Are You Experiencing Anxiety? – How to Identify Anxiety Symptoms

anxiety symptoms Although up to 40 million Americans struggle with severe anxiety each year, plenty of symptoms remain undetected. Mainly, anxiety flies under the radar because it can manifest in “acceptable” ways—strong work ethic, deep desire to help others, cleanliness, etc. Thus it can be difficult to identify anxiety symptoms. Moreover, some anxiety is a normal part of life.

For example, when we tackle an urgent project at work, our nerves tend to rattle. Life-changing events, such as an upcoming wedding or buying a new house, can cause nights filled with worry instead of sleep.

When it comes to the quality of life, though, chronic anxiety is anything but acceptable. And when faced with scary realities such as a global pandemic, anxiety can become exacerbated. Let’s examine some anxiety symptoms commonly overlooked.

Identify Anxiety Symptoms in Your Mind

Anxiety takes a significant toll on your mind. Here’s how to identify a few of the most telltale mental symptoms that cause severe discomfort.

Severe and Intrusive Thoughts

In terms of anxiety, worry is the main driver. And this particular worry isn’t a passing thought. Instead, worrisome thoughts are debilitating and interrupt your daily life.

If you’re unsure whether your worry is warranted and normal, take note of how often your thoughts “carry you away” throughout the day.

Difficulty Concentrating

When dealing with anxiety, concentrating can seem like an impossible feat. Hundreds of thoughts can bombard you, distracting you from your original focus.

Perhaps you intend to look up a brownie recipe online. Then you find yourself hours later deep into news reports searching everything you can about your current worry.

Irritability

Most people who are dealing with anxiety face irritability at the same time, as well—especially during exceptionally worrisome moments. When so many other uncomfortable symptoms plague you, it’s no wonder you feel a little on edge.

If you find yourself lashing out at loved ones quickly, then you may be experiencing an anxiety symptom.

Irrational Fears

When struggling with anxiety, the condition tends to insert heaps of worst-case scenarios in your head. There is a reality to them. Yet, they get taken to the extreme. Therapists call this catastrophizing.

Taking worries to the extreme is a very scary place to be. Many people even shy away from specific places or social situations to decrease the fear they feel.

Identify Anxiety Symptoms in Your Body

Your mind and body are deeply connected. In short, your body reflects what your mind is experiencing. Watch out for these physical symptoms as anxiety may very well cause them. They generally result from the flight or fight response, which is activated when anxious.

Sleeping Issues

Millions of people battle racing thoughts and insomnia every night. And, anxiety is usually to blame.

If you continually have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, it’s time to take a closer look at the possible cause.

Granted, your diet, bedtime routine, and overall lifestyle contribute to your sleep quality. However, when your habits support good sleep, but you can’t rest, consider anxiety as a problem.

CBT for insomnia is a highly effective program that can treat sleep issues without medication. 

Tense Muscles

Have you ever done a self-check body scan? It’s easy to do; you flex and relax each muscle group throughout your entire body one at a time. The purpose of a body scan is to clue you in on any tension in your muscles.

Anxiety causes significant muscle tension, pain or weakness. Instead of blaming age or a bad day, consider that anxiety may be the root of the problem.

Practicing progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or other relaxation techniques get to the root of the problem in the body combined with  anxiety treatment can relieve your muscle pain.

Hypervigilance

Because our autonomous nervous system can’t tell the difference between genuine danger and perceived danger—i.e., a grizzly bear and an obnoxious in-law—our bodies respond to danger no matter what. This hardwired reaction kicks our fight-or-flight response into high gear.

Unfortunately, anxiety can cause you to “get stuck” in that hypervigilant mode. Your heart beats faster, mind races, and you become severely tense.

Think of a vehicle getting stuck in a specific gear. It doesn’t work right, and one “gear” certainly isn’t an effective way to live.

Hypervigilance can be related to trauma. We have specific trauma therapies that can help you heal, which subsequently reduces the anxiety symptoms of hypervigilance.

Restlessness

Have you ever sat down to watch a movie only to get up a dozen times, before the plot twist plays out?

Restlessness is a feeling in your body, screaming for you to get up and move around. You can’t sit still for long without completing another task or doing “just one more thing.” Perhaps you try to relax, but you end up playing a game on your tablet while watching Netflix and talking on the phone all at once.

Restlessness often appears as multitasking on steroids. If you can’t sit still, it’s time to figure out if anxiety is the real culprit.

Heart Palpitations, Dizziness, & Shortness of Breath

While these symptoms can stem from other medical issues, they are often symptoms of anxiety, especially anxiety or panic attacks. Experiencing heart palpitations can be very scary. You might wonder if there is something really serious going wrong with your body, which can create fear and panic.

When it’s anxiety related, it’s actually more about the imbalance of breathing in more oxygen and breathing out more carbon dioxide, which would be normal if you were running for your life from a tiger. Since modern anxiety is a product of our mind vs physical threats (for the most part), this normal biological function creates a physical imbalance. Your body responds as if a tiger is chasing you, but you don’t exert any physical energy in “running away.”

Practicing breathing techniques can help you slow your body’s stress response and bring your body’s anxiety response back down.

Digestive & Gastrointestinal Problems

Common digestive symptoms of anxiety include indigestion, stomach cramps, IBS, etc. You actually have more anxiety receptors in your gut than in your brain so you can experience the symptoms of anxiety more predominantly in your gut. The gut really is a ball of nerves (second to your brain). Perhaps you’re familiar with the expression, “butterflies in your stomach?, or “Tied in knots?”

Breathing techniques and working with a therapist to help you with anxiety can calm your nerves and thus, calm your digestive system.

Manage Anxiety with Help from a Professional

Anxiety symptoms showing in pugsBy getting professional help, you can identify anxiety symptoms and get better at understanding your anxiety. From there, you can learn to manage your symptoms on a daily basis. When you’re able to do that, anxiety becomes less powerful, and you get to be in control once again.

Please contact us for help. Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX, has experienced therapists that specialize in anxiety. Call us today at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online. Online therapy available. 

Are You Experiencing Anxiety? – How to Identify Anxiety Symptoms
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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