"How Do I Know if I Have an Anxiety Problem?"

People often present to us wondering whether they may have an anxiety problem. Often they find themselves bogged down in their personal or professional lives with stress. Family members or loved ones may encourage them to seek help with anxiety.

How much anxiety is normal?

Anxiety exists on a spectrum. On one end, there may be those with little to no anxiety. This in itself can be problematic, in that they may struggle with motivation to get things done or to be productive. Alternatively, they may also act as though everything is fine even when it is not.

In the moderate range, anxiety can lead one to perform when the pressure is on. When there are upcoming deadlines or potential negative outcomes, anxiety can trigger one to get things done. In these cases, however, an individual is able to “turn off” the anxiety when it is no longer needed.

Further along the spectrum, is the realm of “too much” anxiety. One may find themself ruminating or being preoccupied by various issues in one’s life. This may start to interfere with the ability to be “present” or to problem solve. This level of anxiety often feels as though one simply can’t “relax” or slow down one’s thoughts. It can lead to feeling easily overwhelmed or “frozen” when faced with challenges. It is also the most common cause of difficulty focusing or concentrating. This may lead to problems not just with productivity, but also to problems in interactions with others.  Individuals can appear inflexible or unable to emotionally engage. It may also lead to significant challenges with sleep, including problems falling and staying asleep, as well not feeling rested in the mornings. This level of anxiety can lead to avoidance of tasks or issues, in effect having the opposite effect as moderate levels of anxiety.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Constant and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress and interferes with daily life

  • Feeling wound up, on edge or restless

  • Feeling easily fatigued

  • Increased irritability

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate, or finding one’s mind goes blank when trying to do tasks

  • Avoiding social situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed or humiliated

  • Seemingly out of the blue panic attacks and preoccupation with the fear of having another one

  • Irrational fear or avoidance of something that poses little to no threat of danger

  • Sleep problems

  • Recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing related to a traumatic event

Treatments

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.  Ask your doctor if you think you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder.

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Disclaimer: The posts on this blog are for informational purposes only and do not replace direct care from your mental health care provider. Contact your mental health care provider for specific questions or concerns about your own mental health. All posts are copyrighted, and the views expressed on this blog are representative of the opinions of Pacific Coast Psychiatric Associates (PCPA) as an organization.

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