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I’ve been struggling with anxiety since I was a young child. What I once thought was just shyness turned out to be social anxiety. My social anxiety was so severe at one point that I couldn’t leave the house. Throughout the many years I’ve received mental health treatment, I’ve been diagnosed with both social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In the past, I’ve also struggled with frequent panic attacks. 

Anxiety can be debilitating. It can cause you to worry excessively and live in fear. There will be moments when we all experience anxiety. This can be related to school, work, family, or other responsibilities. For those living with an anxiety disorder, feelings of worry or fear linger and interfere with daily life. 

To know if you need to seek treatment for anxiety, it’s important to recognize the symptoms. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders and Their Symptoms Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about different aspects of life. Symptoms include:

Feeling restless, wound up, or on edge

Being fatigued or lightheaded

Experiencing irritability 

Having difficulty concentrating

Excessive worrying or anxiety about various things

Having sleep problems

Perceiving situations and events as threatening even when they aren’t

Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible outcomes of a situation

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes fear and anxiety in social situations. Individuals who struggle with social anxiety may avoid social interactions that could trigger them. Symptoms include:

Fear of situations in which you may be judged negatively

Worry about embarrassment or humiliation

Pounding or racing heart

Stomachaches

Blushing, sweating, or trembling

Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers

Avoidance of doing things or speaking out of fear of embarrassment 

Muscle tension

Analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions after a social situation

Panic Disorder 

Individuals with panic disorder experience frequent and unexpected panic attacks. Those struggling with panic disorder may worry about their next attack and avoid situations or places that could cause one to occur.  Symptoms of a panic attack include:

Pounding or racing heart

Hyperventilating

Sweating

Trembling or tingling

Chest pain

Feelings of impending doom

Feelings of being out of control

Nausea

Dizziness or lightheadedness 

Feeling of detachment

Hot flashes or chills

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a terrifying or traumatic event. Sometimes symptoms may not appear until months or years later. Symptoms include:

Vivid flashbacks

Intrusive thoughts or images

Nightmares

Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event

Changes in mood

Physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, and trembling

Feeling tense or on edge

Difficulty sleeping

Having angry outbursts

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is characterized by a pattern of intrusive, unwanted thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviors (compulsions).

Obsessions in OCD may include:

Fear of contamination by people or an environment

Unwanted sexual thoughts or images

Fear of causing harm to yourself or someone else

Extreme worry that something is not complete

Need for order, neatness, symmetry, or perfection

Compulsions in OCD may include:

Excessive cleaning or handwashing

Arranging or ordering things in a particular way

Repeatedly checking things, such as constantly checking if the door is locked or the oven is off

Constantly seeking approval or reassurance 

Rituals related to numbers, such as counting, doing a task a certain amount of times, or excessively preferring or avoiding certain numbers

6 Signs It’s Time to Seek Treatment for Anxiety 1. Your Excessive Worry Is Negatively Impacting Your Life

If you’re worrying and overthinking so much that you’re unable to function, it may be time to seek help. Worrying excessively can get in the way of living a fulfilling life. Working with a mental health professional will allow you to receive the proper diagnosis, get to the root cause of your anxiety, and learn healthy ways to cope.

2. Your Fears Are Preventing You From Performing Daily Tasks

Certain anxiety disorders can cause you to feel immobilized with fear. When my social anxiety was at its worse, I avoided going out to public places. I felt much safer in the comfort of my home.

When you live with an anxiety disorder such as social anxiety, the fear you experience may be crippling and keep you from getting things done.

Specific phobias may cause you to avoid people, places, or things that trigger anxiety.

3. You’re Having Panic Attacks

The first time I had a panic attack, I was terrified. I was sure I was dying. This incident was followed by a series of panic attacks that continued for several years.

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know how frightening the experience can be. You should speak with a mental health professional if you regularly have panic attacks. 

4. You Experience Physical Symptoms

Despite what some may think, anxiety is not all in your head. Mental and physical health are connected, and excessive worrying can physically take a toll on you.

Some individuals may experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, muscle tension, and headaches. 

5. You Have Trouble Sleeping

Getting a good night’s rest is essential to managing your mental health.

Not being able to sleep due to anxiety can severely affect your health. It can affect your mood and lead to other health complications.

My anxiety is typically worse at night. I have chronic insomnia, too, so sometimes I’ll lie awake, and my mind races, preventing me from falling asleep. 

Aside from seeking professional help for sleep problems caused by anxiety, some steps you can take for better sleep habits include:

Using relaxation techniques such as meditation (I like yoga nidra, which is a guided meditation practice that helps calm the mind and body), restorative yoga, and aromatherapy

Creating a bedtime routine

Avoiding caffeine late in the day

Creating a consistent sleep schedule

Setting up your room for sleep

6. Your Relationships Are Impacted

Having an anxiety disorder can affect relationships. Symptoms like irritability, mood shifts, excessive worry, and fear may cause damage to your relationships if not treated. 

One way this shows up in my relationships is my constant need for reassurance. In romantic relationships, I often wonder if my partner really loves me or if they’ll eventually leave. 

If you’re struggling to manage your symptoms and it’s affecting your relationships, there are treatment options that can help.

Treatment for Anxiety

It may not feel like it, but you can have an anxiety disorder and still thrive. Not treating anxiety can cause it to progress. Treatment for anxiety consists of therapy or medication and sometimes both. It’s important to discuss all your symptoms with your mental health provider so that they can choose the best treatment option for you. 

Therapy can help you learn how to manage your symptoms. Taking medication can feel scary, but it can be a great option if anxiety severely affects your life. If you decide to go on medication, be sure to research any potential side effects.

Anxiety is difficult to live with. It’s not as simple as just telling yourself to stop worrying. With the proper treatment, self-care strategies, coping skills, and support system, you can begin to take your life back. Anxiety doesn’t have to overpower you.

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