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8 common anxiety symptoms you should know

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Experiencing anxiety once in a while is normal — so normal that a lot of us don’t notice when normal anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder.

We’re all unique, so only a professional mental health care provider can diagnose an anxiety disorder and discuss ways to treat it.

But knowing about common anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorder symptoms can help us understand the difference between anxiety that we can manage individually and anxiety disorders that need professional help.

Common anxiety signs and symptoms

People who experience anxiety often describe:

      1. Feeling restless
      2. Breathing quickly and shallowly
      3. A faster-than-usual heart rate
      4. Trouble focusing on routine tasks
      5. Feeling tense and tired
      6. Sweating more than usual
      7. Difficulty sleeping
      8. An upset stomach

When we experience these normal signs and symptoms of anxiety, we often know the cause of our anxious feelings. Maybe it’s a relationship, a big presentation at work, a job loss, or grief.

When the cause of the anxiety subsides, we expect the symptoms to go away, too.

But if they don’t go away — or if we’re not sure what’s causing the anxiety in the first place — we could have a bigger problem.

Anxiety disorder symptoms

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder look and feel a lot like the symptoms of normal anxiety.

So how can we know the difference?

With an anxiety disorder, the symptoms of anxiety become a way of life. People who suffer from anxiety disorders often have to plan their lives around their symptoms. The symptoms interfere with the normal rhythm of daily activities.

It can seem as though the symptoms of anxiety have no definite cause. A disorder might feel this way because the causes and effects of anxiety intertwine and become harder to distinguish.

Even a success — like getting a new job or making a good grade on an assignment — can prompt more worries about performing poorly on the job or failing the next assignment. 

Types of anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders can fall into several categories, including:

    • Generalized anxiety: Someone with generalized anxiety disorder worries about a wide range of possible perils. Anxiety can be rooted in anything from personal to global issues — from job performance or financial setbacks to world politics or the environment.
    • Phobias: Adults who have intense and ongoing fears about specific things — like dogs, the dentist, or heights — may suffer from a phobia. People with phobias either avoid the object of their fear, at any cost, or suffer intense anxiety symptoms upon encountering the object of their fear.
    • Social anxiety: Someone with social anxiety disorder experiences intense and continuous symptoms of anxiety that are connected to social situations. This can be situation-specific: a person can be comfortable around friends and family but anxious in public or around strangers.
    • Panic disorder: Anyone can experience a panic attack. Someone with a panic disorder becomes anxious about the possibility of having another panic attack and avoids any situation that could trigger an attack.
    • Separation anxiety: An intense fear that something bad will happen to a friend or family member, especially when that person is out of sight.

In case you’re wondering, post-traumatic stress disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders are also considered anxiety disorders.

What to do about an anxiety disorder

First, know that help is available if you or someone you care about suffers from an anxiety disorder.

Counseling could help diagnose and find solutions to anxiety disorders. Mental Health Associates of the Triad in High Point, N.C. accepts new patients for outpatient assessments and therapy.

 If you live in another area, search for a similar agency near you, and if you can’t find a local provider, you might want to consider making an online appointment with a specialist. For mental health crises and emergencies, call 988 or reach out for help via their online chat service.

Other ways to help an anxiety disorder

There’s no substitute for advice and guidance that’s tailored specifically to your life and goals. Only a trained and licensed provider can offer this kind of help.

But the following general advice, adapted from our 20 Ways to Relieve Anxiety blog, can help if you’re struggling with anxiety:

1. It’s OK to be not-OK

There’s no need to try to “fix” anxiety right now. In fact, the inability to resolve the problem may make the anxiety even worse.

Instead, simply observe the symptoms. Make sure to breathe evenly and as deeply as possible.

2. Find someone who knows how to listen

Too many people equate listening with being quiet for a minute until it’s their turn to speak again. These kinds of listeners are quick to offer advice, and they might lose interest when their advice doesn’t help or isn’t followed.

True listening is a skill. It’s OK to ask the listener to simply listen and not try to solve any problems. 

3. Focus on what can be controlled

Everything may seem out of control during an anxiety attack. Can we control the pace of our breathing? If so, focus on controlling that. Count 10 breaths. Or count 50.

If the anxiety stems from a relationship, we can control only our own behavior and not the other person’s.

4. Try the 3-3-3 rule

Here’s a helpful way to slow high anxiety symptoms: the 3-3-3 rule.

      1. Look around and name 3 items within your surroundings.
      2. Name 3 sounds you can hear within your current environment.
      3. Move 3 parts of your body: Your index finger, your shoulders, and your toes, for example.  

5. Learn more about anxiety

The more we know about anxiety and anxiety disorders, the more we can know what to expect from them. This kind of knowledge can help us learn more ways to manage the symptoms, and more knowledge could even help prevent an anxiety attack.

Gaining more knowledge is another way outpatient consultations with a counselor can help identify and deal with anxiety.

Anxiety symptoms don’t have to define our lives

Anxiety can complicate an ordinary day and then subside on its own. Anxiety disorders, however, interfere with life almost every day, and disorders don’t tend to go away on their own.

Seeking help is the first step to taking control of anxiety disorder symptoms. Articles like this one and many others offer general guidance that can help manage symptoms.

But only a one-on-one conversation with a mental health expert can offer unique solutions to unique problems.

Reviewed by Karen Rudd, LMFT, LCAS

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