Some people just know they have anxiety the same way they know they have blonde hair, or blue eyes, or a fondness for chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. But for others, the signs might be more subtle — or, if you grew up in a family or culture that places less emphasis on mental health, you may not even know what signs to search for.
If you’re debating whether you have anxiety, let’s start with the simple truth: You probably do. Most non-anxious people don’t worry about if they do or do not have anxiety!
But if you’re still wondering whether you’re anxious, below are some symptoms to clue you in.
Common Signs of Anxiety
Do you ever find yourself irritated with people or situations — and you’re not quite sure why? Maybe your fingers start drumming once church runs 10 minutes late, or you shut down in group situations after a single awkward moment. Excessive agitation is a sign of anxiety: Chances are, deep down, your brain is whirring.
Not certain? Next time you find yourself irritated, try to take a moment for yourself. You can even hide in a bathroom stall for some quiet time, if you need to — we give you permission! Listen to your thoughts. Are they whirring? Panicked? That’s a clear sign.
Tiredness and fatigue
Are you super sleepy…all the time? Consider running this symptom by your doctor — but there’s a decent chance your tired eyes are caused by anxiety. Anxiety disorders directly affect sleep, and you might not even notice how seriously. Tossing and turning all night may seem obvious, but if you’re struggling to fall into deep REM sleep because of subtle-yet-persistent anxiety, it can affect you the next day.
The National Sleep Foundation has some great tips for sleeping well despite dealing with anxiety.
Fuzzy thoughts or difficulty focusing
If you spend too much time squinting at your computer during working hours, trying way too hard to come up with a simple word, you might be anxious. Brain fog and associated symptoms — like struggling to focus or short-term memory difficulties — are common symptoms of anxiety.
Think of your brain as a star MMA fighter, and anxiety is its headline opponent. Fighting all day is tiring. No wonder it has difficulty pulling a word from the depths of its gray matter. It’s busy telling your anxiety to be quiet for the six hundredth time!
Tight muscles and soreness
Anxious people instinctively clench their muscles — your jaw might be sore, you might have tense temples, and your legs may ache. It’s nothing to panic about. It’s a symptom of anxiety.
We’re not saying a massage will cure anxiety…but it won’t hurt, either. There is some science-backed evidence that muscle relaxation therapies actually help with the underlying worry. So don’t feel bad about booking your favorite masseuse.
No one’s shocked that panic attacks are a sign of anxiety — but do you even know you’re having a panic attack? Yes, a full-blown, high-powered panic attack is pretty hard to miss, but these awful events don’t always fit neatly in their described symptoms. Maybe you’re sweaty and cold all at once, and your thoughts are certainly racing, but you don’t feel a “sense of impending doom” (which is a you’ll know it when you feel it thing). Or maybe you’re super, super nauseous.
Keep an eye on your body’s reaction and your feelings the next time you’re having a frightening episode or your heart is racing. It may not be physiological — it might just be a panic attack.
Are you prone to last-minute cancellations? Do your friends know you as “The guy who never actually shows up”? Avoiding stress-inducing social symptoms is an incredibly common symptom of anxiety. Maybe you’re worried you’ll say the wrong thing, or that your friends don’t really like you. Either way, it seems easier not to go.
Knowing What You’re Dealing With Helps You Find A Solution
Accepting that you have anxiety can be difficult, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live a healthy, successful life. Now that you’ve identified the issue, you can start working with a therapist to find solutions to your struggles — and that will be one more thing to make your life so much less anxious.
Does therapy help anxiety?
Therapy can help reduce anxiety and provide you with tools to manage overwhelming thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common approach to treating anxiety, it focuses on altering the thought mechanisms behind the habits and behaviors that contribute to your anxiety while equipping you with coping strategies to reduce the overall impact of stress and worrying. Therapy can help you identify your anxiety and its triggers, as well as offer you constructive ways to cope with and reduce it. Those who receive therapy for anxiety are more likely to reduce their anxiety and lead a healthier life, compared to those who avoid treatment.