Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Week 2023. Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in May each year, and in 2023 it will run from 15th-21st May. The last topic I covered for Mental Health Awareness Week was body image. The topic this year is anxiety, so I’ll be writing today about the 9 signs you may have dismissed that are actually signs of anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
It’s important to note that anxiety isn’t always something bad. It can work as an internal alarm that can protect us from danger, making low-level anxiety from time to time beneficial (Staner, 2003). A basic definition of anxiety comes from Craske et al. (2011), who defined anxiety as being a future-oriented state whereby a person is preparing for possible (real or perceived) upcoming negative events.
The main issue with clinical anxiety is that the feelings can come without being attached to any thoughts, which instead just clouds your day (Chelsea Psychology Clinic). That said, in my experience, there is often a link to something that happened in the past. This could be a result of bullying at school or issues at home. For me, mine could be traced back to both.
Signs Of Anxiety
- Being unable to sit still.
- Feeling on edge and restless.
- Feeling like something bad is about to happen.
- Feeling easily irritated/agitated.
- Feeling fatigued.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Tense muscles.
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia).
- Avoiding loved ones and social situations.
Anxiety Signs In Effect
The following are a few examples of how anxiety can affect you. So to start, if you’re struggling with your concentration levels, you can’t think clearly, or having trouble focusing, then this could be a warning sign of having anxiety. If left unchecked, this could affect your work/school performance. It can also impair your ability to make decisions (Healthline).
According to AnxietyCentre.com, anxiety can cause stress, as stress and anxiety have overlapping components. As such, the stress hormone, cortisol, can flood the body. If this happens frequently enough, then your body can remain in a state of emergency readiness. This can cause hyperstimulation, which can affect one or a group of muscles to remain tight. It’s this that can cause muscle tension.
The reason why anxiety can cause your heart rate to increase and hyperventilation is because your body is experiencing a hormonal rush, which can leave you feeling tired, sometimes even after resting (Healthline). Therefore, if you’re feeling exhausted even after rest, you could be experiencing anxiety. It can also be a sign of burnout, especially if you’re not experiencing rapid heartbeats and fast breathing at any point.
Unfortunately, for those with an anxiety disorder, there can be issues with insomnia. This can come in the form of sleep disturbances or nightmares (Staner, 2003), the latter is especially common in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, if you’re experiencing sleep issues, especially recurring nightmares that are linked to trauma, then you might have an anxiety disorder.
The most annoying thing about how sleep can be affected by anxiety is how sleep deprivation can worsen your anxiety, creating a negative cycle (Sleep Foundation). Before I worked through my childhood trauma, which was the main factor in my insomnia, my anxiety would be through the roof if I didn’t get at least four hours of sleep. And sky-high anxiety meant I’d experience prolonged psychotic episodes.
Irritability is another common symptom of all anxiety disorders. The body and mind of someone living with it can be overwhelmed with worry and hormones, causing them to be more irritable than usual (Priory). This is a problem because it can make it difficult to shrug off or ignore things, things that might be extremely trivial in nature. The result of this is people can be quick to anger. This is one of the concerns that can affect some people with PTSD.
If the fuse to your temper has shortened or you’re finding yourself bothered by things that wouldn’t normally bother you, then this could be a sign that you’re experiencing anxiety. So if you’re snapping at people for what seems like no reason, then it may be time to talk to your doctor. They’ll be able to help you figure out if you’re overstressed or suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety evolved in humans for a reason, to protect us from potential danger. However, in the modern world, the dangers this evolved to protect us from are rarely an issue anymore. Although it still has its uses as part of our survival mechanism, it can be turned into a pathological issue. This is often linked to some sort of traumatic event or has been taught to us at some stage in our lives. Whatever the cause, having an anxiety disorder can be extremely debilitating.
Knowing some of the common warning signs, as listed in this article, will mean you’re better prepared to notice when the symptoms start to develop. And, the sooner you seek support to address this, the better your recovery outcome will be. The early bird catches the worm and all that. Even if you do catch it late, you can still learn to manage it better and even overcome it, but it might take more time and effort to do so. That’s because it’s harder to replace a habit once it’s formed.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with anxiety in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Craske, M. G., Rauch, S. L., Ursano, R., Prenoveau, J., Pine, D. S., & Zinbarg, R. E. (2011). What is an anxiety disorder?. Focus, 9(3), 369-388. Retrieved from https://focus.psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.1176/foc.9.3.foc369 and https://focus.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/foc.9.3.foc369.
Staner, L. (2003). Sleep and anxiety disorders. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 5(3), 249–258. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2003.5.3/lstaner and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181635.