When thinks start going wrong with your mind or body, it's easy to blame it on factors like a busy work season or digestive problems. But sometimes these symptoms are a signal of something greater, and you may be exhibiting some signs you have anxiety, and you may be ignoring these indicators without realizing it. Anxiety looks different for every person, and it's not always easy to take a step back and say to ourselves "Something isn't right." However, pinpointing that you have anxiety is the first step to getting the proper treatment you need to start feeling better.
"Anxiety has become so common in our society that some individuals simply do not realize that they suffer from an anxiety disorder," says clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly over email. "When life is filled with any array of ongoing stressors, chronic anxiety can actually feel 'normal.' Individuals suffering from anxiety may unconsciously become adept at coping with — or ignoring — the symptoms. In addition, some people do not acknowledge or seek treatment for their symptoms due to a fear of being stigmatized."
It can be scary to admit that you're not feeling your best, but facing your anxiety head on can help you figure out ways to cope or even diminish your anxiety. If you think you might have anxiety — but are ignoring it — pay attention to these 11 telltale signs.
1. You Have Problems Sleeping
If you're tossing and turning at night, it could be a symptom of your anxiety. "Because the body has trouble quieting itself and the mind is over-focusing on an issue, sleep may be elusive," says psychologist Dorian Crawford, PsyD over email.
2. You're Not Interested In Doing Activities
When you are anxious, it can be all-consuming, and you might find you have a loss of interest in pleasurable activities. "Although a person may think they need to deny themselves pleasure and devote that energy to the topic causing anxiety, it is actually the opposite that is true," says Crawford. "Taking time to engage in enjoyable activities from sports, to socializing to sex, is a way to combat anxiety."
3. You Use Substances To Take The Edge Off
"To calm the nerves or 'take the edge off,' a person may think a drink — or two or three — is a good idea," says Crawford. "Thoughts get fuzzy and less invasive, and the body relaxes. Someone may trick themselves into thinking a few drinks every day is a normal way to relax, but it actually is a way to reduce anxious symptoms in a not-so-healthy way."
4. People Think You're High Strung
If people call you "high-strung" or a "worry-wort," there's a chance it's this is a result of your anxiety, not just your personality. "A person with anxiety may experience a chronic sense of nervousness or worry," says Manly. When people attribute your anxiety to your personality-type, it makes you less likely to seek treatment.
5. You Can't Focus
People suffering from anxiety disorder may have difficulty paying attention, concentrating on a task, or focusing during a discussion. "The individual may ignore and excuse these issues with comments such as, 'I'm just ‘ADD' or 'I like to multi-task,' says Manly.
6. You Avoid Social Situations
Anxiety can cause you to avoid social situations that would otherwise be enjoyable. Or if you do go to an event, you spend a large amount of time afterwards going over what you said wrong or questioning what others meant. "These are signs of social anxiety and involve both avoidance and rumination, which means having the same thoughts going around and around your head, usually of a self-critical nature," says psychologist Dr. Sarah Allen over email.
7. You Panic About Every Physical Ailment
Paying too close attention to every bodily symptom can also be an indicator you have anxiety. "If you worry that every physical ailment you have means you have a serious condition such as cancer or MS or similar catastrophic diagnosis, you may have health anxiety," says Allen. "This can make you hyper-vigilant about body sensations, noticing every ache and pain, cough, or twinge."
8. You Procrastinate
Whether you put off having a difficult conversation or avoid talk to people on the phone, your anxiety could be preventing you from exiting your comfort zone. "People who suffer from anxiety avoid something until it becomes a much bigger issue," says Allen. "When a situation is stressful, a person avoids doing it."
9. You Can't Relax
Life throws us plenty of stressful situations, but if you can't seem to relax even in a comfortable situation, you likely have anxiety. "Anxiety often shows itself through a chronic sense of being unable to relax, even in familiar, safe surroundings," says Manly. "Due to the fact that an anxious person is often hyper-vigilant, the inability to relax often stems from a sense that the world is a generally unsafe place."
10. You Seek Distractions
"A person who is really anxious but does not know it will seek out distractions to reduce the symptoms," says Crawford. "The problem is that these distractions can be unhealthy, like picking at their skin, pulling out hair, or overexercising."
11. You're Always Irritable
If you're always frustrated with others, it might not just because everyone else is annoying. "Anxiety may show itself through ongoing irritability," says Manly. "This is sometimes dismissed as being due to menstrual issues, life stressors, or that others are 'imagining' the irritability."