How to Know If You Have Anxiety and How to Deal With Them?
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, experiencing anxiety is actually a normal bodily response. Troubling situations trigger our bodies to feel a certain way, and though this may feel concerning, it is not always a bad thing.
Our bodies were designed to protect themselves and persist, so coping is something that it has to do. Feeling anxious when stress hits us is nature’s way, so don’t fret immediately.
When the symptoms that you feel become debilitating, however, then it should be addressed clinically. We are meant to react nervously only to stressful situations.
When you are feeling too anxious without any apparent reason, you might be experiencing an anxiety disorder.
Before you jump to conclusions, the first thing to do is to identify the cause of your anxiety. You need to know if what you are feeling is real anxiety or just stress.
These two can confuse you, and at times even make you feel more worried than you should be.
Is it really anxiety or just stress?
Because both of these are emotional occurrences, it is easy to mistake one for the other. The truth is that they are different and that stress is much easier to deal with.
If you can identify a stressor coming from your environment, you are likely experiencing stress.
These could be things like a conflict in a relationship, work-related pressure, or being sick.
Generally, experiencing stress happens when there are distressing situations. This could range from mild to severe stress, just like anxiety.
What sets anxiety apart is feeling the same worrisome symptoms even when a stressor is no longer present.
The physical and internal discomforts remain even though your external environment does not throw negativity your way.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you have significantly ruled out stress and the presence of an external stressor from your situation, it may be best to look out for specific symptoms that accompany your worries, especially if you have been experiencing them for a while.
Professionals look for the following symptoms when seeing if a person indeed is experiencing an anxiety disorder. They base the following on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.
1. Worrying Too Much
Anxiety is always accompanied by excessive worrying. When this feeling is no longer proportionate to the gravity of the stressor, or the presence of one, then you have to check on yourself.
People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder typically feel that their worried feelings take over their lives and hinder them to function at their best. To diagnose this, excessive worry must be present for at least half a year.
2. Feeling Restless
Not all people who experience anxiety are quietly overthinking. Others move too much and feel too antsy to stay still. This is common among younger people.
Children, especially, are not able to verbalize how they feel so sudden restlessness might be a sign that they are feeling agitated. Note, however, that without the other symptoms feeling restless cannot point directly to an anxiety disorder.
3. Feeling Tired All the Time
Though some people manifest anxiety through fidgeting, others feel easily tired. Quickly becoming lethargic, or having little to no energy all the time is an indicator to look out for. This symptom may be related to other physiological symptoms brought about by feeling anxious, so look out for those too.
Easily getting tired does not only indicate anxiety, though. It can point to other medical conditions or even depression, so make sure you don’t make any conclusions without a professional.
4. Having Trouble with Concentration
Feeling anxious usually comes with a very busy mind. Because so many things are running in your head, it becomes impossible to concentrate on everyday tasks.
Often, this becomes the cause for further stress because of its implications on the people around you and your responsibilities.
Most people with anxiety disorders report that they experience this particularly. The concentration problems heighten as their anxiety increases as well.
Of course, not being able to focus cannot solely dictate the presence of anxiety. It could be a symptom of other conditions too.
5. Being Irritable
Irritability typically rises when you are anxious. Usually, this symptom becomes more aggravated as the condition worsens.
Being irritable disproportionately is also noticed. If your reactions are out of place, or too much for the situation, it is best to take a breath and try to calm down.
Young adults commonly feel more irritable when dealing with anxiety. This is directly related to other symptoms like worrying too much and being restless. Combined, these three could make life harder for an individual.
6. Muscle Tension
Because of worrisome feelings and irritability, it does not come as a surprise that feeling on edge or nervous is something anxious people experience as well.
Physically speaking, these cause muscle tension. The lack of relaxation makes people uneasy. This could be very uncomfortable, especially if it occurs most of the time.
It is best to see a professional by then.
7. Sleep Problems
Sleep problems are often associated with mental or emotional health problems. People with anxiety commonly find a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.
Some of them feel tired all the time but cannot relax enough to get some shut-eye. Others, on the other hand, fall asleep but wake up in the middle of the night feeling agitated.
Research has found that having sleep problems early in life may later lead to anxiety disorders during adulthood.
It has also been found that if you get enough sleep, it is more likely that you will feel less anxious.
If you experience three of the symptoms mentioned above, along with feeling agitated for at least six months, it is wise to see a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Remember, though, that seeing a therapist even though you are not experiencing a disorder is always welcome.
Having someone help you out in processing your thoughts and feelings can help you a great deal. Doing so can also aid your self-management skills, so feel free to see someone if you want to vent.
- American Psychological Association. (2021). What’s the difference between stress and anxiety? Apa.org. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/anxiety-difference
- Glasofer, D. (2014, November 3). Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms and Diagnosis. Verywell Mind; Verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/dsm-5-criteria-for-generalized-anxiety-disorder-1393147
Leezo is a registered psychologist and registered psychometician from the Philippines. In her clinical practice, she mainly uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy and Expressive Arts to treat a wide range of cases including but not limited to trauma, depression, anxiety, grief and burnout. Also a professor of psychology, Leezo teaches courses such as Experimental Psychology, Psychology of Learning and Psychological Assessment.