While being nervous and fearful can be common, and occasionally happens to everyone at various times, the following signs can indicate an anxiety disorder that could be clinically diagnosed and require professional help:
1. Constant Worry
Do you find yourself worrying about every little detail of today, and how you will make decisions tomorrow? When worries and fears are persistent, lasting most of the day, and interfering in your functioning every day for at least 6 months, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD.
2. Disruptions in Sleep Patterns
Having trouble falling asleep, and staying asleep, can be attributed to a racing mind. If you cannot quiet your thoughts when you lay down at night because you are constantly thinking about what could happen, you are showing signs of GAD.
Again, this symptom does not mean that one or two nights before a big meeting or a presentation that you are nervous about, you do not get a good night’s sleep. Several nights in a row, for no apparent reason, persisting to the point where it seems a nightly ritual, is when it is worth looking into.
3. Irrational Fears
Are you afraid of snakes, or of heights? What about large, crowded places, or of flying? While the fear can seem very real, phobias are a part of an anxiety disorder. If you are ever overwhelmed by a phobia, and the fear is disruptive to your life, you may have an anxiety disorder or GAD.
4. Symptoms Showing Up Physically
When internal thoughts, emotions, and fears become physical, anxiety is at play. Muscle tension shows up as a clenched jaw, balled fists or tightened muscles anywhere in your body.
Anxiety also manifests physically as persistent stomach issues in the form of indigestion, constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS which involves cramping, bloating, gas, stomach aches, constipation, and/or diarrhea).
Chronic fatigue and constantly feeling lethargic can also be a physical sign of anxiety.
5. Fear of Speaking in Public
While most people do not enjoy being in front of a crowd, and we all get butterflies before a speech at a wedding or a presentation at school or work, people with various forms of anxiety dread the possibility of being in front of people. Weeks before an event or a meeting, anxiety can make the worst case scenario seem like the only outcome for the situation, fearing the judgment of others and the inability to perform well.
6. Adverse Reaction to Daily Activities
Being self-conscious about how you look while doing activities in everyday life, like eating in front of other people, is a sign of anxiety. Do you feel self-conscious when others are looking at you? Do you blush, sweat, feel sick, shake, or just want to run away?
7. Panic Attacks
Sudden and intense waves of anxiety can happen to people who do not have diagnosable anxiety, but more than a couple panic attacks is a sign of clinical anxiety.
What is a panic attack? A sudden strike of symptoms that last for about 10 minutes. The Mayo Clinic lists symptoms as: a sense of impending doom or danger, a fear of loss of control or death, rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, chills, hot flashes, nausea, abdominal cramping, chest pain, headache, dizziness, faintness, tightness in your throat, and trouble swallowing.
8. Disturbing Flashbacks
If you constantly remember a scary, dangerous, or sad event from the past, you could be experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, or an anxiety disorder.
The symptoms can look similar to anxiety, and all are worth a formal assessment: reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time, upsetting dreams about the event, trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event, feeling emotionally numb, seeing the future as hopeless, trouble with concentration and memory, difficulty maintaining relationships, irritability, anger, overwhelming guilt and shame, self-destructive behavior, substance abuse, and hallucinations or delusions.
Like PTSD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, can look very similar to an anxiety disorder. Believing that you always need to do better, judging yourself on every little thing, constantly worrying about making mistakes or failing, and perpetual mind racing are all signs of anxiety and OCD, so again, a formal assessment and treatment are the next right step.
10. Inability to Calm Yourself Down
When some or all of these signs of anxiety present themselves, and you are unable to soothe yourself, it is advised to seek professional help. If going for a run does not reduce your muscle tension and make it easier to fall asleep at night, you need tools and coping skills.
If you cannot lesson your worry and fear, or anything other symptoms on your own, you are not alone. Millions of people live with anxiety, and when properly treated, you can too.
Blog Post By: Jared Friedman