While some anxiety is a normal part of life (sigh), when it’s accompanied by feelings of hopelessness or loss of control—or when it starts to interfere with your everyday functioning—it’s time to seek help from a professional therapist.
Scientifically speaking, anxiety is just your body’s natural response to stress.
The night before a big job interview, your first day of school, giving a speech in public, the suspense before a blind date—those are normal feelings of anxiety that we can all relate to. Right?
Even though anxiety is a universal human experience, when it goes off the rails, it can turn into a very real and serious condition that needs attention.
When anxiety starts to feel all-encompassing and lasts for a prolonged period of time, it crosses into a different category called an Anxiety Disorder.
If you have an inkling you might be experiencing Anxiety Disorder, here are some telltale symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
**Please note, only a mental health professional is qualified to diagnose these disorders, and diagnoses require a constellation of symptoms and other clinical thresholds to be valid. In other words, just because you experience some of these symptoms does not mean you have the disorder or meet criteria for a diagnosis. Please schedule an appointment with one of our anxiety experts if you have concerns.**
GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER (GAD)
Symptoms of generalized anxiety can include:
- Restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge
- Racing thoughts, ruminating, or obsessing
- Feeling easily fatigued or physically weak
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating or feeling like your mind often goes blank
- Sleep disturbance, difficulty falling asleep, or unsatisfying sleep
- Physiological symptoms (e.g. heart palpitations, chest pain)
- Profuse sweating or muscle trembling
- Uncontrollable worrying
Beyond these general symptoms, anxiety can manifest in many other ways too, including panic disorder/attacks, hypochondria, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Let’s break these down for you.
Panic Disorder is a condition that causes bouts of severe panic attacks. These episodes are experienced as “intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.”
Panic attacks can be super terrifying to the person experiencing them, and can even mimic the symptoms of an actual heart attack (yikes!).
Some individuals experience relief once the stressors in their life subside, but they usually indicate deeper, underlying issues that need attention to be resolved in the long term and prevent recurrence.
if the attacks continue beyond a one-off, you should reach out to a professional right away.
Symptoms of panic attacks can include:
- A looming sense of danger and doom
- Severe hot flashes
- Nausea and cramping
- Profuse sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- A feeling that you are not in reality or feeling detached from the world
HYPOCHONDRIA OR ILLNESS ANXIETY DISORDER
Hypochondria is a disorder now commonly referred to as “Illness Anxiety Disorder.” You may be more familiar with its noun form, “hypochondriac.”
Someone with Illness Anxiety Disorder excessively worries about having a medical condition, even without a substantiated diagnosis from a doctor.
Symptoms of illness anxiety disorder can include:
- Worrying that you suffer from a serious or life-threatening illness
- An excessive amount of anxiety, worry, and concern about your own physical or mental health
- Constantly checking your body for signs that you have an illness or a disease
- Avoiding trips to the hospital or the doctor’s office, or constantly changing your doctor or primary care provider
- Cyberchondria in which you frequently search the web to self-diagnose your perceived symptoms
- Lack of reassurance that you are well, despite being examined by a doctor and knowing that you are healthy
- If you have Illness Anxiety Disorder, and have been previously diagnosed with a disease or illness, it can lead you to believe your condition is worse than it actually is.
Some events that are believed to cause Illness Anxiety Disorder/Hypochondria can include a major stressful event in your life, a history of abuse or neglect during your childhood years, or even the loss of a loved one in your life due to a medical condition or illness.
Did you also know that eating disorders—including anorexia and bulimia— are categorized as anxiety-related disorders?
Anorexia nervosa, in a nutshell, is a disorder in which you see yourself as overweight even if you are really underweight.
Common symptoms include restricting what you eat, excessively weighing yourself, or forcing yourself to throw up the food you have eaten.
This disorder can be extremely dangerous, and you should seek help right away if you feel that you suffer from it.
Another common type of eating disorder is bulimia nervosa, which is marked by frequent episodes of binge-eating, followed by attempts to get rid of the food through forced vomiting, laxatives, or fasting.
Once again, this can be really harmful to your body, and can cause dehydration, chronic sore throat, or even worse effects on your health, so you should get help as soon as possible.
To learn more about eating disorders, please visit our dedicated page.
OUR ANXIETY THERAPY METHODS
The good news is, therapy can successfully alleviate all of these disorders by helping you minimize the anxiety in your life, identify and change underlying thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to your anxiety, and provide you with strategies to decrease discomfort while restoring an overall sense of peace.
To experience true and lasting joy in our life, we must face and conquer our anxieties once and for all.
See the About Therapy page for a deeper look into this process.
We also offer group therapy for anxiety, as well as more specific conditions that we previously mentioned, like panic disorder, illness anxiety disorder, and eating disorders.
Our evidence-based, scientifically proven interventions are demonstrated by research to be effective for overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Hypochondria/Illness Anxiety Disorder, and other forms of anxiety and stress.
Learn more about our empirically based therapy modalities by visiting our Methods page.
WANT TO TALK? SPEAK WITH AN ANXIETY EXPERT NOW
If you have any questions, contact one of our anxiety specialists for a free consultation any time.