According to the Anxiety Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of the U.S. population).
But how can you tell if you are one of the 40 million suffering from an anxiety disorder, because everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time. And how can you tell if your everyday anxiety has crossed the line into a disorder?
Anxiety comes in many different forms – such as a phobia, social anxiety or a panic attack and the distinction between an official diagnosis and “normal” anxiety isn’t always as clear. Anxiety may start in the mind, but it often manifests itself in the body through physical symptoms.
Signs you may be suffering from anxiety disorder:
1. Excessive worrying – Stressing too much about everyday things, large and small, enough that it interferes with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms such as fatigue.
2. Problems sleeping – If you chronically find yourself lying awake, worried or agitated about specific problems, or nothing in particular, or if you wake up feeling wired, your mind is racing, and you’re unable to calm yourself down.
3. Muscle Tension – Whether it consists of clenching your jaw, balling your fists, or flexing muscles throughout your body – these physical symptoms often signal anxiety disorder.
4. Chronic Indigestion – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a condition characterized by stomach aches, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea.
5. Stage Freight – Fear of addressing a group of people or being in the spotlight, and no amount of coaching or practice will alleviate it or if you have spent days/weeks leading up to the event worrying about it, this type of anxiety is also known as social anxiety.
6. Self Consciousness – Social anxiety disorder doesn’t always involve speaking to a crowd or being the center of attention. In most cases, the anxiety is provoked by everyday situations such as making one-on-one conversation at a party, or eating and drinking in front of even a small number of people. On these occasions, the person tends to feel like all eyes are on them and they experience blushing, trembling, nausea, sweating or difficulty talking.
7. Panic – Panic Attacks can be terrifying: sudden, gripping feeling of fear and helplessness that can last for several minutes, accompanied by scary physical symptoms like breathing problems, a pounding or racing heart, tingling or numb hands, sweating, weakness or dizziness, chest or stomach pain, and feeling hot or cold.
8. Flashbacks – Reliving a disturbing or traumatic event – a violent encounter, the sudden death of a loved one – is a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which shares some features with anxiety disorders. Until very recently, in fact, PTSD was seen as a type of anxiety disorder rather than a stand-alone condition. Flashbacks may occur with other types of anxiety as well.
9. Perfectionism – The finicky and obsessive mind-set known as perfectionism “goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders,” if you are constantly judging yourself or you have a lot of anticipatory anxiety about making mistakes or falling short of your standards. Perfectionism is especially common in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which, like PTSD, has long been view as an anxiety disorder.
10. Compulsive Behavior – In order to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person’s obsessiveness and intrusive thoughts must be accompanied by compulsive behavior, whether its mental (telling yourself “it’ll be all right over and over again”) or physical (hand-washing, straightening items). Obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior become a full-blown disorder when the need to complete the behaviors – also known as “rituals”-begins to drive you life…if you like your radio volume at 4 and it breaks and gets stuck on 5, would you be in a total panic until you could get it fixed?
11. Self-Doubt – Persistent self-doubt and second-guessing is a common feature of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. In some cases, the doubt may revolve around a person’s identity, like “What if I’m gay?” or “Do I love my husband as much as he loves me?”
If you suffer from any number of these mental health issues you should consult a physician.