What is anxiety?
People often confuse the feelings of anxiousness, nervousness, and stress. Anxiety is regular, excessive worry and/or fear about everyday situations. Nervousness is being easily alarmed and/or agitated – it can often describe a person’s aura or is referenced when you say you have “butterflies”. To feel stressed is to feel mental or emotional strain/tension. So, if you do not have daily, excessive worry and/or fear then you probably do not have anxiety.
Here are 13 signs of anxiety you might not know before.
You fidget or shake
Anxiety often causes the body to shake uncontrollably – not your entire body, just parts, usually. For instance, you may tap your foot/shake your leg when you are sitting down. Or, your hands and/or fingers may start to tremble.
Sometimes you just feel like you need to do something. For example, to keep your hands occupied you might play with a hairband or your necklace. To keep from scratching yourself (this happens without your knowledge, usually) maybe invest in a fidget cube or a fidget tangle.
And, if anyone says anything about your restlessness, be honest and tell them that you cannot help it. Do not apologize for it and try to force stop it – it will make the anxiousness worse.
You fall into “attacks”
Symptoms of an anxiety attack or a panic attack would look similar to, but does not have to include all of, the following; shaking, senses heighten (lights become too bright, the white noise around you becomes deafening, etc.), breathing becomes more rapid and short, you feel flushed, chest tightens, feels like everything is closing in on you, you feel out of control, and so on.
It is helpful to know the difference between anxiety and panic attacks in order to react effectively. Anxiety attacks are a response to a perceived stressor and/or threat. Panic attacks almost always occur without a trigger.
If you ever catch yourself falling into these kinds of episodes, take a deep breath. Ground yourself by naming five things you see, four things you feel, three things you hear, two things you smell, and one thing you taste. Breathe in six, out ten. Close your eyes. Relax your muscles.
You feel embarrassed or shameful easily
If you feel this way in simple situations like; speaking to authorities, presenting in front of people, or meeting new people, that is normal. Now, if you feel that same shame and embarrassment while you do normal, everyday things, that could be another story. If talking to a certain person, or being given constructive criticism have you red from embarrassment, this may be a form of anxiety.
A way to avoid these situations – without becoming asocial/antisocial – would be to take a deep breath and gather your thoughts before you speak. Another way would be to remind yourself that everyone around you is getting through the day, just like you. They may even have those same reactions.
You worry constantly
Now, I do not mean worrying about your ill grandparents or about your okay grades – I mean every day, no matter what, your brain finds something to worry about. For example, you start thinking about one thing – your grades – but then it snowballs. Eventually, you are worrying about how you will feed your future kids if you do not fix your high school grades now. Anxiety likes to take small things and make them bigger than they need to be.
Again, take a deep breath and ground yourself. Do not focus on the future, focus on the now. If you find yourself procrastinating on projects (or anything else) because you worry you will not do it perfectly (or another reason) then try to push past procrastination. Tell yourself that if you start now, you can fix things later but if you start later, you will not have time to fix things.
You feel irritable, a lot
A lot of the time anxiety comes with heightened senses and that leads to easy irritability. If someone starts speaking to you, you may hear exaggerated “s” slurring or a frequency that you had never noticed before.
You may also become irritable because you have pent up stress and worry. When you keep things in, they will take over your thoughts. Thus, when anyone tries to talk to you, your brain is too full of these stressful thoughts and them talking, giving your brain more information, is difficult.
Just make sure the people around you know that it is not them (unless it is). And remind yourself that this is not your feelings, it is (possible) anxiety.
You have an irrational fear
Irrational fears, or phobias, are intense uncontrollable fears that often have no real reason of formation – they just exist. Phobias can be of objects, (types of) people, or situations. An example would be arachnophobia – the irrational fear of spiders. Now, no one really likes spiders but arachnophobes will do anything they can to avoid a spider. If they see a spider they will most often fall into a type of anxiety/panic attack out of fear and stress.
Phobias are real and scary to the person that holds them. If you want to try to overcome one, try to slowly expose yourself to it and desensitize yourself. If you just want to know how to calm yourself when your phobia creeps up on you, deep breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth, in order to slow your heart rate.
