We all get nervous sometimes.
For instance, waiting for medical results — like those that can detect whether we have a thyroid problem — is completely nerve-wracking. So is speaking in front of an audience, confronting someone about a problem, or even going on a date.
But for many of us, once we tackle these difficult situations, our nerves calm and we can happily go on with our lives.
However, for 6.8 million Americans with an anxiety disorder, forgetting about problems isn’t so easy. The most common form of this illness is called generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, and it is characterized by excessive worry about everyday life even when there is little to no reason to worry.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, sufferers aren’t even aware that they have the ailment, which also affects more women than men.
“I always thought I was just a worrier,” says an anonymous patient who worked with NIMH. “At times it would come and go, and at times it would be constant. It could go on for days. I’d worry about what I was going to fix for a dinner party, or what would be a great present for somebody. I just couldn’t let something go.”
Does this sound like something you or possibly a loved one may have? Check out the symptoms below, and let us know what you think in the comments!
Anxiety Symptom #1: Excessive Worry
We all worry about things like a health, money, and family problems. But people with an anxiety disorder are extremely worried about these and other things, even when there is no reason to worry about them.
They think things are always going to go badly and getting through a typical day is an upward battle. Sometimes this even prevents them from doing everyday tasks.
“You continually anticipate bad things happening to you that can range from missing work deadlines to dying in a natural disaster,” says Doctor of Psychology Deborah Khoshaba. “You most likely try to ward off bad things from happening to you, by exercising a lot of control over your daily life and by engaging in other maladaptive strategies to manage the anxiety that you feel.”
If people often refer to you as neurotic, high-strung, or a perfectionistic, there is a chance you may have GAD.
Anxiety Symptom #2: Muscle Tension
Anxiety is not just a mental issue. If you have a disorder, your anxiety can be so intense that it can quite even have a physical effect on your health.
In fact, according to published psychologists Catherine C. Goodman and Kenda S. Fuller, anxiety increases muscle tension. “This increase in tension can reduce blood flow and oxygen to the tissue and in turn cause a buildup of cellular metabolites.”
For instance, if your jaw often feels swore or tense, it could be a sign of a much bigger issue.
Anxiety Symptom #3: Headaches
Headaches are a result of muscle tension, so if you are getting intense headaches that develop in areas where you can strain your face muscles — like around the temples or behind one eye or ear — it’s a good indicator that you may have GAD.
If fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, migraine headaches can act as alarm bells for the onset of a mental disorder.
“Researchers found that 11 percent of participants in the study had migraines and a variety of disorders: major depression, general anxiety disorder (GAD), dysthymia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, panic disorder, substance abuse disorders, agoraphobia, and simple phobia.”
Anxiety Symptom #4: Difficulty Concentrating
When one tries to concentrate when they have anxiety, they often suffer from something called “rapid thoughts.”
“Rapid thoughts are actually another type of anxiety symptom,” according to the Calm Clinic. “They are caused by your body becoming overly activated to the point where it starts processing all thoughts as rapidly as possible, only to end up focusing on nothing at all.”
When rapid thoughts start to pop into someone’s brain while they’re trying to focus, they have to use even more mental energy to drive them out, which can make a simple task feel really exhausting.
Another tactic some people with anxiety use to cope is distraction. In situations where someone may feel anxious, like at work, they’ll try to escape their problems by browsing the Internet to calm and get their mind off of situations that make them nervous.
Yet, this strategy prevents them from actually getting anything done.
Anxiety Symptom #5: Sweating
You may get sweaty palms before a job interview or feel a drop trickle down your back before having to speak publicly.
This kind of perspiration, provoked by nervousness, is actually different from the kind of sweat you get from exercise or heat.
“Sweat from being overheated is produced by eccrine glands, which are located just under the skin all over the body,” says the Wall Street Journal. “But sweat caused by stress, fear, anxiety and sexual arousal is produced in the apocrine glands, found only in certain areas, such as under the arms.”
If you tend to break out in nervous sweats on your palms or under your armpits, it is suggested you visit the doctor.
Anxiety Symptom #6: Nausea
According to WebMD, nausea that is not provoked by a stomach virus is often linked to anxiety, varying from social and performance anxiety to fear, stress, and over excitement.
