Everyone feels out of sorts sometimes.
You may feel stressed with work and family, or you might be tired out from a long night of taking care of a colicky baby. Many situations may cause you to feel nervous and even leave you jittery for days. Whatever the reason, stress and anxiety happen to everyone.
But you may be wondering, “Do I have anxiety?” You might want to know if unpleasant mix of emotions you are feeling is sign of something more serious. Maybe it is because these emotions are unusually persistent – lasting for days or weeks beyond the cause to which they may be linked. They might also be overwhelmingly strong. For some people, feelings of nervousness, stress and even depression may consume their entire lives.
But how can you tell for sure whether you’ve got regular, everyday anxiety or a harmful anxiety disorder?
This post will go through everything you need to know about anxiety disorders and exactly how anxiety is impacting your life.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANXIETY AND ANXIETY DISORDERS
Anxiety is a combination of both subjective and objective symptoms. Subjectively speaking, anxiety expresses itself through psychological symptoms – feelings of fear, worry or terror. These occasionally escalate into obsessive thoughts, such as a pervasive and continuous pondering on the likelihood of one’s own death.
These are a variety of objective, physical expressions of anxiety, which include things like nausea, heart palpitations, dry mouth, hot flashes and hyperventilation. Without knowing a person’s inner state, these physical expressions of anxiety are indistinguishable from the symptoms of other diseases. Since anxiety often accompanies other physical diseases, these symptoms may become muddled and possibly stem from more than one condition.
Everyone with anxiety experiences the subjective and objective symptoms, but there’s a difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Normal anxiety is attached to a trigger and stimulus – it emerges for a particular reason. Often times it’s a short-term episode of anxiety, one that can be diagnosed once you find the source.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
An anxiety disorder, on the other hand, goes beyond a short season. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses, all of which cause people to feel excessive, continuous anxiety, and thus produce the above subjective and objective symptoms. These illnesses include:
These are sudden bouts of extreme terror that can strike repeatedly and suddenly. Panic disorders include symptoms that mimic a heart attack, which makes them even more frightening. These symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, upset stomach and fear of dying. Learn to recognize a panic attack and how to help someone going through a panic attack here.
OCD is a condition where sufferers feel compelled to engage in repetitive, irrational and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) or behaviors. These thoughts or actions seem impossible for the sufferer to control. These compulsions, although unhealthy overall, function as a momentary release of anxiety for people who suffer from OCD.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD sometimes happens to people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as extreme violence or abuse. It is an illness characterized by lingering feelings of distress for weeks, months and even years following the traumatic event. Some sufferers will have severe symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks.
A phobia is a disabling and irrational fear of something that is harmless or poses no threat in most realistic situations. Some people have very specific phobias that can manifest without warning while others can go without it interfering very much in their regular lives. Phobias become disabling when they lead people to avoid situations, people or places for fear of running into their phobia.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a severe, chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday events. GAD is the most common anxiety disorder and can be extremely debilitating, interfering with people’s ability to concentrate and carry out everyday activities.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social Anxiety Disorder is an intense fear of social situations of any sort. People with this disorder often have an irrational and overwhelming fear of being humiliated in public, “saying something stupid” or being jeered at by others.
What especially distinguishes anxiety disorders from regular anxiety is that they emerge during times and situations which would not normally cause anxiety. When left undiagnosed, anxiety disorders can be severely impairing. They can negatively affect your personal relationships, your work or study time, and your daily activities such as shopping, cooking or going outside.
DO I HAVE ANXIETY? 9 SIGNS THAT YOU HAVE GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
The question is: do you have run of the mill anxiety or are you afflicted with one of these anxiety disorders?
Most anxiety disorders are easy to identify because they are accompanied by traumatic events or expressions. For example, panic disorders are identifiable through panic attacks, and PTSD shows itself through flashbacks. However, it is difficult to know if you’ve developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which has no dramatic expression and is instead a persistent state of anxiety.
While you should always consult a health professional, here are some signs to watch out for.
1. You worry excessively
By excessively, we mean that you have anxious thoughts on most days of the week for six months or more. You don’t necessarily need to be worrying about anything “serious” – it can be anxiety about even small everyday things.
2. You have noticeable physical symptoms
These can include things like fatigue, heart palpitations, sweating or nausea.
3. You have sleep problems
This can look like staying up at night, especially if it’s anxiety, stress or worry keeping you awake.
4. You avoid situations because of anxiety
If you find yourself modifying your daily schedule to avoid certain people or situations, this may be a sign of GAD. This is especially true if you start finding yourself avoiding situations, environments or people that never caused you much issue previously.
5. Your anxiety is unexplainable
If you can’t really pinpoint why you are feeling anxious all the time, or if the reasons are varied, then this may mean that you’ve developed GAD.
6. You’re extremely prone to negative thinking
People with an anxiety disorder have the tendency to automatically anticipate a negative outcome to everything. If your thoughts on your personal or professional life, health, concern for a loved one, financial matters or anything else are invariably negative, the root may be an anxiety problem.
7. You have tense muscles
Watch out if you are finding yourself unconsciously clenching your jaw, balling your fist or your tensing your muscles. A massage therapist might remark that your back or neck muscles are extremely tense. You may not even notice this state of tension until the therapist massages out the knots, which can feel quite painful.
8. You have problems focusing
You may be so worried and anxious that you are finding yourself losing focus or failing to concentrate, even on simple tasks.
9. You worry about worrying
This is when you feel anxious about feeling so anxious, or are feeling anxious about the general state of your emotional wellness. This symptom on its own isn’t Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but when put together with all of the other signs on this list, it is a strong indicator.
TRACKING YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE
If you are wondering about anxiety and whether your emotional state is in a good place, it can be extremely helpful to track your anxiety levels on a consistent basis. Some people track this manually using a diary, but this can be a bit inaccurate.
Instead, consider using Spire to automatically track your emotional state throughout the day and warn you of when you might be suffering from excessive anxiety. Spire uses your breathing rate and carefully constructed software algorithms to warn you if your body is indicating a state of serious stress.
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, then you should consider talking to your doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible. Timely treatment can go a long way in helping bring these symptoms under control and allowing you to lead a happy, healthy life.