How to Recognize Anxiety in Yourself

Three Methods:Recognizing Psychological SymptomsNoticing Physical SymptomsWatching for Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety is a psychological malady associated with feelings of tension, worry and dread. While a certain amount of anxiety is a normal feature of modern life, excessive anxiety can be extremely unpleasant, and can be harmful to long-term physical and mental health. Because anxiety can affect many aspects of the sufferer's sense of physical and mental well-being at once, and in subtle ways which may not seem related to anxiety, it can be difficult to identify when you are suffering the symptoms of anxiety. Understanding the physical and psychological symptoms of excessive anxiety, as well as the symptoms of intense, overwhelming episodes called anxiety attacks, is crucial for understanding the role of anxiety in your life.

Method 1
Recognizing Psychological Symptoms

  1. 1
    Watch for episodes of excessive or intense worry. Perhaps the most characteristic feature of anxiety is a long-lasting or intense feeling of dread and tension. Sufferers of anxiety often find themselves worrying constantly, even when they have nothing in particular to worry about. Worrying is often accompanied by physical tension and jitteriness, and is characterized by a pessimistic attitude, and an anticipation of the worst outcome in the situation causing the worry. [1]
  2. 2
    Identify feelings of blankness or being unreal. One of the most bizarre feelings associated with excessive anxiety is a feeling of detachment, or unreality, especially in situations where the anxiety sufferer is overwhelmed by the source of his or her anxiety. During such episodes, you feel utterly disconnected from others, and from the world around you, and you may find yourself unmotivated to do much of anything. [2]
    • For example, feeling as if your emotions and motivations have been turned "off", as if by the flip of a switch, following an episode of intense worry or stress may be a sign that you are experiencing excessive anxiety.
  3. 3
    Recognize episodes of fear or panic. The fear or panic may be associated with a real situation from your life, or may simply manifest as a general fear, such as of death, or loss of control. Alternatively, the fear may have no source you can identify. This fear may prove difficult to control, and difficult for others to comfort, which makes it one of the most debilitating symptoms of anxiety.[3]
    • If difficult or stressful situations — be they social, financial, or work-related, cause you to feel overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with your problems — you may be experiencing the effects of excessive anxiety.
    • It is normal to sometimes be troubled by thoughts of death and dying, either your own or that of someone close to you, but if these thoughts begin occurring with such frequency or intensity that they distract your from important activities or prevent you from sleeping they may be a sign that you are experiencing an unhealthy amount of anxiety.
  4. 4
    Pay attention to your mood. The symptoms of anxiety can be very difficult to cope with, especially if they are frequent or severe. The resulting strain can make it difficult to maintain a calm or happy mood, which can strain work, school and personal relationships, and making it a challenge to enjoy a normal social life. [4]
    • Frequent anxiety sufferers often find themselves feeling irritable and display difficulty concentrating or participating in social interactions.
  5. 5
    Be attentive to avoidance behaviors. Regular sufferers of anxiety attacks will often find themselves fearful of situations which have, in the past, been triggers for stress or anxiety. If you find it very difficult to enter into situations which you associate with stress, or you often find yourself compelled to take significant steps to avoid such situations, this may indicate that you are experiencing an unhealthy level of anxiety.[5]
    • For example, if you find yourself often procrastinating school work, professional responsibilities, or social interactions because you fear being overwhelmed by the stress caused by these activities, you may be experiencing the effects of excessive anxiety.
  6. 6
    Be wary of drug and alcohol abuse. Self-medication, or use of unprescribed drugs and alcohol to treat the symptoms of illness, is common among chronic sufferers of anxiety. You should be honest with yourself regarding the role that drugs or alcohol play in your own relationship with anxiety. If you feel that your use of substances is out of your control, and is detrimental to you, it's important that you reach out to friends, loved ones, or medical professionals to help you deal with the problem before it impacts your health. [6]

Method 2
Noticing Physical Symptoms

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    Pay attention to unexplained discomfort and pain. Nausea, headaches, dizziness, and muscle soreness are all common symptoms of anxiety. If you regularly experience such discomfort, this may be a sign that you are experiencing excessive anxiety, especially if standard methods for relieving the discomfort are ineffective.[7]
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    Notice signs of physical tension. The body often manifests psychological strain physically, through symptoms like muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and breathing, trembling, and shortness of breath. Often experiencing such physical tension, especially in the absence of a non-psychological cause, such as vigorous exercise, may be a sign of anxiety. [8]
    • Fidgeting behaviors, such as tapping your hands and feet, grinding your teeth, or clenching your jaw may also be signs of anxiety-related physical tension.
  3. 3
    Be mindful of changes in your sleep patterns. Anxiety often has a very noticeable effect on how well you sleep, how much sleep you get, and how energized and alert you feel after sleeping. Oversleeping and insomnia (a sustained problem getting to sleep and staying asleep) are both common anxiety symptoms. Oversleeping intentionally to escape worry, or being kept from sleep by an overly active, worrying mind are both classic problems for sufferers of anxiety.[9]
  4. 4
    Monitor your digestion. Your digestive system is very sensitive to changes in your physiology, including psychological changes like experiencing anxiety.[10] Anxiety is often associated with frequent feelings of nausea, as well as frequent urination or diarrhea. [11]
    • Many anxiety sufferers experience a frequent or even constant queasy feeling, much like the pit-in-your-stomach sensation associated with a stressful realization.
  5. 5
    Be aware of fluctuating appetite and weight. Anxiety often affects what, and how much, you want to eat. If you notice that you are often not hungry, or simply not motivated to eat, this may be a sign of anxiety. Conversely, frequent overeating, especially as a distraction from worry, can also be a manifestation of anxiety. [12]

Method 3
Watching for Anxiety Attacks

  1. 1
    Watch for episodes of snowballing or overwhelming worry. For sufferers of anxiety attacks, the feelings of worry and dread associated with anxiety can "snowball", becoming so intense that they overwhelm everything else, and leave the sufferer stunned, panicking, and unable to process what is going on. These episodes are often brought on by high-stress events or situations, are extremely unpleasant and bewildering, and can last from a few minutes, to hours or even entire days. [13]
    • Anxiety attack sufferers often experience a "deer-in-the-headlights" feeling of being stunned and unable to decide how to respond to a stressful situation.
  2. 2
    Watch for intense physical tension or discomfort. Sufferers of anxiety attacks often experience sharp drops or increases in body temperature (hot or cold flashes), as well as feelings of intense shortness of breath or rapid, erratic heartbeat. [14]
  3. 3
    Be mindful of obsessive thinking. Anxiety attacks are often accompanied by obsessive thoughts, which are intense, and unwanted thoughts associated with a problem, worry, or stressful situation. During an anxiety attack, these thoughts may seem to engulf the sufferer, making it difficult or impossible for them to focus on anything else.[15]
    • While these obsessive thoughts may be associated with a concrete problem in the sufferer's life, they can also be much more abstract. For instance, the obsession may be centered on a disturbing or stressful image or sound which becomes "stuck" in the sufferer's mind, preventing thought of anything else.
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    Consult a medical professional. Anxiety attacks are painful, and often debilitating. The physical and emotional strain associated with regular, intense anxiety can also have long-term effects on your health. If you are struggling with anxiety , you should talk with a medical doctor, psychiatrist, or counselor about your symptoms, and possible treatments for anxiety. [16] The simple act of asking for help from others can help alleviate your symptoms, and set you on a path for less-stressed living.

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Categories: Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management | Anxiety Disorders