Anxiety is a common mental health disorder today. Maybe you have been experiencing symptoms of anxiety for years, or perhaps your anxiety emerged as a result of a global pandemic, social divide, and other environmental factors. Often our experience of anxiety is very internally disruptive but invisible to others. We may hesitate to tell others about what we are going through out of fear of being judged, thoughts that we have failed in some way, or beliefs that if we ignore the feelings of anxiety that it will just go away.
If you have noticed your anxiety increase, regardless of the reason, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders are one the most common mental health disorders today with more than 40 million adults in the United States meeting the diagnostic criteria. Anxiety and stress are normal responses to life’s stressors, and a number of factors contribute to the development of anxiety—difficult life experiences, personality traits, family history of mental health disorders, and physical health. During moments of high distress, it may seem as though the physical sensations of anxiety will never go away; however, research shows us that anxiety is treatable and the feelings we experience are temporary.
Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are a number of different anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The different types of anxiety disorders share some commonalities which can include symptoms such as racing heart, sweating, and racing thoughts. There are some differences in the experience of anxiety among the different anxiety disorders. People with panic disorder feel as if they are in sudden danger, feel helpless, and feel as if they are losing control even though there is no real threat or danger. A panic attack can last for several minutes and can occur at random. Generalized anxiety refers to a persistent feeling of worry. PTSD is generally a result of experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD refers to the intense and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic experience. OCD refers to the unwanted thoughts and emotions that cause a person to engage in a behavior repetitively.
What Does Anxiety Look and Feel Like?
Symptoms of anxiety can be both physical and psychological. Many of us know that feeling when we are about to give a presentation in front of a group of people, take a test, or meet someone for the first time. While our triggers to anxiety symptoms may be different, it is highly likely that we have all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. Anxiety isn’t all bad as it does serve a purpose in helping alert us to threats and helping us prepare for important moments in our lives. However, if anxiety increases in severity and duration and begins to cause problems in your life, your anxiety may be at an unhealthy level.
Here are six common warning signs of anxiety.
1. Difficulty Sleeping
Difficulty sleeping is a warning sign that can look different for each person. You may find yourself thinking about the past or the future as you lay in bed, preventing you from falling asleep. Or perhaps, you may notice that you are waking up every 3 to 4 hours and cannot easily fall back asleep. In both situations, it is common to begin to worry about what will happen the next day if you can’t get to a restful night’s sleep.
2. Lack of Concentration
You are having a hard time concentrating and following through with things at home, work, school, and in relationships. You may miss important deadlines, overlook key details, and fail to follow through with important obligations. It can look like slipping grades and poor performance at work.
3. Being Easily Irritated
You notice you are on edge, restless, and are easily irritated. You often find yourself in disagreements with loved ones and co-workers over small instances such as someone’s loud chewing or that they did something differently than what you would have done.
4. Feeling Tired
You feel tired easily and experience more fatigue with anxiety. Your energy level is low, causing you to struggle to find the motivation to complete simple tasks like getting out of bed in the morning and doing laundry. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are no longer doing the trick and giving you the burst of energy you need. Maybe your laundry has been piling up or you have missed several days of work due to fatigue.
5. Intense and Prolonged Worry
Anxiety may cause you to have a hard time controlling worried thoughts. Your mind can race with “what if” thoughts about the future such as “what if I fail”, “what if they don’t like me”, and “what if I’m not good enough”.
6. Fast Heartbeat
If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, your heart may beat really fast. You may check your pulse and notice your heartbeat increasing and your mind jumps to the worst-case scenario about your increased heart rate.
When to Get Help
Here are some questions to consider to help you determine if you should seek help for your anxiety:
- Am I avoiding activities, people, and places that remind me of a time I experienced a panic attack?
- Has my anxiety contributed to conflict in any of my relationships with loved ones?
- Have I missed important family, work, and school responsibilities because of my anxiety?
- Have I tried to control or manage my anxiety in other ways without success?
If you answered yes to any of these questions or if you want to talk to someone about your anxiety symptoms, help is available. Many people may be hesitant to get help for a number of reasons including not knowing where to turn for help, feeling shame or embarrassment about anxiety, or confusion about their insurance coverage. A good place to start can be to talk with your doctor or medical professional. If you are confused about your insurance, you can call the number on the back of your card to determine your coverage and identify treatment locations that accept your insurance provider. Anxiety can be treated by medical and mental health professionals.
Valera Health offers therapy and psychiatric services via telehealth so you can receive the mental healthcare you need from the comfort of your home. We can help you on your personal journey to get treatment for anxiety.