Recognizing Anxiety in Yourself and/or Loved Ones
If you suspect that you (or someone you love) is suffering from anxiety, one of the first things to try to do is to figure out if you’re experiencing common levels of nervousness and worry based on circumstances or if your nervousness and worry is something beyond everyday feelings that all people have. According to the APA (American Psychiatric Association), “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.”
Step 1: Consider the Level of Your Stress
Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you to start thinking through this difference:
- Can I identify where my stress seems to be coming from? Is it something like my job, a family situation, a romantic relationship, or money?
- Do my feelings of stress come and go quickly or do they seem to linger for days, weeks, and even months?
- Do I notice myself experiencing physical symptoms along with my stress?
If you notice yourself feeling stressed without a clear stressor, experiencing lingering feelings of stress, and manifesting physical symptoms, then there’s a good chance that your anxiety is something more than everyday nervousness and worries that everyone experiences. (If you want to keep reading more about these differences, check out this Bustle article and this ULifeline article.)
Step 2: Look for Physical Symptoms
If you have beyond-typical levels of anxiety, then they will almost definitely manifest as physical symptoms, which can be another helpful way to figure out if what you’re feeling requires the aid of a professional medical doctor or therapist. Many of the symptoms are fairly common health issues that could possibly be attributable to something else, but if you notice yourself experiencing any of them in conjunction with strong feelings of anxiousness or dread, then try not to automatically write them off as related to something else.
According to Healthline, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Feelings of danger, panic, or dread
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Increased or heavy sweating
- Trouble sleeping
- Digestive problems
- Regular avoidance of anxiety-triggering things/people/places
- Problems focusing on things not related to objects of your anxiety
- Muscle tension
Step 3: Realize that there’s a range of anxiety-related disorders – not all anxiety looks the same!
While something called “generalized anxiety disorder” does exist, what you may not realize is that several common mental disorders you’ve most likely heard of before stem from anxiety issues.
The APA identifies 6 types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Persistent worry that you can’t seem to shake and that you notice manifesting itself in physical symptoms
- Panic Disorder: Anxiety that is marked by recurrent panic attacks, which consist of such severe symptoms that many people having a panic attack think that they are having a heart attack
- Phobias: Excessive fear for a particular “object, situation or activity that is generally not harmful”
- Agoraphobia: Feelings of fear arising “in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing, or help might not be available in the event of panic symptoms”; lasts at least 6 months
- Social Anxiety Disorder: Feelings of excessive nervousness around being perceived negatively in any way during social interactions
- Separation Anxiety Disorder: Excessive fear around being separated from those to whom you are attached.
You can read more about these six types in a later blog post, but if you’re interested in
researching them further right now, start with the APA’s helpful intro to them.
Step 4: Read up!
Another helpful way to continue on the journey to figuring out whether your anxiety is something for which you should seek help is to read about the experiences of people with anxiety so you can ask yourself if you recognize your feelings in their stories. Fortunately, as more and more people realize the importance of decreasing mental health stigma, more and
more such books are published!
Three excellent books and one blog to help you get started with this include:
- Monkey Mind: A Memoir on Anxiety by Daniel Smith – This memoir offers a general glimpse into life with anxiety, including the dating landscape; it could be great for you to understand yourself or to hand to someone who loves you but just doesn’t get what you go through!
- Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson – This book weaves real talk about anxiety with a humorous style because talking about mental health doesn’t always have to be a total downer.
- The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, PH.D. – If something less literary and more practical is your style, then consult this classic workbook.
- The Anxiety Guy Blog: This blog and accompanying podcast is written by a man with anxiety for fellow sufferers. (A quick word of warning, though: the author/host Dennis Simsek recommends using CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which may or may not be the best choice for you in your circumstances.)
The Bottom Line: All of these steps are great places to get started with self-assessment, but if you have even a small inkling that your anxiety does go beyond common everyday stress, then you should see your regular doctor. He or she can first rule out any potential physical problems causing your symptoms. If he/she does rule them out, then you can take steps toward seeing a mental health professional and working out the best treatment plan for you!
We hope this article helps demystify why therapy costs “so much” as you’re searching for support. If you like what we said and what we stand for, then please accept our invitation to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult. You can also reach us at (305) 501-0133. We would gladly address your concerns, and point you in the right direction if we’re not a good fit for each other.