Each and every one of us experiences worry, anxiety, and stress occasionally. It's common to have a touch of anxiety over an upcoming work event, for example, or a moment of stress after a long day. But if you find that you're worrying every day — and it's starting to impact your life — it may be a sign this anxiety needs paying attention to.
"While a certain level of apprehension is normal — and at times even motivating — when worry prevents you from living your life (e.g., missing classes, calling out of work, affecting your social life, etc), it may be indicative of a formal anxiety disorder," licensed psychologist Dr. Farrah Hauke, tells Bustle. This is what separates everyday anxiety from a true anxiety disorder.
If you feel anxious every day, or have a few worries you just can't shake, "the next step would be reaching out to a licensed mental health professional to begin working on identifying triggers, stressors, and irrational thoughts that are causing or exacerbating anxiety," Dr. Hauke says, "as well as learning coping skills to better handle anxiety." Read on below for a few worries that, should they happen every day, may be a sign that it's time to pay attention to your anxiety.
It's fine to take your health into consideration as you go about your day, and to reach out to a doctor if you don't feel well. But it may be a red flag if worry 24/7 about every little change in your body, including things like your vital functions, breathing, heart rate, temperature, and balance, Dr. Bianchi says.
"All day long, our bodies are regulating themselves to respond to our environments," she says. "If it gets warmer in a room, we start sweating. If we’re in a stressful situation, our heart rate will increase and our breath will quicken. If we stand too quickly, we may get dizzy, then regain our balance."
These are common sensations, but they can lead to intense worry if you have anxiety. "Some people [...] become frightened by noticeable shifts in physical sensations," Dr. Bianchi says, "especially if those changes are unexpected, or if a few of them happen at one time (e.g., experiencing a rapid heartbeat, sweating, and dizziness while driving)."
Everyone has a fear or two. But if yours has turned into something you worry about or focus on to an intense degree, it may have officially become a phobia, Dr. Bianchi says. And phobias are, of course, a type of anxiety.
Take, for instance, a fear of throwing up. While nobody likes to throw up, if you have a phobia, it may change the whole course of your day. "This fear is so common that it has its own name: emetophobia," Dr. Bianchi says. "If you find yourself frequently worrying about throw up — yours, someone else’s, or both, it’s possible that this is part of an anxiety disorder, and that it might be time to seek professional help."
But phobias can run the gamut from a fear of going out in public, to flying, to being in small spaces. If you find yourself avoiding certain situations, or feeling fearful to an extreme degree, anxiety is likely at play.
Worst Case Scenarios
It's one thing to take precautions and think ahead to keep yourself safe. And something else entirely to imagine — in vivid detail — all the possible things that could go wrong over the course of your day.
Instead of imaging a safe drive to work, for example, you might imagine a ten car pile-up, and become super anxious to the point you turn around and drive home, or avoid certain roads.
"Anxious people will add vivid details to their worries and create mental fantasies that are quite disturbing," licensed psychologist Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD, tells Bustle. It can be tough, though, to see that it's all stemming from anxiety.
But again, if you notice that these fears are impacting your day, or preventing you from doing what you'd like to do, it may be a good idea to see a doctor.
Safety Of Family Members
If you're in close contact with your family, then you likely want to know their whereabouts, if they're safe, happy, and so on. But if you have anxiety, you may notice that you worry about your family to an extreme degree.
"By definition, anxiety is excessive worry about an issue for which there is no basis for such worry in excess," psychotherapist Rebecca Newman, MSW, LCSW, tells Bustle. "For instance, worry about health of one's family when a family member is in active treatment for cancer is not clinical anxiety, as the worry is warranted."
Your worry may be a sign of anxiety, however, if it comes out of the blue, or happens every day. As Newman says, "Such worry when a family is healthy would be considered clinical anxiety and merit intervention."
How Others Perceive You
"If you are constantly concerned about how others perceive you [or] how you came across in a particular conversation, this may be a sign of a deeper anxiety issue at play," Rachel Ann Dine, LPC, tells Bustle.
You might feel self-conscious during conversations, or lie awake at night regretting what you said. It's something anyone can experience, but anxiety can take it to a whole new level.
As Dine says, "It's always good to engage in self-reflection, but it should also be tempered with positive thoughts of self and confidence in yourself and your abilities!" If you can't control the worry, it may be a sign that you're struggling with anxiety, and may benefit from chatting with a counselor.
Whether You'll Be In Control
If you worry about feeling out of control, or finding yourself in unpredictable situations, it may be a sign of underlying anxiety. When that's the case, you might "stay up at night and review what you have to do or try to control people and situations to feel comfortable," therapist Rachel Dash-Dougherty, LCSW tells Bustle.
If it only happens on occasion, it's not a big deal. But since a fear of being out of control can be a symptom of anxiety, it may be something worth looking into.
Worry is a typical part of life, so if you experience it, it's not necessarily a sign of an anxiety disorder. But if you worry constantly, and to the point it changes the course of your day, it may be a good idea to reach out to a therapist for support.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.