Throughout life, we experience many things that can potentially cause anxiety. Especially as we grow older, things that once seemed like no big deal can start to make us worry. Anxiety is something many people experience, but not everyone talks about. Whether it’s health, family, life experiences, trauma, world events, or maybe just little things that build up over time, anxiety can manifest in many ways. In this article, we’ll look at the signs of anxiety, how it might affect you, and ways to better understand yourself and others.
Anxiety: Recognizing the Signs
Anxiety can manifest in many ways, both physically and mentally. People may experience anxiety around specific triggers like events or situations, while others may experience more generalized anxiety that persists throughout their day. Whether it’s for yourself, or for your loved ones, here are some common signs of anxiety that can help you recognize it:
Worrying Too Much and Thinking the Worst: Being unable to stop thinking about things that could go wrong, even if they’re not very likely, and thinking that the worst possible outcome is going to happen, even if there’s no good reason for it.
Unwanted Thoughts and Replaying Mistakes: Going over and over past mistakes or worrying about things you can’t change, and having negative thoughts that you can’t seem to get rid of.
Restlessness and Nervousness: Feeling on edge, easily startled, or jittery. This can make it tough to relax and easy to get frustrated.
Difficulty Focusing: Being unable to pay attention to something as anxious intrusive thoughts keep barging in.
Irrational Fears: Feeling scared or anxious about things that most people wouldn’t find scary. This might lead to avoiding certain situations.
Perfectionism: Setting really high standards and feeling stressed when you can’t meet them.
Feeling Out of Control: Feeling like your thoughts and actions are slipping out of your control.
Please note that physical symptoms can be related to physical conditions or illnesses as well so it’s important to check with a physician to rule out any physical illnesses prior to assuming they are related to a mental health condition. Some common physical signs of anxiety are:
Panic Attacks: Sudden and intense episodes of anxiety that can come with a racing heart, sweating, and shortness of breath.
Tense Muscles: Your body might feel tense because of all the mental stress from anxiety.
Feeling Off or Ill: Ongoing feelings of racing heart, sweaty palms, tense muscles, and even stomach upset or nausea.
Sleep Struggles: Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or having peaceful sleep.
Avoiding Things or Social Situations: Staying away from situations or places that make you anxious due to fear of something bad happening or wanting to avoid feeling anxious.
Trouble Remembering Things: Anxiety can make it harder to remember things, like where you put your keys or what you were going to say.
Personal Experience: How Anxiety Can Be Different for Everyone
Anxiety doesn’t present itself in the same way for everyone. It’s like a fingerprint, unique to each person. For some, it might manifest as a constant stream of worries, clouding the ability to focus on the present moment. These worries can become overwhelming, making it hard to think about anything else. Others might experience social anxiety, where social interactions trigger a wave of nervousness. This could include sweating, a racing heart, and a strong desire to escape from the situation. For certain individuals, anxiety could give rise to a perfectionist mindset, causing them to delay starting tasks until conditions are “perfect.” This behavior might prevent them from taking on new challenges due to a fear of not meeting their own high standards.
Furthermore, anxiety can lead to health-related obsessions, causing individuals to worry excessively about their well-being. This might involve constant checking for signs of illness or analyzing physical sensations, even when there’s no concrete reason for concern. Additionally, anxiety has a way of making the future seem daunting. It can generate a continuous loop of worrying about what might go wrong, making individuals feel apprehensive about what lies ahead.
Distinguishing Between Physical Symptoms: Real vs. Anxiety-Induced
Identifying the source of physical symptoms can be challenging, especially when anxiety first enters the picture. If you’re unsure about the origin of your symptoms, you should always seek guidance from a medical professional first to rule out any physical conditions first. If you’re experiencing any concerning or extreme symptoms visit your local emergency room.
If you think your conditions are being triggered by anxiety, it’s a good idea to keep track of the following factors:
Persistence and Duration:
Real physical symptoms often persist over time or worsen if left untreated. If a symptom appears and disappears quickly, it might be more likely related to anxiety. However, if it lingers or worsens, it’s wise to seek medical advice.
Context and Triggers:
Pay attention to when symptoms arise. If they appear during stressful situations, social interactions, or when you’re feeling anxious, they might be anxiety-induced. On the other hand, symptoms that occur independently of such triggers may be more likely to have a physical origin.
Anxiety-related symptoms can be inconsistent and change rapidly, while genuine physical issues tend to follow a more stable pattern. If symptoms seem to shift frequently, it could be a sign of anxiety involvement.
Response to Relaxation Techniques:
Engage in relaxation techniques when you experience symptoms. If the symptoms ease or disappear, anxiety might be contributing. If they persist regardless of relaxation efforts, seeking medical advice is advisable.
Consulting a Medical Professional:
When in doubt, consulting a healthcare provider is crucial. A medical professional can conduct examinations, tests, and assessments to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms. They can provide accurate guidance and rule out any serious physical issues. If your symptoms are related to mental health, a licensed Focus therapist can also help support you through anxiety and help you recover from your symptoms faster.
Keep a journal of when symptoms occur, their intensity, and any accompanying emotions. Over time, patterns may emerge that could help identify whether anxiety plays a role.
Remember that both physical symptoms and anxiety are valid experiences. It’s essential to approach these concerns with openness and without self-judgment.
Coping and Learning
Understanding how anxiety shows up in your life is the first step to managing it. It’s like studying the puzzle pieces to find the best way to put them together. One effective approach is keeping a journal to document your thoughts and feelings during anxious moments. This can help you recognize patterns and triggers, offering insights into your unique experiences. If anxiety significantly impacts your daily life, seeking support is crucial. Talking to a mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist at Focus, can provide you with strategies and tools to better cope with anxiety. Get easily matched to the right therapist for you with our 2-minute matching tool.
Moreover, practicing relaxation techniques and deep breathing can be immensely helpful. These methods can serve as a lifeline during moments of heightened anxiety, helping to soothe the mind and restore a sense of calm. Just like learning a new skill, coping with anxiety takes time and practice. By being patient with yourself and embracing a learning mindset, you can gradually develop the ability to navigate the challenges that anxiety brings. If you want to learn more about relaxation techniques and what could work for you, talk to one of our expert therapists who can create a custom plan for you to manage your anxiety.
Final Thoughts: Embracing Empathy
Anxiety is a shared human experience, yet it’s also deeply personal. By understanding the diverse ways anxiety can manifest and impact lives, we create empathy for both ourselves and others. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey. Through learning, seeking help when needed, and extending compassion to yourself, you can navigate anxiety with resilience and find greater peace in your life.