Updated: Jul 22
There you are…with the weight of the world on your shoulders. You might bite or pick your nails, twirl and/or pull your hair, shake your leg, talk incessantly to fill awkward gaps in conversation, or just about anything that discharges anxious energy.
While you know that it is normal to feel a certain amount of anxiety , you’re beginning to wonder if something is wrong…like REALLY wrong!
Here are 10 common symptoms of an anxiety disorder as well as how to reduce anxiety naturally and when to seek professional help.
Excessive worrying This is the hallmark of anxiety. Worrying is often out of proportion to the events that brought it on in the first place.In order to qualify for generalized anxiety disorder, the symptoms must occur most days of the week for a period of 6 months. The worry is intrusive and severe and inhibits you from being able to complete daily tasks. Risk factors for generalized anxiety disorder include: being over the age of 65, having a lower socioeconomic status, and having several life stressors.
Feeling agitated When a person is feeling anxious, his/her nervous system gets kicked into overdrive making it difficult to remain calm once calm has been achieved.Once the mind and body are switched into this mode, also known as the “fight or flight” mode, the body has sensed danger and is preparing you to react. Blood is moved away from your digestive system and towards your muscles so that you are able to flee should then need arise. Your heart rate increases and so do your senses.Some studies show that those who suffer from anxiety disorders have a more difficult time regulating their bodies back to normal following an anxious event so they feel the effects for longer periods of time. Overexposure to the “fight-or-flight” response is wearing to the nervous system and thus, shortens the fuse.
RestlessnessThis often shows up most often in children and teens. As many as 74% of children and teens report restlessness as being one of the main anxiety symptoms from which they suffer.Not all those who suffer from anxiety experience restlessness but it is a hallmark of an anxiety disorder. Restlessness alone is not enough to diagnose an anxiety disorder but it can be indicative of an anxiety disorder if it is experienced most days per week and interferes with your ability to function.
Fatigue – if you fatigue easily, it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Fatigue can follow a panic attack or can be chronic. Anxiety can weak havoc on the nervous system leading you to feeling run down and tired some or all of the time. However, fatigue can also be a result of other common symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension or insomnia or due to a hormonal imbalance due to anxiety.
Difficulty concentrating Think of anxiety as a residue that covers your organs that no longer allows them to function normally. When this residue covers the brain, it creates a fogginess that primarily affects our working memory, a type of memory that is responsible for hanging on to short-term information. This helps to explain a reduction in performance under times when anxiety is very high.Brain fogginess is not always a symptom of an anxiety disorder as this symptom could also fit criteria for other conditions such as attention-deficit disorder or depression, or other medical conditions.
Irritability Irritability is one of the most common anxiety symptoms. When the nervous system is in a constant state of overuse, it begins to wear on one’s mood and level of patience. Think of feeling as though each one of your nerve endings was exposed to the outside world. Consider how sensitive and vulnerable each sensation would feel. It is easy to see how this would eventually wear on your patience level leading you to become snappy and perhaps even angry.
Tense muscles Most of us don’t even notice how tightly we hold our bodies throughout the day. During times of stress and anxiety, we hold ourselves even tighter – clenching our jaw, tensing our necks, and keeping raised shoulders. This is the reason for many chiropractic and massage therapy visits!While tense muscles are usually a part of daily living, anxiety can keep our muscles in a constant state of strain leading to chronic pain and other health conditions.
Trouble falling and/or staying asleep If you are a perpetual list-maker you likely lie awake in bed at time making the list and crossing things off.As it pertains to anxiety disorders, waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble falling asleep are two of the most common anxiety symptoms.It is unclear whether or not insomnia contributes to anxiety, anxiety contributes to insomnia, or both influence one another.Some people also report either not dreaming at all or having “crazy” vivid dreams.
Panic Attacks Panic attacks are one of the most dehabilitating anxiety disorder symptoms as you can feel as though there is no escape once they have started.Panic attacks cause overwhelming and intense sensations of fear that sometimes appear to come out nowhere and/or are disproportionate to the situation. Recurrent panic attacks can be a sign of panic disorder and can affect the individual both emotionally and physically. Many emergency room visits related to anxiety are due to panic attacks.
Avoiding social situations
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
worried that you might be judged or scrutinized by others
fearful of being embarrassed or humiliated in front of others
feeling anxious or fearful about upcoming social situations
avoiding certain social events because of these fears
Social anxiety is rather common and can develop early in life. Those who suffer from social anxiety disorder may appear shy and standoffish. They can oftentimes appear to be fine on the outside but can be falling apart on the inside.
Those with social anxiety can be mistaken for “snobby” due to their aloofness but this disorder is often associated with depression, low self-esteem, and high self-criticism.
Those who live with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes, also known as panic attacks.
Natural Ways to Reduce Anxiety:
Limit caffeine Caffeine is a drug like any other and is responsible for elevated heart rate, racing thoughts, gastrointestinal problems, and sometimes anxiety.
Quit smoking Smoking is associated with an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Consume probiotics and fermented foods These items have been found to improve mental health. Ask your natural health practitioner which is right for you.
Eating a healthy diet A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts offers many of the same antidepressant effects that medication has to offer; however, diet alone is likely not enough to treat anxiety symptoms. Always consult with your medical physician.
Abstaining from alcohol There is strong link between anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse so it strongly advised to avoid and/or limit alcohol consumption, particularly for those who suffer from anxiety.
Meditation Connecting mind, body, and spirit allows the body and mind to operate in the way in which it was intended. Clearing yourself of distractions can oftentimes help you get to the heart of your anxiety and can effectively treat it.
Exercise regularly Studies show that regular, rigorous exercise substantially reduces symptoms of anxiety. Moderate exercise also has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms. 3-5 times per week is recommended.
Practice yoga Yoga combines body-mind connection emotional and physical exercises combined with relaxation techniques. Yoga is more than an exercise, it is a mindset and a lifestyle but participating in beginner classes is enough to reduce anxiety symptoms.
When to Seek Professional Help:
If you are suffering from moderate to severe anxiety, it is important to seek professional help.
If you experience one or more of the symptoms listed above and experience them more days out of the week than not for at least six months, it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
Regardless of how long you have been experiencing anxiety symptoms, if you feel that they are interfering with your ability to participate in daily life, you should seek professional help.
Ashley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and she is qualified to help treating your anxiety symptoms today.
Ashley prefers to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs which may include a referral to a medical doctor for medication assessment, cognitive behavioral techniques, natural remedies, or a combination.
Working with Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness can help you manage and reduce your anxiety symptoms as safely and quickly as possible.
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