I’ve been struggling with anxiety since I was a young child. What I once thought was just shyness turned out to be social anxiety. My social anxiety was so severe at one point that I couldn’t leave the house. Throughout the many years I’ve received mental health treatment, I’ve been diagnosed with both social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In the past, I’ve also struggled with frequent panic attacks.
Anxiety can be debilitating. It can cause you to worry excessively and live in fear. There will be moments when we all experience anxiety. This can be related to school, work, family, or other responsibilities. For those living with an anxiety disorder, feelings of worry or fear linger and interfere with daily life.
To know if you need to seek treatment for anxiety, it’s important to recognize the symptoms.
Types of Anxiety Disorders and Their Symptoms
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about different aspects of life. Symptoms include:
- Feeling restless, wound up, or on edge
- Being fatigued or lightheaded
- Experiencing irritability
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Excessive worrying or anxiety about various things
- Having sleep problems
- Perceiving situations and events as threatening even when they aren’t
- Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible outcomes of a situation
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes fear and anxiety in social situations. Individuals who struggle with social anxiety may avoid social interactions that could trigger them. Symptoms include:
- Fear of situations in which you may be judged negatively
- Worry about embarrassment or humiliation
- Pounding or racing heart
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling
- Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers
- Avoidance of doing things or speaking out of fear of embarrassment
- Muscle tension
- Analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions after a social situation
Individuals with panic disorder experience frequent and unexpected panic attacks. Those struggling with panic disorder may worry about their next attack and avoid situations or places that could cause one to occur. Symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Pounding or racing heart
- Trembling or tingling
- Chest pain
- Feelings of impending doom
- Feelings of being out of control
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Feeling of detachment
- Hot flashes or chills
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying or traumatic event. Sometimes symptoms may not appear until months or years later. Symptoms include:
- Vivid flashbacks
- Intrusive thoughts or images
- Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event
- Changes in mood
- Physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, and trembling
- Feeling tense or on edge
- Difficulty sleeping
- Having angry outbursts
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterized by a pattern of intrusive, unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
Obsessions in OCD may include:
- Fear of contamination by people or an environment
- Unwanted sexual thoughts or images
- Fear of causing harm to yourself or someone else
- Extreme worry that something is not complete
- Need for order, neatness, symmetry, or perfection
Compulsions in OCD may include:
- Excessive cleaning or handwashing
- Arranging or ordering things in a particular way
- Repeatedly checking things, such as constantly checking if the door is locked or the oven is off
- Constantly seeking approval or reassurance
- Rituals related to numbers, such as counting, doing a task a certain amount of times, or excessively preferring or avoiding certain numbers
6 Signs It’s Time to Seek Treatment for Anxiety
1. Your Excessive Worry Is Negatively Impacting Your Life
If you’re worrying and overthinking so much that you’re unable to function, it may be time to seek help. Worrying excessively can get in the way of living a fulfilling life. Working with a mental health professional will allow you to receive the proper diagnosis, get to the root cause of your anxiety, and learn healthy ways to cope.
2. Your Fears Are Preventing You From Performing Daily Tasks
Certain anxiety disorders can cause you to feel immobilized with fear. When my social anxiety was at its worse, I avoided going out to public places. I felt much safer in the comfort of my home.
When you live with an anxiety disorder such as social anxiety, the fear you experience may be crippling and keep you from getting things done.
Specific phobias may cause you to avoid people, places, or things that trigger anxiety.
3. You’re Having Panic Attacks
The first time I had a panic attack, I was terrified. I was sure I was dying. This incident was followed by a series of panic attacks that continued for several years.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know how frightening the experience can be. You should speak with a mental health professional if you regularly have panic attacks.
4. You Experience Physical Symptoms
Despite what some may think, anxiety is not all in your head. Mental and physical health are connected, and excessive worrying can physically take a toll on you.
Some individuals may experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, muscle tension, and headaches.
5. You Have Trouble Sleeping
Getting a good night’s rest is essential to managing your mental health.
Not being able to sleep due to anxiety can severely affect your health. It can affect your mood and lead to other health complications.
My anxiety is typically worse at night. I have chronic insomnia, too, so sometimes I’ll lie awake, and my mind races, preventing me from falling asleep.
Aside from seeking professional help for sleep problems caused by anxiety, some steps you can take for better sleep habits include:
- Using relaxation techniques such as meditation (I like yoga nidra, which is a guided meditation practice that helps calm the mind and body), restorative yoga, and aromatherapy
- Creating a bedtime routine
- Avoiding caffeine late in the day
- Creating a consistent sleep schedule
- Setting up your room for sleep
6. Your Relationships Are Impacted
Having an anxiety disorder can affect relationships. Symptoms like irritability, mood shifts, excessive worry, and fear may cause damage to your relationships if not treated.
One way this shows up in my relationships is my constant need for reassurance. In romantic relationships, I often wonder if my partner really loves me or if they’ll eventually leave.
If you’re struggling to manage your symptoms and it’s affecting your relationships, there are treatment options that can help.
Treatment for Anxiety
It may not feel like it, but you can have an anxiety disorder and still thrive. Not treating anxiety can cause it to progress. Treatment for anxiety consists of therapy or medication and sometimes both. It’s important to discuss all your symptoms with your mental health provider so that they can choose the best treatment option for you.
Therapy can help you learn how to manage your symptoms. Taking medication can feel scary, but it can be a great option if anxiety severely affects your life. If you decide to go on medication, be sure to research any potential side effects.
Anxiety is difficult to live with. It’s not as simple as just telling yourself to stop worrying. With the proper treatment, self-care strategies, coping skills, and support system, you can begin to take your life back. Anxiety doesn’t have to overpower you.