13 Signs You Have Anxiety — and Don't Know It

Posted by Kerrie Denner

Just as some people feel depressed in the winter, some feel anxious. But how do you know whether your anxiety is a part of life or a serious mental health condition?

“Anxiety is a normal emotion that almost everyone feels,” Lawrence D. Needleman, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Ohio State University Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, told “But if it is persistent, and it’s interfering with important aspects of their lives, then people should seek attention for it.”

Although common physical conditions might be easy to diagnose with a number of tests, mental health disorders tend to be more complicated. In fact, doctors diagnose less than half of patients who meet the criteria for psychological disorders, according to the World Health Organization. Medical professionals often underdiagnose because they haven’t had sufficient training with mental illness, Dr. Needleman said.

But patients also need to seek out help.

“People who are suffering might not bring their problem to someone’s attention because of shame or embarrassment,” added Dr. Needleman. “(Patients) might also not recognize what their problem is — they might not realize it’s an underlying anxiety disorder.”

Approximately 40 million adults in the United States have some type of anxiety disorder, and many more might not realize it. Deciphering how your thoughts, feelings and fears compare to the average person can be difficult.

What signs of anxiety disorders might you have without realizing it?

  • Overreactions to Stress

Take a major storm event: If you go overboard preparing for and recovering the weather, it may be a sign of anxiety.

“Anxious thoughts or anxiety-provoking thoughts can often have to do with anticipating some negative or catastrophic event in the future,” said Dr. Needleman. “So people with anxiety disorder tend to overestimate these events or catastrophes and underestimate their resources.”

  • Difficulty Relaxing

An inability to relax, ease the mind of concerns and constantly carrying around stress could be a sign of an anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If stress-reducing techniques work for others, but don’t work for you, a stronger treatment might be required to treat a possible anxiety disorder.

  • Easily Startled
Jumping out of your chair at a showing of Paranormal Activity happens to plenty of people, and is not necessarily a sign of anxiety disorders. But experts classify an “exaggerated” startle response as a sign of anxiety, according to the NIMH.
Frequently feeling on edge and startled by even the slightest, unexpected event could mean you have an exaggerated startle response.
  • Difficulty Concentrating
A primary symptom of several mental health disorders, staying focused and concentrating on a task can be difficult for people living with anxiety disorders.
  • Trouble Falling or Staying Asleep
Sleeping problems and anxiety often go hand in hand. Not only can a lack of sleep worsen anxiety symptoms, but also difficulty sleeping can be a sign of anxiety disorders.
Both trouble falling asleep and trouble staying asleep could be one of the many signs that you have an anxiety disorder.
  • Feelings of Unreality
“Something people with anxiety experience is a feeling of unreality,” explained Dr. Needleman. “They feel detached from themselves or sometimes even feel out of body.”
  • Headaches
Anxiety disorders cause painful problems that many physical and mental conditions share. Identifying these as signs of anxiety, rather than other disorders, could be difficult, but a combination of these symptoms could represent an anxiety disorder.
“Many of the physical symptoms in isolation might just (lead people to) think they have headaches for whatever reason, or nausea because of a stomach bug,” said Dr. Needleman.
Generalized anxiety disorder can cause migraine headaches with severe pain felt on one or both sides of the head, just behind an eye or ear, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  • Muscle Aches and Tension
People with anxiety can commonly experience chronic pain, including diseases like arthritis and fibromyalgia. Symptoms of these conditions include pain, stiffness, inflammation and damage to joint cartilage.
  • Throat Problems
Feeling like something is stuck in your throat is known as globus hystericus. Stress and anxiety can cause this sensation, in addition to a feeling of tightness in the throat. These can contribute to difficulty swallowing.
  • Trembling
Trembling and shaking can be a symptom of anxiety, especially if a person feels like they can’t stop themselves. Tremors can be more pronounced when resting or trying to sleep, according to the Anxiety Centre.
  • Sweating
Sweating before a presentation doesn’t instantly mean a person has an anxiety disorder. But anxiety sweating can be a sign of a larger disorder if it is also associated with constant problems relaxing.
  • Nausea
Stress, fear and anxiety can cause a number of stomach and intestinal distresses, including nausea. These mental health conditions cause the body to function abnormally, resulting in an unsettled feeling in the stomach.
  • Urge Incontinence

Anxiety can cause frequent trips to the bathroom, especially for women, according to a study from Leicestershire MRC Incontinence Study Group. Researchers found that more than half of the study participants with urge incontinence showed other symptoms of anxiety.

Source: The Weather Channel
Accessed 2/20/2014
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