11 Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders + Understanding Stress
8 minute read
Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent of all psychiatric disorders, affecting close to 40 million people in this country. As natural as the anxiety or stress response is for humans, it can reach uncontrollable levels and begin to interfere with your health and life.
Disorders may be a mental health issue, but they have very physical symptoms. Identifying the symptoms will help you notice an anxiety disorder early enough so you can get effective treatment and lead a healthy life.
With that in mind, it is important to remember that you should follow the diagnosis of your physician before beginning any treatments. Here is what you need to watch out for:
1. Excessive Worry
Worrying is the most common symptom of anxiety disorders, and it typically is disproportionate to the event causing it. In other words, you end up worrying about something way more than you need to.
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When this worry occurs most days of the week and is difficult to control, it is defined as excessive and may signify an anxiety disorder. Anxious worrying can interfere with your ability to think, concentrate, and process information, all of which will impede your quality of life.
You will find restlessness more often in children and teenagers suffering with anxiety disorders. It can be described as a need to keep moving or constantly being on edge and is found in 74 percent of anxiety-related cases.
Restlessness may not occur with every anxiety disorder, but it is a definite sign of anxious feelings. It should be brought to your doctor’s attention if noticed.
3. Difficulty Concentrating
Constant worrying takes up your brain’s energy and function, which leaves little left for concentration. You end up so focused on your anxious thoughts that you are not able to concentrate on anything else.
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The worse your anxiety is, the less concentration you will have. Specifically, your working memory becomes affected, which prevents you from retaining new information. When this happens you will experience a reduction in performance at your job.
The stress response is your body’s way of preparing you for survival, triggering the fight or flight actions. When exposed to a threat, your body shuts down in some areas to provide a surge of energy. Your body is on high alert.
When this continues for an extended period of time, you get tired and fatigued.
The trouble with anxiety is that even though the threat is perceived and not real, your body responds in the same way. The constant state of alarm takes a toll on your body physically and prevents proper sleep. The result is fatigue and a constant tired feeling.
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Typically fatigue will be combined with other symptoms in anxiety disorders, and it can also indicate depression, so a professional opinion should be sought for confirmation.
Your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive when you experience an anxiety attack or generalized anxiety. You end up with a racing heartbeat, extra sweat, and a feeling of agitation.
The focus of energy and adrenaline to your muscles and senses is designed to keep you alive, but it causes agitation when there is no real threat present. The excess production of cortisol and adrenaline has your body in an alert phase, but the energy has nowhere to go since there is no need to run or fight.
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The buildup of energy and your prolonged aroused state make you easily agitated, fidgety, and even more anxious, which can be debilitating and will interfere with your social relationships.
Built-up energy and agitation fuels a state of irritability. Your body is uncomfortable, and your head is stuck in a loop of anxious thoughts.
Any other sensory input is overload and will easily irritate you. More than 90 percent of patients with anxiety disorders report feeling irritable during peak anxiety attacks.
7. Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are intense moments of anxiety that are overwhelming; the dread and worry become so debilitating that you often feel like you cannot even breathe. The extreme fear is combined with fast heartbeat, sweating, shaking, a tight feeling in the chest and nausea.
Once these physical symptoms show, they often compound the worry, as you may feel like you are suffering a heart attack or other serious health problem. Panic attacks occur without warning in response to specific triggers, and you feel like you have no control.
Panic attacks are a common sign of anxiety disorders and can lead to serious physical problems if not treated.
8. Muscle Tension
There is no full understanding as to why anxiety is linked to tense muscles, but they are commonly reported by individuals with anxiety disorders. It is thought that being in a constant state of alarm overworks your muscles, and the interference with chemical signals prevents relaxation.
When you have a lot on your mind, it can be difficult to sleep. When this happens every night because your anxious thoughts run on a continual loop, serious sleep disturbances occur.
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There is a link between anxiety disorders and insomnia, but it is not sure which causes which. Studies have shown that children with insomnia develop anxiety disorders later in life and treating one condition usually results in improvements of the other.
10. Irrational Fears
A phobia is a form of anxiety disorder and is marked by intense fear over a specific object or situation. Fear of spiders, heights, needles, and even going outside are all common phobias. The presence of the specific stimuli will trigger an anxiety attack and all the associated anxiety symptoms.
Having an anxiety disorder can be exhausting, taking a physical and mental toll on your health and well-being. When this happens, you often distance yourself from social situations as a way to prevent exposure to the possible triggers.
Social anxiety is also a disorder where you feel anxious about being in any social situations and affects about 12 percent of the population. Avoiding social situations, therefore, is a clear symptom of an anxiety disorder.
The Bottom Line
Anxiety disorders can be debilitating, but the good news is that they can also be treated. Mental health diseases are like every other disease.
You can treat diabetes with insulin, hypertension with diet changes, and anxiety with therapy. Don’t let mind take over matter too much, watch for the signs, and keep your anxiety in check and your health on track.