Life comes with challenges. So we all have periods of feeling a bit anxious.
But it's important to know when anxiety is out of control and we need support. Or we run the risk of developing a harder to treat anxiety disorder.
So what are the big signs of an anxiety problem?
Anxiety can be a very physical experience. In fact a high percentage of people who go to emergency worried about a heart attack, find out it's actually an anxiety attack.
So the more serious your physical symptoms, the more you should take your anxiety seriously. Look for:
Anxiety differs from stress in that it is far less logical. Often we don’t even know exactly why we are anxious. Or we find that small and unimportant things start setting off our anxiety - someone looking at us funny, a fire alarm in the building, a houseplant dying, anything.
Our thoughts become more and more dramatic, extreme, and negative, and then certain thoughts start to ‘loop’ and become obsessive.
That girl at work who gave you one dirty look becomes a huge storyline in your mind, as you notice every single think she does and says. Is she wearing red to warn you? Is she working overtime to make you look bad? And on it goes.
Of course when we are very anxious, we can not even see what is and isn't logic anymore. So it can be helpful to share your thoughts with a close friend and get their honest feedback.
Stress makes us worried, but anxiety makes us afraid. If all sorts of things that didn’t bother you too much before now cause a fear reaction? And set off many of the physical symptoms above? Your anxiety is out of control.
You are calm all day, and it's just at night you have worries that stop you sleeping. That isn’t anxiety, is it?
It most definitely is!
Some people have a capacity to block their anxiety in the day time only for it to roar to life at night. This does not mean your anxiety is any less serious. In fact 'night anxiety' can spiral out of control faster than day anxiety, simply because the less we sleep, the harder it is to handle things.
Suddenly in overplanning mode? Making ten calls about a single social event to make sure the taxi is booked, that nobody is wearing the same outfit as you, that the restaurant caters to allergies? Giving your one friend a list of things she can't say to the other?
Being organised is one thing. But anxiety, when it’s out of control, makes us start to see danger and negativity everywhere, meaning we go on endless damage control. Not fun for us, or those around us.
If only anxiety had us over focus and obsess on things that advanced our life, like work presentations and doing our taxes.
No such luck.
Instead we tend to obsess on illogic things and let important things slide. We miss rubbish day, don’t book the doctor’s appointment we need, start to eat poorly. Our self care goes out the window so we can sit around biting our nails and worrying if our parents will die before we do well at work, or the environmental crisis will lead to Armageddon.
This is really the main sign that you need to seek professional support for your anxiety (although really the sooner the better when it comes to anxiety).
Look for things like skipping social events you used to love, giving up your favourite hobbies like the gym or a language class because now they make you anxious, starting to take sick days at work or not volunteering for as many projects as before, and avoiding friends and family.
Time to face up to the fact that your anxiety is out of control and you need support? Use our easy booking tool now to find the perfect therapist for you and be getting help as soon as tomorrow.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy