How to Know if You Have Anxiety
How to know If you have anxiety?
We’ve all had our palms go sweaty and our legs turn into Jell-O minutes before an important or stressful event. This might include facing an interview, going through a financial crisis or simply appearing for an exam. Anxiety, as a controlled nervousness or worry, is a normal psychological reaction and needn’t be a cause for concern.
But let’s face it! There has been an alarming increase in the number of people battling anxiety disorders. Daily, people around us, succumb to the pressures and stresses of life. Unfortunately, many of them don’t realize how and when it happens.
The problem with deteriorating mental health is that it often goes unnoticed. And when people do realize, it is mostly at a stage where it has already caused serious impairment to one’s functional ability. Even if people are able to catch the signs, they live in denial because of the social stigma attached to psychological disorders.
Anxiety disorders are a serious matter and need timely treatment and therapy. The key is to first identify the symptoms. The article offers a detailed overview – the definition of anxiety, the red flags, the triggers and measures to address the issue.
What is anxiety?
One needs to understand the difference between anxiety and anxiety as a mental disorder; when feeling anxious is normal and when it spells trouble.
You may have noticed the following when scared or highly emotional: a racing heartbeat, butterflies in your stomach, sweating profusely, rapid breathing or clenched muscles. It is the way the body responds when it perceives a threat. This is a normal reaction and necessary. However, if the worrying gets out of proportion, it borders on a mental disorder.
Anxiety disorder is characterized by reoccurring episodes of extreme nervousness and fear lasting for extended periods of time. In most of the events, the feelings of distress – fear or worry – is usually disproportionate to the perceived threat. This constant “on-the-edge” behavior interferes with daily living and becomes distressing. In severe cases, anxiety leads to panic attacks.
In reality, the broad term anxiety disorder includes a range of specific mental health disorders such as:
Generalized anxiety disorder: This type doesn’t have a specific trigger. It involves intense worry and fear about any and every life event or thing. While being the most common, it is also one of the most difficult to handle because of its unidentifiable cause.
Panic disorder: A panic attack is the defining symptom of a panic disorder. They are sudden and repeated. The signs of a panic attack are sudden shaking, shortness of breath, tightness in the throat, palpitations, dizziness, nausea, confusion, sweating, chills or chest pain that feels like a heart attack.
A panic attack could last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours. They are physically very draining. Panic disorders also include worrying about having a panic attack. A stressful, frightening or emotional situation usually leads to a panic attack.
Phobia: Phobias are unlike generalized anxiety or panic disorders in that they have a fixed trigger. A phobia is an unexplainable and unreasonable fear for a given object or situation.
Some of the common phobias include the fear of heights, blood, water, flying, dogs or crowded spaces. A person with a phobia understands that the fear is irrational, but struggles to control the sudden surge of fear or nervousness when faced with a trigger.
Social anxiety disorder: It has its source in the fear of being judged negatively by others, being humiliated publicly or being rejected. A person chooses social isolation to the point that it disrupts life. They tend to blush, tremble or sweat when confronted with social situations.
Separation anxiety disorder: This is the fear of being separated from a person or thing that one has a strong emotional attachment to. While thought to be an issue with children, a lot of cases of separation anxiety in adults have been reported too. The person gets panicky about being alone or being separated.
They constantly need to know the whereabouts of a sibling, spouse, parent or child if and when they move away. They are plagued by the thought of something bad happening.
Watch out for these signs
Anxiety shows up as various physical and emotional signs. The symptoms of anxiety could vary from individual to individual. The frequency and severity will dictate the treatment measures for the disorder. Here are a few signs warning of the onset of an anxiety disorder.
Excessive and uncontrolled worry – An anxiety disorder most commonly manifests itself as a constant feeling of nervousness. A person gets tensed or excessively worried at the slightest of things; this includes simple, everyday activities. It is beyond their control. No matter what, they find it hard to calm down.
How do you distinguish between a normal feeling of anxiousness and worry associated with an anxiety disorder? The latter affects a person’s ability to function and complete daily tasks. The worrying becomes a repeated observation (almost daily) for a duration of not less than six months.
Sleep Problems – Disturbed sleep patterns are yet another red flag. Some people experience difficulty sleeping while others complain of trouble staying asleep. A healthy adult needs around 7-9 hours of sleep daily.
Sleep deprivation affects one’s productivity, leads to poor concentration and fatigue. Poor sleep quality further aggravates anxiety and depression-related issues. It thus becomes a vicious cycle.
Difficulty concentrating – People with anxiety have a hard time accomplishing a task. The mind is preoccupied with the cause of their “worry”. It is unable to focus or think logically because of this. Anxiety thus has a negative impact on a person’s day-to-day functioning. This coupled with short-term memory lapses can be quiet debilitating.
Restlessness – Have you been noticing an uncomfortable or unexplainable uneasiness in your sibling, child or parent of late? They are always fidgeting around and refuse to sit still for a while? This “being-always-on-the-edge-feeling” if observed frequently should ring a bell for you.
