There's such a thing as having the butterflies before an important work meeting or date, but chronic, debilitating anxiety is certainly something to take more seriously. If you think you might show symptoms of having an anxiety disorder, it's wise to seek help from a counselor or engage in holistic approaches to health in order to calm down, feel more confident and assured, and break free of the tension. Anxiety disorders are especially prevalent in women; "men are somewhat more protected from anxiety because of their higher levels of testosterone. Testosterone calms the amygdala, the brain’s 'fight or flight' center, and also enhances the natural calming effects of the brain chemical GABA. Culturally, men have been socialized to be more ‘in control’ of their emotions, so they may more often present with some of the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as racing heart, dizziness, vertigo, or insomnia," explains Rita Milios, LCSW, psychotherapist and expert writer for Pro Corner on Recovery.org over email with Bustle.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on addressing mental and health conditions that can be hindering their ability to function normally or feel totally at peace in their surroundings. Together, we work on building a healthier relationship regarding self-confidence, composure and control under stress, and emotional regulation to get them back on track. Pressure stinks, and it's totally understandable to feel anxious. Still, getting the help you need to quell the nerves and worries and handle the situation will help you prevent problems and find easier and quicker solutions. Here are 11 ways to recognize that you may have an anxiety disorder, so that you can seek the guidance you need to start feeling happier, healthier, and way more relaxed each day.
1. You're Reluctant To Seek Help With Your Anxiety
"The kind of psychology of and stigma associated with fear and with worry, both are which important symptoms of anxiety disorders, sort of dictate whether or not people think it's appropriate to seek help," explains Kristen Carpenter, PhD at the Center for Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center over email with Bustle. "So it appears that men when feeling fearful or worried see this as different or pathological or they're in need of help because of it and therefore, more motivated to seek out help. Whereas women, the theory goes all the way back to the Victorian era in which hysteria was an actual diagnosis for women or neurosis were a common diagnosis for women," explains Carpenter.
2. You're Also Depressed
Carpenter explains that anxiety is often paired with depression, especially in women with an anxiety disorder. "What we also know that women suffering from anxiety disorders are more likely to experience what we would refer to as c-occurring depression. In women, the picture is often more complex because they're reporting anxiety, fear and worry in addition to feeling sad and disengaged. It's hard to know what you're coming in for help with when you have a layered situation like that," explains Carpenter.
3. You're Not Able To Function In Daily Life
"It's not a bad thing to be anxious some of the time, in fact it can be a very good thing. If we weren't ever anxious, we wouldn't try to be on time, we wouldn't get and go to work in the morning, we wouldn't budget and save money," explains Carpenter. "But signs that your anxiety might meet criteria for disorder really have to do with the degree to which you're distressed by the anxiety and the degree to which it causes or maintains functional impairment and makes it hard for you to do the activities from your day-to-day life: manage your family, manage social interactions and that sort of thing. So if you find that your anxiety itself feels like it's outside of what would be sort of normal human experience, then it makes sense to find some help," Carpenter recommends.
4. You're Always Worrying About Something
Even if something isn't a big deal, if you're worrying constantly, you might have an anxiety disorder, advises Carpenter. "There's generalized anxiety disorder which is a condition of excessive worry. Excessive, distressing and difficult to control worry. If you're a person who finds yourself worrying most of the day, nearly every day or much of the time, that might be something to consider talking to someone about," adds Carpenter.
5. You're Scared About Being In Social Situations
"The next class that we would talk about is social anxiety disorder and that is significant fear of negative evaluation or being humiliated in public. Again, everyone is going to be a little fearful some of the time, especially in a public speaking situation or sometimes when you're in a new environment and don't know many people that are there, you're going to have that safety of familiarity," says Carpenter. "But if your fear of social interactions rises to the level that interacting with people at a store or waiting in line or ordering a meal at a restaurant become really difficult for you, that might be a signal that it makes sense to talk to somebody," Carpenter warns.
6. You're Having Panic Attacks
"This is a disorder in which an individual experiences panic attacks and that is an anxiety attack that will arises every quickly and sometimes triggered by a stressful event, sometimes triggered by nothing," advises Carpenter. "Signs of a panic attack include: 1) palpitations, or feeling as though your heart is racing; 2) chest pain; 3) Nausea; 4) intense fear of losing control, dying, or “going crazy”; 5) light headedness; 6) abnormal sensation of tingling or 'pins and needles'; 7) shaking; 8) sweating; 9) choking; or 10) shortness of breath," advise Dr. Charles Galanis, plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills and Robert Dorfman, a research fellow at the Department of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at Northwestern, MSc, over email with Bustle.
7. You're Scared To Leave The House
"If an individual has panic attacks and have that fear, then sometimes they will also avoid going outside, being outside, being in public places, which we refer to as agoraphobia, it's a fear of being out in the environment in which you can't escape...You're afraid being out in the world for fear that you won't be able to escape something that makes you anxious or panicky," explains Carpenter. If you are anxious about leaving your home, it could definitely relate to an anxiety disorder and interfere with normal functioning. Galanis and Dorfman describe it as "a fear of open or enclosed spaces, such as using public transportation, leaving home alone, or being in large crowds."
8. You're Constantly Worried About Getting Sick
It's not just anxiety when someone around you sneezes on your arm. "You're constantly checking yourself, noticing that 'I've got a little bit of a headache. Is something wrong with me?' and kind of thinking that any little sign or symptom is a signal that something terrible is going to happen to you," advises Carpenter, can be linked to anxiety disorder. "You go to the doctor a lot to get things checked out and again repeatedly told 'you're fine, you're healthy, there's nothing wrong here,' and if it doesn't calm your nerves, still, then it's a sign of a disorder.
9. You're Having Compulsive Behaviors
"Those thoughts are often associated with compulsive behaviors (rituals that people might engage in) to reduce stress," advises Carpenter. "It doesn't necessarily directly address the fear, but it helps the patient feel better to do the ritual or do the compulsion. So in that case, if you either have those intrusive thoughts, they're really distracting. Or you find yourself engaging in a variety of behaviors unrelated to your fears or anxiety, that might be a signal that you might be someone with an obsessive compulsive disorder," further adds Carpenter.
10. You're Having Trouble Sleeping & Are Restless
"Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves anxiety that is not related to any specific situation, event, or person. People with GAD may experience feelings of restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and fatigue," say Galanis and Dorfman. "The general anxiety must last for six months or more in order for a diagnosis of GAD to be made," Galanis and Dorfman add.
11. You're Advised To Take Medications
After speaking with a therapist, if he or she recommends you take medication to treat anxiety or depression, it's worth accepting that you might have a larger disorder at hand, and the additional remedy could help you heal. "Treatments for anxiety disorders include cognitive behavioral therapy as well as antidepressants like SSRI’s (Prozac, Zoloft, etc) and SNRI’s (Effexor, Cymbalta, etc)," advise Galanis and Dorfman.
If you notice any of these types of symptoms or situations happening in your life, around your anxiety and mental state, it's possible you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder. It's especially likely if you're a woman (sorry ladies), as women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with a disorder and to experience symptoms at an earlier age in life than men are, as explained by Galanis and Dorfman. Yikes (try not to worry).
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