Do I Have an Anxiety Disorder?
It’s normal to get nervous from time to time, especially in nerve-wracking situations like public speaking. Many people confuse normal nervousness with an anxiety disorder and, conversely, many people believe that the anxiety they constantly feel is just normal nervousness. How do you know if you have an anxiety disorder? The best way is to talk to a doctor or a therapist, but here are some of the most common signs.
1. You worry about everything.
You do not just worry about situations that should make you nervous, you worry about things that are very unlikely to ever happen. For example, it is normal to be anxious about money if you are going through a period of financial instability. If your finances are completely stable, however, and there are no financial problems on the horizon, constantly worrying about money is irrational and unreasonable. If you are experiencing this type of worry, especially over a prolonged period of time, it is likely due to an anxiety disorder.
2. You cannot fall asleep or stay asleep.
Interruptions to your sleep cycle are usually related to anxiety, as when you have an anxiety disorder, you might find it difficult to turn your brain off long enough to actually get to sleep or stay asleep. While you might lose sleep the night before a big event like a job interview or a wedding, if you find yourself tossing and turning most nights of the week, even when there is nothing necessarily pressing happening the following day, this could be a sign of an anxiety disorder, especially when paired with one of the other symptoms on this list.
3. Your muscles are continually tense.
Have you ever realized, all of a sudden, that you are staining your neck or your shoulders? If you have an anxiety disorder, you could be doing this subconsciously. While this might not seem like that big of a deal, if you are doing this on a consistent basis, you are going to find that your muscles are starting to ache. You’ll probably see an increase in headaches and toothaches, as you are clenching your jaw and tensing your neck and spine. You might not even realize that you are doing this until you start to feel those tension headaches. This is a sign of restlessness, which accompanies anxiety disorders.
4. You have constant problems with your digestion.
Anxiety may often be billed as a mental issue, but it can have very real physical effects. Having irritable bowels is actually one of the most common signs of an anxiety disorder and may be one of the earliest indicators that you are not experiencing normal nervousness, but having chronic anxiety. Stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, and bloating are all stress-related issues that can eventually bloom into irritable bowel syndrome. Your digestive tract is closely tied to your psychological state. If you have an anxiety disorder, you are likely to also see problems with your digestion.
5. You have crippling social anxiety.
Having fear of public speaking is common and normal. Having social anxiety so crippling that you hide in your home and feel paralyzed at the thought of going out and talking to people (even for simple tasks like ordering food or chatting with strangers at a bar) is usually an indication that your worry has moved beyond a normal point and is now a disorder. If you find yourself being frozen by the idea of having to talk to a person or interact with someone, your anxiety is not normal. The good news, however, is that talking with a therapist will help.
6. You are self-conscious without cause.
People who experience social anxiety may often feel that everyone is looking at them and judging them (though this is hardly ever true). If you tremble, feel sick, sweat, or find it difficult to talk to people when you are in a social situation, this may be due to an anxiety disorder. While you may sometimes push yourself to go out and interact with people, you may cut ties with people or simply find it impossible to interact with them on a normal basis because of your anxiety.
7. You have panic attacks.
Panic attacks are not normal and they can be paralyzing. They may occur without any real impetus or they may spring up only in tense or stressful situations. How do you know if you are having a panic attack? If you feel a sudden, overwhelming feeling of fear and an inability to do anything, often paired with breathing issues, a racing heartbeat, numbness in your extremities, weakness, and dizziness, this is probably a panic attack. While you can have a panic attack without having an anxiety disorder and you can have an anxiety disorder without having panic attacks, the two are usually linked.
8. You are a perfectionist.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with wanting to do your best, but when perfectionism extends beyond simply trying to do your best and becomes so all-consuming that you do not even try to do something if you are not absolutely sure you can get it right the first time, it is an issue. Obsessiveness is often associated with anxiety disorders.
9. You doubt yourself.
One minute, you are sure that you can do something. The next minute, you completely doubt your ability to do anything right. You may constantly doubt yourself or you may simply second-guess any big decision that you make. You may even experience self-doubt in situations where you can never actually know the answer to the question you have about yourself and your own capabilities.
If you are experiencing anxiety-related symptoms that disrupt your day to day ability to function and enjoy life, it’s time to talk with a therapist. A licensed mental health provider can help you understand your symptoms and set goals to work through your anxiety. At my practice I specialize in helping adults work through anxiety. Contact me to schedule your first appointment.