Irritability – People become hypersensitive when their anxiety peaks. Studies have reported that they get easily annoyed. Increased irritability can be seen primarily as a defense mechanism. It stems from their incapacity to deal with the negative thoughts in their mind. And when they are piled on with more stress, they lash out.
Fatigue – Anxiety can really sap you of your energy. In some cases, fatigue is the after-effect of a panic attack, while in others it is a chronic symptom. The person feels exhausted without engaging in too much physical work.
They feel sleep deprived and might need to take naps to recharge. There are several reasons why anxiety results in tiredness. It could be due to lack of sleep, sleeping too much at odd hours, muscle tension or emotional strain. Anxiety could also trigger a hormonal imbalance in the brain causing fatigue.
Muscle Tension – Generally, when the body senses fear or danger, the muscles contract and tighten. You can feel it as a tightening of your jaw, stomach, neck or chest muscles. It is the body’s mechanism of combating fear and threat. After the danger has passed, the muscles relax once again.
Anxiety-induced muscle tension is different because the person’s body is always in a hypersensitive state. The muscles tense immediately on sighting a trigger.
If a person gets stressed often and for prolonged periods of time, the muscles remain contracted for the same amount of time, causing extreme physical discomfort. Like fatigue, it becomes so frequent, that people suffering from anxiety are often unable to sense this muscle tension.
Social withdrawal – It is normal to feel a little awkward and anxious in new places and among new people. But if you constantly find yourself running away from social situations it could hint at the possibility of a social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety suffer from low self-esteem.
They get extremely self-conscious and are filled with self-doubt. They keep criticizing themselves and second-guessing their decisions. When in social groups, they feel as though their personal space is constantly being supervised.
They prefer to stay aloof and isolate themselves for the fear of public humiliation and embarrassment. They make excuses and get out of social situations. Even in a small group of people, they find it hard to mingle with others or sustain a conversation.
Gastrointestinal problems – Stress has a negative impact on the digestive tract too. There is a direct connection between the brain and the stomach. We’ve all experienced those butterflies in our stomach before an exam, haven’t we? Anxiety triggers digestive and gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and changes in appetite.
A person experiences irrational fears or phobias. Obsessive compulsive behaviors are also common in anxiety disorders. The person obsesses about being perfect in everything they do. There are in a constant state of agitation.
Know the triggers
It is difficult to put a finger on a single cause of anxiety. It is usually the result of a combination of factors. To add, what triggers a heightened feeling of fear or anxiousness in one may not be the same for another.
Here’s a list of the common factors, events or experiences that may aggravate anxiety symptoms. Identifying what triggers your anxiety can help relieve and control discomforting symptoms.
Genetics: The role of genetics is often overlooked as a cause of declining mental health. Persons with a family history of anxiety disorders are genetically predisposed to developing the same. The risk is higher if it is a parent.
Medications: Select medications have unpleasant side effects and anxiety is one of them. These include prescription and over-the-counter drugs for asthma, thyroid, birth control, decongestants, and cold medications.
Anxiety-meds could also worsen the symptoms of anxiety if one stops taking them suddenly. If after taking the prescribed medication you feel uneasy, agitated or tensed, you should talk to your doctor about getting a replacement.
Medical illness: An acute or chronic illness is yet another of the medical factors giving rise to anxiety symptoms. Illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, thyroid, cancer can cause immense stress to the patient either in the form of strong medication, rigorous treatment procedures or unfavorable prognosis.
Anxiety could also be a symptom of some other underlying mental health conditions such as depression. Although not an illness, pregnancy and giving birth can be a traumatic or unpleasant experience for some women, giving rise to stress.
Substance use and abuse: The use of alcohol and illicit drugs also contributes to worsening anxiety symptoms. A large percentage of people resort to alcohol and recreational drugs as a way to cope with the pressures of daily living; a few also use them to manage their anxiety.
However, they soon develop a dependence on these substances. If the drugs become unavailable, especially if the person is trying to quit, the symptoms have shown to aggravate. Not only this, people who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to develop anxiety than others.
Trauma: Victims of severe trauma, physical and emotional, may also exhibit signs and symptoms of anxiety. It could be caused by the death of a loved one or having witnessed a traumatic event. In some adults, anxiety could be a tell-tale sign of childhood abuse or trauma in military training and combat. An intensive surgery with a rather long recovery period might also stress an individual.
Too much caffeine: Are you that someone who simply cannot function without that morning cup of coffee? Caffeine is a stimulant. When you are feeling low, it gives you that boost of energy you need to focus and get through the day. However, too much caffeine is unhealthy and addictive.
Excess caffeine intake can induce anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, agitation, irritability, mood swings, and sleep problems. Individuals already diagnosed with anxiety disorders or experiencing panic attacks might notice their anxiety intensifying after caffeine consumption
Personality traits: Select personality types display a greater likelihood of developing anxiety issues. Sensitive, shy and temperamental people as well as those who are perfectionists, have low self-esteem and are extremely controlling are some of these personality types.
