Anxiety isn’t just worry! It’s important to understand the condition in order to recognize the differences and know the signs of anxiety. Then, if you or someone close to you is struggling, you know how what to do.
When I say that we’re living in difficult times, you probably think that’s the world’s biggest understatement. Ever since COVID-19, everything’s turned upside down and flipped it around even more. Nothing is the same as before, we can’t do the things we want to do, see the people we want to see, and in the middle of it all, there’s a killer virus on the rampage that is causing us all to be fearful of our own health and that of our loved ones.
It is any wonder that anxiety is on the rise? Now, it’s important to point out that anxiety has always been a huge problem. Millions of people around the world struggle with anxiety and some of those people have it very severely.
If you’re around someone who doesn’t seem to understand how anxiety works, here’s how to explain anxiety to someone you love and do it fearlessly.
While the signs of anxiety might vary slightly from person to person, the actual definition doesn’t. Anxiety isn’t just feeling a bit worried about something, it’s far more than that. It’s taking it several steps further. Anxiety causes a cycle of overthinking, taking a small issue which then turns into a huge doom-fulfilling prophecy.
Anxiety is classed as a mental health condition. I can tell you from personal experience, it’s a horrible and sometimes scary condition to deal with.
[Read: Can a heart actually break or is it just all drama?]
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is one of the most common types of anxiety around and this can crop up at any time, after a long period of feeling perfectly fine, or you can live with it on a daily and constant basis. During difficult times in life, anxiety loves to make everything ten times worse.
I should point out that it’s possible to feel anxious occasionally but not suffer with anxiety. When you suffer from anxiety, and you regularly feel the signs of anxiety, you have the actual condition. However, when you feel anxious very rarely, you’re scared or worried about something and it goes away. Anxiety is so wide-ranging and has so many severity levels that it’s hard to really pinpoint it. What you can do is be aware of the real signs of anxiety so you can tell if a problem really is brewing.
[Read: Why we need to breakdown the stigma of mental illness]
Have you ever had an anxiety attack or seen someone having one? Anxiety attacks are no picnic. They’re extremely scary and can sometimes make you feel like you’re having a heart attack. In reality, the anxiety attack cannot harm you, but the way it makes you feel is far from pleasant.
You begin to sweat, your face might flush, you may start shaking, your breathing becomes shallow, your heart races, you feel light-headed and/or dizzy, and your mouth is dry. All of this combined together makes you feel like the world is whizzing past you at an extreme rate, and your breathing starts to pick up speed. You feel like you can’t get enough oxygen into your lungs. The more you worry about the way you’re feeling, the worse it gets.
In reality, anxiety attacks are very short, but they feel like they’re going on forever. Someone who has never had one before and then experiences their first, will panic and feel extremely scared, because they have no clue what to expect. However, if you’re someone who regularly has anxiety attacks, you’ll know that as quickly as they come, they can go away. That doesn’t make it any better, however.
[Read: The 14 signs of social anxiety that hold you back and how to overcome it]
The best way to deal with an anxiety attack is to focus on something that isn’t moving, such as the wall or a chair. Try and force yourself to take deep breaths. The more you slow your breathing down, you’ll bring the attack under control. If you’re around someone who is having an anxiety attack, simply be with them and offer them reassurance. You could offer them some water, but that’s really all you can do.
The signs of anxiety are very real, but what causes anxiety in the first place? This is a question that has no solid answer. It varies from person to person and depends entirely upon the person and what is going on in their life at that time.
Uncontrollable situations or situations which have a high degree of unpredictability are often triggers for anxiety. But it can be something very small which causes a person to be triggered. Keeping a journal of how you feel from day to day and what actions cause you to feel a certain way is a good option because that will allow you to identify your own personal anxiety triggers. Then, you can work to avoid them, minimize them, or face them.
[Read: What it feels like to experience anxiety in a relationship]
The signs of anxiety can vary in severity. They can flare up and subside pretty quickly, or stick around for a while. Again, it depends on the person and what is going on at that particular time. It could also be that you feel absolutely fine, but you see something on the news or hear something that connects with a past event and suddenly, your anxiety is raging once more.
