Anxiety is an emotion that we have all experienced at one point or another. Anxiety is not a bad or negative emotion, but it can cause discomfort. The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by tension, worried thoughts, and physiological changes. While anxiety is helpful in unsafe situations, it can interfere with our functioning if experienced too often. Many people have difficulty recognizing when their worry is overwhelming or becomes unhealthy. Initially, they may not realize they are struggling with anxiety. You may wonder, how do I know if I have an anxiety disorder? People with anxiety disorders tend to have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, or dizziness.
Below are three signs that you might be struggling with anxiety. Please keep in mind that this post does not serve as a way to diagnose or treat anxiety. This information is provided to help take note of any possible symptoms you might be experiencing.
1. Physical Tension
When we are experiencing anxiety, it means that our sympathetic nervous system is activated. Our body is involuntarily reacting to a perceived threat and getting us ready to address a potentially unsafe situation. When this happens, our energy and resources are sent to our heart, lungs, and muscles to help us “fight, flight, or freeze”.
When this mechanism activates often, it can affect our mental health. We feel on edge and restless without having a clear awareness about why. We find it hard to relax because we can’t unwind and “turn our brain off”. Below are a few somatic symptoms that could correlate with anxiety.
- Unexplained headaches and/or stomach aches
- Tightness in your chest or Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension in your neck, shoulders, or eyebrows
2. You find yourself worrying...A LOT
This is one of the main cognitive symptoms of anxiety. Worrying is when we are thinking about something repeatedly without a purpose. If it’s not planning or problem solving, it’s worrying! It can be difficult to take an inventory of our thoughts when we are busy, so take a moment to do this now.
Bring a sense of curiosity to your thoughts and see what you notice!
- Are your thoughts typically racing?
- Are you frequently thinking about worst case scenarios?
- Are these thoughts unwanted, repetitive, bothersome, or even irrational?
- Are these thoughts difficult to control or manage?
3. Change is Particularly Difficult
We humans love feeling in control because it helps us feel safe and secure. We often put effort into our physical surroundings and develop habits that bring a sense of security. Change can be difficult because it creates a perceived lack of control. This can bring up feelings of fear, anxiety, or irritation as we adjust to new circumstances. If you’re not sure if this applies to you, here are some ways that this can show up in your life:
- Do you struggle to let others complete tasks without your input?
- Do you find it hard to cope when things don’t go as anticipated?
- Do you find yourself irritable when your routine is compromised?
While it is certainly a strength to be organized, goal oriented, and assertive, sometimes anxiety leaves us feeling depleted, hypervigilant, or frustrated when we have difficulty letting go. It can also prevent us from taking new opportunities or finding joy in our daily lives.
Treatment Options for Anxiety
Remember that anxiety is a natural human emotion. It serves as a way to protect us from danger. However, if you are finding it difficult to regulate your anxiety, there are people who can help.
Speaking with a trained therapist can help you learn skills to manage all of the symptoms listed above. A therapist can also support you in cultivating insight so that you can begin to move forward.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with us. We’d be more than happy to discuss how we may be able to help you.