“Our lives are filled with emotions, from anger to shame, fear to delight,” Tracy A. Dennis, PhD, associate professor in the department of psychology at Hunter College, told WebMD. “These physiological and neuroendocrine changes associated with emotion influence all aspects of our body, including the digestive system.”
If you tend to experience nausea often, especially when you’re stressed, it is advised that you tell a doctor. But, for a quick fix, try deep breathing. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, then another. Inhale and exhale slowly. Repeat until your stomach begins to feel better.
Anxiety Symptom #7: Frequent Bathroom Breaks
Do you feel like you need to use the bathroom all the time?
Do you worry about how often you need to use it?
Do you fear needing to use the bathroom when there may not be one available, like while on a bus or before a movie?
Do you often feel like you have to use the bathroom, but nothing comes out?
If these kinds of scenarios happen to you often, it can be an indicator of anxiety. While digestive problems are hard to pin down without the help of a doctor, you digestive system is very delicate.
“Bowel problems are a common problem with anxiety,” according to Calm Clinic. “As the stress from anxiety alters hormones, changes digestion speeds, and puts significant pressure on your intestines.”
Anxiety Symptom #8: Trouble Sleeping
If you’re experiencing bathroom troubles and rapid thoughts, it’s no wonder you’d have difficulty falling and staying asleep — and that you would develop anxiety around bedtime.
“The more anxious [you] are about sleep, that undermines the ability to sleep well, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says David Neubauer, MD, an associate director at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore, MD.
Sleep is important if you want to be emotionally healthy. If you can’t remember the last time you had a full night’s sleep, you may want to talk to a doctor.
Anxiety Symptom #9: Trembling
Trembling is also a sign of an anxiety disorder — especially if trembling occurs in situations of high stress and continues even after you have attempted to calm the stress.
The reason why you may experience “the shakes?” It’s a spike in adrenaline.
“Anxiety is the activation of your fight or flight response to danger, even when no danger is present,” says Calm Clinic. “The response triggers a rush of adrenaline, which feeds your body with energy and prepares you to run or fight. It also constricts your blood vessels and feeds your nerves. All of these cause your body to start shaking.”
Anxiety Symptom #10: Easily Startled
According to WebMD, being startled easily is one of the biggest symptoms of GAD, and being jumpy does seem like a normal response to other symptoms like tiredness, rapid thoughts, headaches, and constant worry.
If you find yourself on edge often, maybe it’s not so much “your personality,” but rather a sign that there is something much more complex at play.
If you get frightened easily and think you may have an anxiety disorder, it’s also important to recognize the signs of a panic attack.
Those who are suffer from GAD often experience panic attacks, which can be a confusing and scary experience. It can also happen suddenly and without warning.
Because a panic attack can resemble other medical emergencies, it’s important to know…
Panic Attack Symptom #1: Racing Heart
A racing or pounding heart is scary, and if you feel like it’s getting out of control, try to breath slowly. Inhale through your nose for five seconds and exhale through your mouth for five seconds and see if this slows the pace.
Panic Attack Symptom #2: Tingling
Tingling fingers is also a clear sign that someone is experiencing a panic attack. If this is happening to you, tell yourself: “What I am feeling is scary, but it is not dangerous,” and continue to breath slowly.
Panic Attack Symptom #3: Chest Pain
If you are young and relatively healthy, and you begin to experience chest pains (along with other panic attack symptoms), you might be having a panic attack. Try moving to a quiet place and continue to breath slowly and mindfully.
Panic Attack Symptom #4: Breathing Difficulties
If you are having trouble breathing, don’t fret. Although it may sound hard, freaking out is probably the worst thing you can do in this situation.
Instead, let someone know you are in this condition, and let this person know to do the following things:
- Stay with you and help you keep calm.
- Ask you what you need and do it.
- Talk to you in short, simple sentences.
- Have them help you focus on something.
- Accept the current situation, but know that it will not last forever.
Have you experienced or know someone who has suffered from anxiety? Let us know in the comments!
Do you know someone who may have undiagnosed GAD?