Anxiety may be one of the most common mental health conditions in the country, and yet few people are willing to admit that their anxiety is causing a serious problem. Anxiety is often considered normal, especially in its milder forms, and indeed there are times when feeling anxious makes a great deal of sense (an important meeting with a client, or a job interview for example), and otherwise fairly harmless.
Yet there’s no denying that there are also times when anxiety affects your life in a negative way, and in some cases that anxiety can be fairly consistent. Persistent anxiety may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder – and for many, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects their life fairly regularly. If you experience anxiety when no anxiety should be present, and you find that that anxiety is affecting your quality of life, there may be more going on than you think.
You can see what qualifies as GAD in the DSM-IV-TR, but it’s not uncommon to have an anxiety problem without realizing it. So here are some potential signs to keep an eye out for.
•Persistent, Unfounded Worry
Perhaps the clearest example that you may have an anxiety problem is if you feel yourself constantly worrying about things in your life without any reason to worry. Anxiety is partially psychological, partially physical, but the psychological side is often seen through unfounded worry and concern over yourself and the people in your life. We all feel a sense of worry about our family, our funds, and just our lives in general, but any time you experience constant worry you may be dealing with general anxiety disorder.
In some cases, people that have anxiety issues may find themselves with nervous ticks. Some people pick or bite their nails, others pull out individual hairs, others shake their leg – some people even wink or blink a lot more than they usually would. If these occur fairly often, even when you’re just sitting around the table doing nothing, they may also be a sign of an anxiety problem.
•Quick to Extreme Anxiety
Those with GAD have a higher baseline for anxiety than those without it. Because of that higher baseline, it takes much less for people to feel extreme anxiety – a level of anxiety/panic that is overwhelming. Let someone be a little late to meet up with you and you might ponder the worst and your palms might sweat. If you feel extreme anxiety whenever an anxious situation arises, it may be because your baseline for anxiety is higher than others.
•Stress in Populated Events
There are different types of anxiety and different ways for it to manifest itself. But one way that some people experience it is in public. If you find that public events are intimidating, especially events that include a large crowd, or you find yourself preoccupied with how others see you in public, that may also be a sign of anxiety.
People with persistent anxiety often find ways to self-medicate and they may not even realize they’re doing so. Some of these ways may be unhealthy, such as with alcohol or drugs. Others may simply run away to activities that relax them, finding routines that they depend on to relax them frequently. Exercise, for example, can be a form of self-medicating if it’s used to reduce anxiety. It’s healthy and productive, so there is certainly no harm, but it could indicate anxiety issues.
Finally, many people treat their anxiety like a phobia, and do behaviors that those with phobias would do, like avoiding serious discussions with your boss, saying no to opportunities for a promotion because it would make you nervous, or not volunteering to answer questions in class. You hold yourself back because you’re afraid of possibly being put on the spot or having too many expectations put on you.
Paying Attention to the Signs
It’s easy to know you have anxiety when you have severe physical symptoms, but it’s not always easy to tell when your anxiety is more mild and feels like a more normal emotion. Often the signs and symptoms of anxiety are masked by the way you live your life and the behaviors you show regularly. Pay attention to the behaviors you display regularly and the routines that you have in place, and you may find that anxiety is affecting your life more than you think it is.