Three Signs You Might be Struggling with Anxiety
What is anxiety?
First and foremost, anxiety is just like all of our other emotions – it has its purpose and arises when needed. It’s also an emotion that we have all experienced at one point or another.
Despite this, you’ve probably heard family, peers, and people in pop culture talk about “having anxiety”. For that reason, you might wondering “what’s the difference between anxiety and having anxiety?”
In short, someone stating that they have anxiety means they have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder by a trained professional. Having a diagnosis in a clinical setting means that the frequency and intensity with which they experience symptoms causes them immense distress or interferes with their daily functioning.
That said, below are three signs that you or a loved one might be struggling with an anxiety disorder. Keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive. Also, know that this post does not serve as a way to diagnose or treat anxiety and should only be used for educational purposes.
1. Muscle Tension
In general, the symptoms people experience when they are fearful or anxious are occur because their sympathetic nervous system has been activated. Basically, their body is involuntarily reacting to a perceived threat and is getting them ready to address a potentially unsafe situation. When this happens, their energy and resources are sent to the heart, lungs, and muscles to help them “fight, flight, or freeze.”
However, mental health issues can arise when this mechanism activates too often. For example, you may feel on edge or restless without having a clear awareness as to why. Or, you might find it hard to fall sleep because you can’t unwind. Additionally, here are some other somatic symptoms that correlate with anxiety:
- Unexplained headaches and/or stomach aches
- Change in appetite or sleep disturbance
- Tightness in your chest or increased heart rate
- Muscle tension in your neck, shoulders, or eyebrows
2. Excessive Worrying
Without a doubt, frequent worrying is one of the main symptoms of anxiety. Basically, worrying is when we think about something repeatedly without a clear purpose. It may feel like your mind is rapid-firing thoughts and its difficult to focus. Simply put, if it’s not planning or problem-solving, it’s worrying!
That being said, it can be difficult to take an inventory of our thoughts when we are busy, so take a moment to do this now. First, bring a sense of curiosity to your thoughts. Then, see what you notice.
- Are your thoughts often racing or moving quickly?
- Do you frequently think about worst-case scenarios?
- Are these thoughts unwanted, repetitive, bothersome, or even irrational?
- Do you have difficulty controlling or managing these thoughts?
3. Change is Difficult
Overall, our drive to feel safe and secure leads us to exert control over various aspects of our lives. For instance, we often put effort into our physical surroundings and develop habits that bring us a sense of security. In contrast, change can be difficult because it creates a perceived lack of control. Further, 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?
- Is it hard to cope when things don’t go as anticipated?
- Are you irritable when your routine is compromised?
While it is certainly a strength to be organized, goal-oriented, and assertive, trying to maintain control of everything in our lives can leave us feeling depleted, hyper-vigilant, or frustrated. Additionally, we may avoid taking new opportunities or finding joy in our daily lives when we have difficulty letting go.
Treatment Options for Anxiety
All in all, remember that anxiety is a natural human emotion. A life without anxiety would be a dangerous one. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or are finding it difficult to get through the day, there are people who can help.
Interested in starting therapy?