Do I Have Anxiety? 11 Hidden Signs That Can Seem Like Everyday Problems
Even if you don't immediately recognize them as signs of anxiety, you might notice that you have a few ongoing, everyday problems that just don't feel quite right. While you may be able to go to work, see friends, and get through the day, these symptoms could still be taking a toll. And may even be a sign you're more anxious than you realize.
After all, "it can be possible to have anxiety and not realize the impact," Stacy M. Stefaniak Luther, PsyD, LPC, a doctor of psychology and licensed professional counselor, tells Bustle. "For some, it is a baseline level of functioning that has been normalized over time."
Whether you're struggling to make decisions, worrying what others think, or lying awake at night, it may not feel like a big deal. But it may be helpful to consider what's going on, and seek out the help of a therapist, if necessary.
"Low grade or 'hidden' anxiety might not significantly interfere with your ability to function," Dr. Jamie Long, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale, tells Bustle. "Nonetheless, it's still important to recognize the signs because living in a heightened state of tension is harmful to your health in the long run. It's also helpful to recognize the early warning signs of anxiety before it worsens and eventually does interfere with daily functioning."
Read on below for some everyday problems that can may actually be a sign something more is going on, according to experts.
1. Getting Irritated Easily
"Often when we feel tense or irritated, we can tend to blame it on the situation or on the person we think is making us feel that way," psychologist Kathryn Moore, PhD, tells Bustle. But many times, snapping at others and feeling cranky can actually be a symptom of anxiety.
Anxiety puts you on edge, which means minor problems can feel like a bigger deal than they are. While it's fine to not always feel on top of your game, it may be helpful to consider whether anxiety may be to blame, if you can't shake the crankiness.
2. Jumping To Conclusions
Anxiety and jumping to conclusions often go hand in hand, and that's because "the goal of an anxious mind is to detect potential threats and catastrophes," Long says. "However, the anxious mind tends to overestimate the probability of such threats and jump to conclusions despite evidence to the contrary."
As a result, you're constantly assuming the worst, even though you know logically that things will likely be OK. This is anxiety messing with your brain, and it's a symptom that can be really overwhelming and tough to deal with.
3. Struggling To Fall Asleep
"A lot of people first experience anxiety in their inability to quiet their mind and go to sleep," psychotherapist Stephanie Roth Goldberg, LCSW-R, HHC, tells Bustle. "Or they may wake up and feel as though their mind never 'shut off.'"
So, while it's common to occasionally have a hard time falling asleep, it might mean you're dealing with anxiety if you constantly lie awake at night, or wake up in the morning not feeling well-rested.
4. Asking For Reassurance
Anxiety can cause you to doubt yourself to a pretty extreme degree, which is why you may notice that you need constant reassurance throughout the day. As Long says, "A person experiencing anxiety might [have a] fear of making mistakes and consequently might seek reassurance from others as a way to soothe the fear."
While it's always fine to text friends for support, or to call your mom for advice, seeking constant reassurance may mean you're more anxious than you realize, and may want to look into possible reasons why.
5. Biting Your Nails
If you have certain ongoing nervous habits, like biting off all your hang nails or picking at your nail polish, anxiety could be the root cause. "When you catch yourself picking and pulling, it can indicate that you’re on edge," Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. All that nervous energy is coming out through these compulsive behaviors, and may be a sign it's time to add more stress-relieving activities into your day, or even chat with a therapist to learn more helpful ways to cope with anxiety.
6. Replaying Conversations In Your Head
"When we’re experiencing anxiety, it can sometimes manifest as a rumination of previous conversations where you feel someone may have misinterpreted you," Cook says. "Although it probably meant nothing, you can’t stop picking apart your conversation with your boss or friend," and worrying that problems will come about as a result.
While there's no harm in thinking about certain meaningful interactions — such as a job interview — anxiety can leave you assessing every single conversation you have, sometimes to the point it feels overwhelming.
7. Dealing With Headaches
"People often consider anxiety to be strictly a product of the mind but this isn't the case," Kara Lissy, LCSW, a psychotherapist at A Good Place Therapy, tells Bustle. It can also show up in the form of physical symptoms like dizziness, stomachaches, headaches, and muscle tension. So if those have been an ongoing issue, take note.
Historically, anxiety's purpose was to alert our nervous system to threats so that we could run away, Lissy says. But, as we've evolved, so have our perceived threats, which now include everything from stress at work to social comparison, and so on.
It can be tough to escape these everyday "threats," which is why anxiety can leave you on high alert 24/7. And when the body is constantly prepared to flee, it only makes sense that you'll eventually start to feel rundown, and maybe even get sick.
8. Wondering "What If?"
"While it can be healthy and adaptive to plan ahead, focusing only on the potential negative outcomes of a decision or a scenario could be a sign that anxiety is behind your thoughts," Lissy says. "Anxiety can subtly trick us into thinking we're preparing and protecting ourselves by imagining the worst-case-scenarios when in reality we are simply fearful of the unknown and unsure how to cope with it."
This is a habit that can be difficult to spot, especially if you're so used to doing it it's become second nature. But by remaining aware of your thoughts, you can start to spot this type of unhelpful inner dialogue for what it really is.
9. Not Being Able To Make A Decision
Since it can be difficult to trust your gut when anxiety is clouding your brain, you may find that you can't make decisions without asking friends for their opinion, or mulling it over it for days or even weeks on end.
"It's true that big, important choices take time, thoughtful consideration, and perhaps even a pro/con list," Lissy says. "But when smaller, day-to-day decisions frustrate you and lead to long periods of unproductive agonizing over your options, anxiety is likely playing a role. It may be fueled by the fear of making the 'wrong' choice, which is an incredibly common worry amongst people with anxiety."
10. Struggling To Relax
The next time you sink into the couch to watch a movie, check in and see how you feel. "Not being able to be quiet and enjoy relaxation is another sometimes subtle sign of anxiety," Roth Goldberg says. "If you are unable to be quiet, you might be experiencing anxiety."
You might notice that your shoulders are all hunched up, or that you have a few jittery habits. "Moving your body a lot, i.e. nail biting or picking, shaking your leg, twirling your hair, etc., [are all nervous habits]," she says. "This can be a sign of your body being on 'overdrive," and that can mean you're more anxious than you realize.
11. Being Hard On Yourself
Lots of people are hard on themselves, but if you have anxiety, you might notice that you're more of a perfectionist than others, Stefaniak Luther says. Maybe you feel pressure to increase your output at work, without feedback from others of a need to do so, she says. Or you might compare yourself to others.
While it's fine to want to do well, there may be some hidden anxiety going on if it's gotten to the point where it causes you stress. If any of these everyday problems are holding you back or making life difficult, let a therapist know. There are countless ways to manage anxiety so that it doesn't take such a big toll on your day, and your overall well-being.
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.