Traffic. Deadlines. Sick kids. Major life events, hardships, or tragedies (like a flood!). All of these experiences can, and do, cause anxiety. In fact, anxiety is something most people feel from time to time. It usually goes away in a relatively short period of time. For some people, however, their anxiety gets out of control, and they find it extremely difficult to manage. What’s worse – sometimes the distinction between normal worries and anxiety that might be indicative of an anxiety disorder isn’t clear cut. Here are some ways to tell if the anxiety you’re feeling goes beyond normal and some ways you might be able to manage it.
Signs and Symptoms Your Anxiety Isn’t Normal
Anxiety can manifest itself in a multitude of ways. Phobias, fretting, and social anxiety – these are all forms of anxiety that are fairly normal. But there are some signs to keep an eye on. If you find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms on a nearly consistent basis, talk with your doctor:
- Excessive worry or waiting for negative experiences even though nothing suggests they will occur
- Muscle tension
- Flashbacks of bad situations – reliving disturbing situations, such as the death of a loved one, can be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder
- Chronic indigestion
- Chronic trouble sleeping
- Irrational fears and phobias – for example, flying or heights – that you find impossible to overcome
- Social anxiety similar to stage fright
- Compulsive behaviors, such as repeating the same phrase to yourself over and over again or compulsively washing your hands
But anxiety, especially anxiety associated with a disorder, isn’t only an internal issue. It can manifest itself in very real physical symptoms that often cause the anxiety to worsen. Pay attention to these symptoms:
- Upset stomach
- Excessively pounding heart
- Shortness of breath
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and worry is interfering with your work, relationships, or other parts of your life, your anxiety is likely outside the normal limits of typical anxiety. Go talk to your doctor as soon as possible so you don’t have to deal with it alone.
If you’re diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, your doctor might prescribe medication to help control it, but there are steps you can take that can help you manage stress and situations in your life to lessen the intensity.
First, avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and recreational drugs, as they can worsen your anxiety and hinder your ability to deal with it.
To help keep worry, stress, and anxiety at bay, stay physically active. Exercise is an incredible stress reducer and mood enhancer. Sleep is also important. Strive for getting seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Eat healthy and use relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to help ease anxiety. When you begin to feel anxious, make a conscious effort to refocus your mind on something else and away from anxious thoughts. Most importantly, talk about your worries with your doctor or a licensed therapist. Bottling up your anxiety and emotions is a bad idea, so make sure you’re getting the help you need.
Dr. Adriana Gonzalez is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Pasadena Clinic. She believes in fully educating patients about all of their medical conditions and therapy options and works with them to formulate the best individualized health plans.