Stress: Stress has become an inseparable part of our lives. It could range from simple worries about accomplishing daily tasks to more serious issues. Some of the common reasons for stress include personal relationships, work issues, a change of job or house and financial problems.
Stressful life events might compel a person to turn to alcohol, drugs or caffeine as a pacifier. Stress also disturbs sleep patterns and could result in unhealthy eating habits such as eating too much or skipping meals. All these combined only contribute to making anxiety worse.
How to Cure Anxiety Naturally
An anxiety disorder is incapacitating in many ways, primarily as it interferes with daily life. However, there are several ways in which a person can manage the symptoms preventing it from getting the better of them. Coping with anxiety, therefore, requires an awareness and understanding of the available treatment options and preventive measures.
Breathing and meditation: An anxious mind is one that is forever wandering, caught up in a tangle of negative thoughts. Hence, it is important that you learn to relax. Breathing and meditation are the best relaxation techniques that help train the mind to stay calm in highly stressful situations.
Practice breathing exercises and make meditation a daily routine. Breathe in, hold your breath and breathe out. Breathing exercises help regulate the heart rate. Meditation reduces stress, improves concentration, boosts immunity and metabolism. It also makes one aware of their surroundings and helps them get rid of negative thoughts.
Exercise: When the body feels threatened, the muscles tense up. Exercising helps ease the body muscles. Working on different muscle groups teaches you how to control your body’s reflexes. To add, it promotes mental health by creating a sense of calm and wellbeing.
Start with short workout sessions to avoid pushing the body too hard. Yoga is a highly beneficial and less strenuous form of exercise that has shown to effectively reduce anxiety disorder symptoms. Going for a walk daily also helps clear the mind, in addition to keeping you fit and healthy.
Keep a journal: Do you know what triggers your anxiety? If not, it is time to give it a thought. Sit back and think about every anxiety flareup. Write it down in a journal. It will assist in identifying possible triggers and patterns.
When you are aware of what’s bothering you, you can limit or avoid it to prevent your symptoms from intensifying. If it is not possible, you can always opt for the most appropriate techniques to keep anxiety at bay.
Positive attitude: People with anxiety disorders generally have a negative estimate of self. They believe they won’t be able to cope, or that they will become the butt of ridicule. Not only this, they always assume the worst.
Negative thinking is toxic and only triggers greater feelings of anxiety. Hence, it is important to change what you tell yourself. Replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. Challenge your fears and work towards conquering them. Put all your worrying thoughts in perspective and think – Are they worth worrying about?
Change what you say to yourself. A therapist or counselor can assist in redirecting your thoughts and developing a positive view of one’s self.
Build a support group: It is important to have an outlet for your feelings. Having someone to talk to when feeling overwhelmed helps keep the situation from spiraling out of control. Choose a trusted family member or a friend to confide in. The other option is to join a local or online support group. Sharing might help you better understand where you stand with your anxiety issues.
Eat a balanced diet: A healthy diet keeps you energized. It should include a balanced mix of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and illicit drugs: Caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and smoking when used in excessive aggravate anxiety symptoms. Abstaining from or limiting their use reduces the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Get enough sleep: Your body requires a good night’s sleep at the end of the day to rest and recuperate. 8 hours of quality sleep is recommended for an adult. Insomnia is a symptom of anxiety disorders. Correct sleep disturbances by following a schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Choose a comfortable bed and regulate the temperature of the room.
Stress management techniques: You should also consider the different ways in which you can take some of the pressures off your daily routine:
- Create to-do lists to make task completion more manageable.
- Take a break from work or study once a while.
- Soak in a relaxing bath at the end of a tiring day.
- Engage in activities that distract you for a while such as listening to music, volunteer in a social activity, get a massage, watch a film, enroll for some creative activity, read a book.
- Aromatherapy also works wonders for soothing nerves.
Seek Professional Help
If the problem persists despite all efforts to keep anxiety in check, it is important to seek professional help. Severe anxiety disorders demand medical attention.
Professionals – counselors and therapists – can advise on the use of psychotherapy to manage your anxiety symptoms in a safe and effective manner. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most commonly recommended coping mechanism for anxiety disorders.
Cognitive behavioral therapy identifies negative thoughts as the root of nervousness and anxiety. The aim, thus, is to correct harmful thought patterns before they get worse. It conditions a person’s reactions to anxiety-causing situations by exposing them to triggers and encouraging them to challenge their fears.
Licensed healthcare professionals are also in a position to prescribe anti-anxiety medications to alleviate symptoms, soothe the mind and reduce the frequency of panic attacks.
Being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is not the best thing that can happen to anyone. But you can always beat it with the right mix of self-help measures, lifestyle changes, medications, counseling, and therapy.
My purpose is to Teach, Help, and Inspire you to create anything you desire in Life…
There’s a Wick that lies deep in Your Soul… When that wick becomes Lit, it creates a burning desire that transmutes “Believing You Can” into “Knowing You Will” ~ Julius