Many people experience anxiety at some point. It’s actually pretty normal to feel anxious in response to stressful situations such as switching jobs, important exams, break-ups or if you are having financial problems. However, when the symptoms of anxiety become more disruptive than the events themselves, this could be the sign of an anxiety disorder.
One of the most common symptoms of an anxiety disorder is excessive worrying, usually in response to normal, everyday situations. The worrying will usually be severe, making it hard for daily tasks to be accomplished, and typically it will occur almost everyday for a minimum of 6 months and be out of your control.
When you feel anxious your parasympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive which can raise your pulse and heart rate, heighten your senses, make your hands sweat, give you the shakes and even a dry mouth. This is the body’s fight or flight response and it happens when your brain believes it can sense danger. And while this would be a good thing if you were in a threatening circumstance, it can be exhausting if the fear is in your head.
Another common symptom of anxiety is restlessness, often described as feeling constantly ‘on edge’ or having an uncomfortable urge to move. This may not happen to everyone and it is most commonly seen in children or teenagers with anxiety. Becoming tired easily can also be a symptom of anxiety, especially following an anxiety attack or for some, the fatigue may be chronic. Neither restlessness or fatigue alone can be used to diagnose an anxiety disorder.
Many with anxiety report having a hard time concentrating, and the worse the anxiety the harder it is to concentrate however, concentration is also linked with a number of other medical conditions so again, this cannot be used to diagnose anxiety.
Irritability, trouble falling asleep, irrational fears, panic attacks and avoiding social situations are all common symptoms of anxiety too. Treating anxiety usually helps to improve sleep quality, however, it’s still unclear whether insomnia contributes to anxiety, if anxiety contributes to insomnia, or both.