rituals that must be performed repeatedly on a regular basis, then you may have anxiety. Specifically, this may be compulsive rituals as seen in obsessive compulsive disorder, where the rituals are performed to reduce the anxiety associated with the obsessive thoughts. Rituals can take the form of checking, counting, rearranging, just to name a few. Medication treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy is often needed to address the anxiety and the compulsive behaviors.
In summary, it is difficult to know what normal anxiety versus pathological anxiety is. The above list summarizes ways to know if you suffer from pathological anxiety. This list includes worry, anxiety attacks, lack of control, avoidance, nightmares, arousal, insomnia, fatigue, somatic complaints, obsessions, and rituals.