None of us are immune to anxiety. Whether it’s about everyday concerns (like money, relationships, and work) or the more serious upheavals we experience throughout our lives (such as breakups, loss, and health problems) even the chillest of the chill worry sometimes. If you’ve been experiencing an excessive amount of anxiety lately, and you’re concerned that your anxiety might not be normal, know that your increased worry could just be an unfortunate side effect of whatever is going on in your life right now. But also be aware that there is a difference between the normal anxiety we all experience just for being alive and the kind of anxiety that comes from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD.)
If you’ve been so excessively anxious lately that you’re actually starting to worry about how much you worry, then it’s time to evaluate whether this is just a rough patch for you or something more serious. While it’s important to find ways to cope with any kind of anxiety, and some anxiety is perfectly normal and even beneficial, excessive anxiety can be really detrimental to your life.
Whether your anxiety is "normal" or not, the last thing you need to do is add to your panic by worrying about your worry. General Anxiety Disorder is very treatable (and common, at least 18 percent of Americans suffer from GAD) so if the following list applies to you, don't be afraid to get help. Here are seven ways to tell if you could be suffering from GAD.
1. Your Anxiety Often Hits You Out Of Nowhere
One way to tell if your anxiety is or isn’t normal is whether or not you can determine its source. If you’ve got a performance review coming up at your job, final exams are fast approaching, or you and your partner have been having problems, then it’s normal to feel some anxiety. However, if you can’t stop worrying and you have no idea why, you go from being fine to being suddenly anxious for no apparent reason, or you’re just worrying a ton over little things, then you’re dealing with more than normal anxiety.
If you are anxious all the time but you can’t pinpoint it to anything substantial, it’s not “all in your head” — and you shouldn’t just wait for it to go away. Talk with a mental health professional about it.
2. You Worry So Much That It’s Making You Sick
Your mind and body are connected, so if your anxiety is nearly constant, your body is going to feel it. Headaches, muscle tension, nausea, irritability, trouble sleeping, excessive sweating, trembling, tiredness, frequently needing to use the bathroom, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and overall edginess are all physical signs that your anxiety isn’t normal.
3. You Avoid Socializing
If you’re avoiding social situations because you’re afraid of being judged or embarrassing yourself (not because you sometimes just want to spend the night binge watching Netflix and snacking), that’s a sign of GAD. Of course, it's normal to feel some anxiety in an awkward social situation. Going to a house party knowing that the only person you’ll recognize is your SO is a bit awkward, and it's completely normal if you feel a little uncomfortable. But it’s not normal when your anxiety often causes you to avoid socializing because you constantly doubt yourself and/or you're terrified of being humiliated.
4. You’re Irrationally Afraid Of Places And/Or Things
It’s normal to feel anxiety when you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood at night or when you’re driving through a storm. What isn’t normal is when you often catch yourself feeling anxious despite the lack of any clear threats to your safety. If you’re terrified to go somewhere that’s perfectly safe and has no personal history of trauma or harm for you, that’s abnormal anxiety. GAD can make the world a much scarier place than it actually is and keep you from exploring it for yourself and with the ones you love. Seek treatment so you can feel safe.
5. You Keep Having Panic Attacks
Though panic attacks are never really normal, it isn’t uncommon for someone who’s going through an exceptionally difficult phase of their life to have one. Excessive workloads, breakups, and loss of a loved one are all pretty normal triggers for panic attacks. Depending on your personality, it’s also pretty normal to feel panicky before going on stage or giving a presentation at work.
However, if you’re having multiple panic attacks and you’re unsure why, then something more serious is going on. Additionally, if you can’t stop worrying about your next panic attack, that’s another sign your anxiety has gone beyond what is considered normal.
6. ...And Flashbacks
Right after something devastating and traumatizing happens in your life, it’s normal to replay that event in your head. It’s also totally normal to experience anxiety, sleeplessness, and sadness for a time. But if you’re having recurring flashbacks about something that happened years ago, that’s a sign you need to talk to someone about it.
7. You’re Behaving Compulsively
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder are not the same thing. That said, performing the same actions over and over again (such as excessive cleaning or triple checking) is a sign that your anxiety isn’t normal, and you need to get it checked out.
If you're not sure where to start, check out this list of therapists who specialize in treating GAD, and remember: Just because your anxiety isn't normal, that doesn't mean there's anything weird about you. You're not alone.