9 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in America. More than 19 percent of American adults experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year and more than 30 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Part of the reason anxiety disorders are so common is that the category includes several conditions, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, PTSD, OCD, separation anxiety disorder, and specific phobias, such as heights or spiders.
An anxiety disorder is frightening and unpleasant in itself and it can also disrupt your life, interfering with work, school, and relationships. While occasional anxiety is normal, especially before important or potentially dangerous events, anxiety disorders typically cause persistent anxiety or overwhelmingly intense anxiety. This can have negative effects on your health, severely restrict your life, and possibly lead to unhealthy substance use as a way of coping. The following are common signs that you may have an anxiety disorder and you should see a doctor or therapist.
Everyone worries sometimes. It’s normal to try to anticipate problems and prepare for them ahead of time. However, if you worry all the time, you may have generalized anxiety disorder. This is when you feel excessively anxious or worried most days for at least six months. You could be worried about anything including health, work, relationships, or everyday problems. Other symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include feeling restless or on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, irritability, and insomnia.
While anxiety disorders often take the form of persistent worry, they can also take the form of excessive anxiety over specific things. So, for example, most people feel nervous before giving a speech but some people experience panic attacks, in which their heart races and they feel like they can’t breathe. This is clearly not a helpful response. People who have experienced a panic attack once may fear experiencing another panic attack and that fear can trigger another attack.
Anxiety often causes sleep problems. This is especially true of generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. Instead of sleeping when you lie down at night, you think of the many things you’re worried about or you might just feel tense, anxious, or a feeling of dread or impending doom. It’s very hard to sleep under these conditions. What’s even worse is that too little sleep can lead to even more anxiety so you get caught in a vicious cycle.
Anxiety disorders often make it hard to concentrate. Your brain thinks you’re under attack and so of course you end up paying more attention to whatever you’re anxious about than what you’re actually trying to do at the moment. This can be incredibly disruptive, preventing you from working, studying, or listening to your loved ones. Insomnia, another common symptom of anxiety, also makes concentration more difficult because your prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for attention and working memory, among other things, is especially impaired by lack of quality sleep.
Avoidance is very common in anxiety disorders. If you believe something is dangerous, it only makes sense to avoid it. However, if your anxiety is irrational or disproportionate, you may end up avoiding things in a way that impairs your normal life. Sometimes avoidance becomes more general as you try to avoid things that might make you anxious. However, that only leads to more anxiety since you never become accustomed to the things that make you anxious. Avoidance can also be specific, as with phobias, social anxiety disorder, or PTSD. With these conditions, you tend to avoid the specific thing you’re afraid of or things that remind you of a traumatic experience.
Anxiety doesn’t just have psychological symptoms, but physical symptoms too. For one, lack of sleep can damage your physical health by leading to more illness and slower recovery from injuries. Anxiety also puts your body under continual stress, which it is not designed to handle. Higher levels of stress hormones such as cortisol impair your immune system and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Anxiety also causes gastrointestinal problems such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Finally, anxiety can cause persistent muscle tension, which may lead to aches, joint pain, back pain, and headaches.
Being anxious all the time is exhausting. For one, as noted above, you’re constantly tense, which uses a lot of extra energy. You also overclock your system with high levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Your brain is overactive from fixating on whatever you’re worried about. Since the brain uses about 20 percent of your body’s energy, an overworked brain can be physically exhausting. Finally, anxiety impairs your sleep, which is when your body recharges, fights off infections, and recovers from injury.
Flashbacks are a symptom of PTSD in particular. Someone with PTSD will have flashbacks to the traumatic event. Sometimes these are triggered by something related to the trauma and sometimes they appear to be spontaneous. They might happen in daily life or they may take the form of nightmares.
Compulsive behaviors are particular to OCD, but many people don’t realize compulsive behaviors are a symptom of underlying anxiety. What happens is that someone becomes fixated on some particular anxiety–obsession–and to relieve that anxiety, they perform some action related to that anxiety. So, for example, if they’re anxious about someone breaking into their house, they might double check the locks. However, the relief is only temporary, the anxiety returns, and so the person has to repeat the behavior. They often realize their compulsive behavior is irrational, but it’s the only way to relieve their anxiety.
Anxiety disorders can be overcome with the proper treatment and support. At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-2627970 or Info@PatrickHartConsultants.com or explore our website for more information.