You need to perform rituals
No, I do not mean witchcraft, I mean little actions that you feel you need to do or something bad will happen. This would ultimately be something like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). If you feel the need to perform rituals but you are not scared of a consequence, this is more anxiety based. An example of a ritual might be handwashing or turning a knob. With OCD, you may feel the need to do it otherwise the world will end. If you “need” to do the ritual but are not scared of a consequence, you will just feel extremely uncomfortable if and/or until you do it.
If you are trying to break these rituals then props to you, that is a tough thing to do. Keep reminding yourself that you are okay and nothing will happen if you do not wash your hands for exactly seven minutes every time. Repeat it to yourself, that nothing bad will happen. Even say it outloud so it feels more “real”. Be easy on yourself and remember to breathe.
You cannot concentrate
When you are in school or at work are you constantly thinking about the future? Or about what things might be going wrong at home right now? Anxiety tends to be distracting. One minute you are reading an article and the next you are wondering if anyone noticed you fumble your words earlier or if your co-worker thinks you are weird.
When you realize your thoughts have travelled, remind yourself that it happens and it is okay, and refocus yourself. If this begins affecting your work then speak to a counselor or someone you work for.
You never get a good night’s rest
The average amount of sleep we are supposed to get each night is seven to nine hours. But, maybe every time you lay down in bed you think of everything you could be doing in that moment. This gets your heart racing and then you are not so ready for bed because now you have to clean your room and work ahead with schoolwork, and so on.
When you begin feeling this, shut your eyes again, and tell yourself it is time to sleep. Do a deep breathing exercise and try to keep your focus on your breathing. Or, honestly, imagine counting sheep – it works.
You feel like you are watched
This is more of a paranoia type of anxiety. You might feel like you are constantly being watched by someone or something. Walking through a hallway, it feels like every other person is looking at you. Standing in a dimly lit room, it might feel like there is something in the shadows.
Breathe. Remind yourself that it is only your mind playing a trick on you. Try to laugh it off. Remember that everyone in that hallways is doing their own thing, no one is looking at you unless you have done something to bring attention. And, nothing is in the shadows, silly brain.
You feel tense
Anxiety can cause your body to be tense, constantly. This often develops when someone has experienced a trauma. If you touch their shoulder, they will probably flinch because they are tensed up.
If you feel like this, try not to freak out, as it is most likely just a friend/partner/loved one. Take deep breaths and remind yourself that you are in the here and now, not back in the traumatic time.
You break into hot and/or cold sweats
If you are breaking into hot and/or cold sweats, and you know you are not physically ill, you may be experiencing a side effect of anxiety. A lot of the time anxiety attacks and/or panic attacks come with hot sweats. And, cold sweats usually come with a sinking feeling in your stomach when you get bad news, or something of the source.
When these occur, remember to keep breathing and focus on that. Try fanning yourself or covering yourself in a blanket until the hot or cold sweat passes. You can do this, it is not the end of the world.
You feel like something is wrong with you
People with anxiety are often extremely self conscious and are often scared that the way they process things is weird or that they are the only one feeling these things. So, you may think of a bad date memory you had repressed (because it was embarrassing to you) and you will continue thinking about it for months. The event happened years ago but you might still wonder and worry if the other person remembers and thinks how embarrassing it was. I can promise you they have forgotten long ago.
This is not strictly an anxiety thing, but it is definitely a big part of it. When you start worrying about things that are in the past, remind yourself of just that – they are in the past, you have made it past that.
Know that it is not “weird” to have anxiety, it is just something some people have to deal with. It is a disease and you may just need a little help to cope with as it can be debilitating and crippling.
Now, I am calling out the hypochondriacs (people that self-diagnose) – if you think you might have anxiety, that does not mean you have an anxiety disorder.
Maybe go to a mental health clinic to see if it is anxiety or if it is an actual anxiety disorder, these can be very serious.
If you do actually believe you may have a form of anxiety, talk to someone you trust or call one of the numbers below if you need to.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
Teens: 1-310-855-HOPE (4673) or 1-800-TLC-TEEN (852-8336)
And, just in case; Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
All in all, anxiety can seem really scary, I know. But, if you can recognize the signs and/or symptoms then you can find coping mechanisms and better yourself. Sometimes we just need to know “what is wrong” with us, and, usually, it is not that something is wrong with us, it is that a disease of sorts enters the mind quietly. It grows and, because we had not noticed it enter, we believe that it is us. It’s not. You are okay. You will be okay.