Let’s look at the main signs of anxiety in turn.
You don’t really know why you feel nervous or restless, but the feeling just won’t go away. However, if there is a particular event or situation that you know is causing your anxiety, the lead up to this event will make this particular symptom worse. It’s a feeling in the pit of your stomach that won’t let you rest. It leaves you feeling like a dark cloud is following you around. [Read: How to calm the inside voices in your head and start calming down]
One of the most common signs of anxiety is a sense of danger or doom. And you feel panicky and scared. When this feeling exacerbates quickly, it can lead to a panic attack. Your thoughts start to whirl in your mind, and you can’t make sense of them fast enough.
This is probably one of the most troubling signs of anxiety because whenever you feel your heart going too fast, it’s instantly concerning. However, this can be directly linked to anxiety. If you have pain in your chest associated with a fast heartbeat, that’s something you should certainly go and get checked out, however. For the most part, having a faster heartbeat associated with a sense of doom is a direct symptom of anxiety. [Read: How not to be nervous – 18 calm ways to eliminate nerves]
These are both signs of something called hyperventilation, which basically means fast breathing. You might feel like you can’t get your breathing under control or that you just can’t breathe in deeply. This is because you’re breathing in a shallow way, one of the most common signs of anxiety. It’s often associated with an increased heartbeat, too. [Read: 14 really quick stress busters to recharge your mind]
The whole body can shake or it can be just the hands. But shaking is a sign of anxiety and it’s usually associated with the last two symptoms we’ve mentioned. When you’re having an anxiety attack, you might find that the shaking is uncontrollable for a time, which can be extremely upsetting and worrying.
Anxiety wipes you out and leaves you feeling extremely tired. Your mind is going at 100 mph. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is pumping around your body, putting your brain on high alert. All of this adds to exhaustion, which makes everything feel ten times worse. [Read: What to do when you’re emotionally exhausted and just can’t deal with it]
When anxiety is peaking, it’s hard to think about anything other than the issue at hand. You will focus on it to the point of overthinking, but you can’t really think or focus on anything else that you need to do. From a work point of view, this can mean that you fall behind. Then, you start to panic about that too. It’s a very vicious and worrying cycle of events.
Even though you’re feeling tired, you struggle to fall asleep because your worries just won’t leave your mind long enough. If you do fall asleep, you may find yourself waking up and obsessing over small details that won’t allow you to rest. When sleep deprived, your health suffers and that makes everything worse.
You don’t want to eat, but then you might eat to excess. Within all of this, you may struggle with stomach issues, such as diarrhea or constipation at the other end of the spectrum. Some people find that they lose weight when they’re going through a particular bout of anxiety, while others put weight on.
One of the most troubling signs of anxiety is that it causes you to overthink absolutely everything and make mountains out of molehills. When the anxiety subsides, you look back over it and wonder what you were so worried about. At the time, it seems all-consuming and small things turn into major events that could have drastic consequences on your life or those around you. [Read: Secrets to help you learn how to stop overthinking]
Some people find that they want to go out more and forget what they’re feeling, but the more common option is avoiding social situations and becoming isolated as a result. This is because it’s hard to focus on anything other than the thing you’re so anxious about. Socialising just seems like a task that’s too tough.
These 11 signs of anxiety are common, but it doesn’t mean that you should have every one of them in order to say that you’re struggling with anxiety. You might experience something completely different, or you might just have a few and really find they have a negative impact on your life.
Anxiety is such a personal issue that it’s hard to pinpoint it and give it a blanket approach. However, if you are struggling, it’s vital that you reach out for help. Nobody must cope with anxiety alone and never let anyone tell you that you’re just “worrying for no reason.”
[Read: Social anxiety vs shyness and how to decipher what you feel inside]
The main signs of anxiety can be very alarming. They can make you feel completely out of control. The only way to get everything in sync and take back the reins is to reach out for help and know that with small steps and plenty of support, you can overcome it.
Want to read more about this? Try these articles:
Relationship anxiety – The mistakes you need to stop making and the signs to watch
Approach anxiety – 16 effortless ways to overcome approaching people in a few days
How to get over dating anxiety and get out there and mingle again
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