When it comes to signs of anxiety, some of them are much harder to see than others. In fact, a lot of manifestations of anxiety, in your private life or professional one, don't look like anxiety at all.
"Anxiety in your love life can often be as undetected as air," Dr. LeslieBeth (LB) Wish, LCSW, tells Bustle. "It often surrounds you when you are about to break up or make a change in your love pattern." But it's not just your personal life that can be affected by anxiety without even realizing it. "Anxiety at work can also seep invisibly into your life," she says.
Struggling with anxiety is really common and is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Ranging from bouts of day-to-day anxiety to an anxiety disorder, so many people have their lives affected — or even controlled by — their anxiety. But one of the ways to understand if your behaviors are being influenced by anxiety or not is to understand the different ways it can look. And a lot of times, it can come out in the habits that you wouldn't necessarily attribute to being anxious.
So here are some unexpected habits that experts say you should look out for. And it's important to remember that some people may do the following with no relation to anxiety whatsoever. But if these sound a lot like you, and you think anxiety is at play, it may be time to consider talking to a professional .
You shouldn't ignore the physical symptoms of anxiety — and not just panic attacks, though those certainly apply. But there are some much subtler signs that you might notice. "There are many physical symptoms and 'tics' that people might not associate with anxiety but actually are," Hartstein says. "'Picking' — whether it’s your skin or your fingernails, or even your hair and eyebrows might just seem like habits but are actually caused by stress. As is grinding your teeth, clearing your throat compulsively, or shaking your leg non-stop." If you think of yourself as a fidgety person, there may be something else there.
You Talk Yourself Out Of Change
If you talk yourself out of big changes in your life, there may be an underlying anxiety issue. "You hate your job but you convince yourself not to apply for jobs in other companies because 'the devil you know is safer than the devil you don't," Wish says. "In other words, you bet against yourself and your abilities and sense of self-worth."
If you're anxious about your own abilities, you may keep yourself stuck in situations that you're not happy with rather than making a change.
Sometimes people just procrastinate, but sometimes it's anxiety-related. "You waste a lot of time at work and then hurry up to get a challenging project done," Wish says, is one sign of procrastination-related anxiety. It happens because your anxiety makes the project seem larger than life, so you keep putting it off until it absolutely has to get done. It can be a vicious cycle, with the task at hand becoming scarier and scarier the longer you put it off.
You Avoid Relationships
This one may be surprising, but it totally makes sense. "You convince yourself 'not to look for love'," Wish says. Some people love having casual sex without any ties to anxiety but, for some, avoiding relationships and just having hookups may have to do with anxiety. The idea of a close emotional connection makes you feel anxious or unworthy, so you convince yourself that you're just not interested in it.
You Give Up Your Autonomy
Related to procrastination, a "que sera, sera" attitude can be linked to anxiety. "You believe 'that if it's meant to be, it will just happen'," Wish says. You're giving up control of your life, whether it's personally or professionally, because the idea of tackling challenges and making changes feels too big and panic-inducing. So instead, you just pretend it will work itself out.
You Try Too Hard
Anxiety isn't always about freezing up — it can also be about working too hard. "You over-correct your previous pattern and choose something too much the opposite," Wish says, is a habit that can result from anxiety. It might be with the type of people you date or your behaviors at work. You over-think, and then over-commit. Even though correcting a problematic behavior is totally reasonable, this black-and-white view can be a sign of anxiety.
There are so many different ways anxiety can seep into your everyday life, so it's totally understandable if you don't always recognize it. The important thing is to try to learn what's causing you anxiety and figure out how to manage it. And remember, there's always help out there.