5 anxiety symptoms that might point to a disorder
Everyone can expect to have the occasional bout of anxiety—maybe you get nervous before an interview or a first date—but sometimes, that anxiety doesn’t subside, which may indicate an anxiety disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are a few different types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related anxiety disorders, but they all hinge on one important aspect: when overwhelming feelings of worry or fear impinge on a person’s daily life.
Researchers believe that anxiety disorders can stem from both genetic and environmental factors, and these anxiety disorders are typically treated through a variety of interventions, including psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
While anxiety disorders are often hard to pinpoint—and often benefit from a correct diagnosis from a mental health professional—there are some signs and symptoms that are common among those with most types of anxiety disorders.
Here’s what you need to know, and including when you should seek professional help.
Again, the occasional worries are normal—but for those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), those worries don’t necessarily go away.
People with GAD worry about typical things—including health, money, or family problems—but on a larger scale. They continue to worry about those things even when there’s not a clear reason to worry. This anxiety is also often hard to control, and makes it difficult for sufferers to focus on their daily tasks.
Adults typically need seven to nine hours of sleep every night—and when your sleep schedule starts to suffer, it’s a sign that something is off.
Stress and anxiety can cause sleeping problems, or make other issues, like falling and staying asleep, worse. Because sleeping disorders can lead to anxiety—or anxiety can lead to sleeping disorders—it’s best to talk to your doctor to determine the underlying causes and what you can do to correct them.
Some anxiety isn’t generalized at all; on the contrary, it’s attached to a specific situation or thing—like flying, animals, or crowds. If the fear becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and way out of proportion to the actual risk involved, it’s a telltale sign of phobia, a type of anxiety disorder.
Although phobias can be crippling, they’re not obvious at all times. In fact, they may not surface until you confront a specific situation and discover you’re incapable of overcoming your fear. A person who’s afraid of snakes can go for years without having a problem.
Near-constant muscle tension—whether it consists of clenching your jaw, balling your fists, or flexing muscles throughout your body—often accompanies anxiety disorders. This symptom can be so persistent and pervasive that people who have lived with it for a long time may stop noticing it after a while.
Regular exercise can help keep muscle tension under control, but the tension may flare up if an injury or other unforeseen event disrupts a person’s workout habits, Winston says. “Suddenly they’re a wreck, because they can’t handle their anxiety in that way and now they’re incredibly restless and irritable.
Reliving a disturbing or traumatic event—a violent encounter, the sudden death of a loved one—is a hallmark symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which shares some features with anxiety disorders. (Until very recently, in fact, PTSD was seen as a type of anxiety disorder rather than a stand-alone condition.)
But flashbacks may occur with other types of anxiety as well. Some research, including a study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, suggests that some people with social anxiety have PTSD-like flashbacks of experiences that might not seem obviously traumatic, such as being publicly ridiculed. These people may even avoid reminders of the experience—another symptom reminiscent of PTSD.
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