Getting bouts of anxiety from time to time, like before a first date or a job interview, is normal since these emotions subside after a while. It is persistent anxiety that is concerning. Feeling anxious even after a date, job interview, or speech can indicate something else–an anxiety disorder.
If anxiety is something that you deal with, know that you are not alone. Approximately 19% of Americans have experienced an anxiety disorder, and about 31% will of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
Many of us usually think of sweaty palms and heart palpitations as symptoms of anxiety. But anxiety can manifest itself in other ways too. Most of the other signs go unnoticed.
- Jaw pain
Anxiety is usually not the first thing you may think of when you experience jaw pain or toothaches. You might usually blame a cavity or another dental problem, but jaw pain and toothaches can also be caused by anxiety. More specifically, bruxism. The pain is caused by bruxism or excessive teeth grinding or clenching.
Bruxism, excessive teeth grinding or clenching, is a byproduct of stress. When you are stressed, your whole body clenches up in preparation to fight or flight. Hence, teeth grinding and jaw pain. Studies support this theory, stating that there is a high index of anxiety among bruxers than non-bruxers. But, anxiety is not the sole mental health condition that causes bruxism. People with depression and neuroticism can also experience toothaches as a result of bruxism.
Bruxism is usually self-diagnosed and can be treated. Most teeth grinding activity happens overnight, so you may not notice it early on. Morning tooth pain is usually the first clue. If you wake up with jaw pain frequently, consider finding what is causing you stress. It may take some time, but always seek help from a licensed professional if necessary.
- Scattered thinking
Another sign of anxiety is scattered thinking. Anxiety floods your thoughts with negativity and doubts. Often, these thoughts are disruptive and can easily make you forget your surroundings. You can come off as scatterbrained or inattentive.
While intrusive thoughts can steal your attention, there is also another reason why you may feel scatterbrained. Anxiety can have neurological effects as well as physical ones. It affects your limbic system, specifically the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is known for executive functioning, but it is also responsible for social behavior. When you are anxious, your prefrontal cortex and other structures of your limbic system are impaired.
As a result, you may find that you lose the thread of a conversation or have trouble concentrating on a task. If this is something you deal with often, try to ground yourself in the present. There are many wonderful grounding techniques. The most popular one is box breathing: breath in for four seconds. Hold for four. Exhale for four, and then hold for four.
- Cold feet
I’m sure you have heard the term getting cold feet. There is a reason this popular idiom describes being nervous. When you are anxious, like right before getting married, your body jumps into fight or flight. This reaction triggers a cascade of neurological and hormonal shifts. One of them is that it tells your brain to release adrenaline. Adrenaline helps redirect your blood flow so that most of it is sent to your vital organs like your heart and lungs–so that you can escape. Consequently, your extremities start to feel cold.
- Impulsivity buying
Another sign of anxiety is impulsivity, in this case, impulse buying. However, impulsivity can manifest itself in many different like engaging in risky behavior.
Impulsivity, as a result of anxiety, can be due to various factors. The main one is that your orbitofrontal cortex, another branch of your limbic system, is affected. Studies found that anxiety increases the blood flow to that region, which consequently, increases activity. An increase in activity can lead to either impulse control issues–hoarding or impulse spending.
Additionally, anxiety affects your prefrontal cortex and makes it harder for you to make wise and well-thought decisions.
Impulse buying, as well as hoarding, are also forms of self-soothing. They provide a false sense of comfort and security. But, if you find yourself caving in and taking financial risks, please reach out to a therapist for help.
Irritability is a common sign of anxiety. However, it is a sign that we often overlook or ignore. Irritability is a sign that you are overwhelmed with stress.
Anxiety is associated with hypersensitivity meaning that you are more sensitive to your surroundings than usual, which may cause you to feel more irritated than usual.
- Crying easily
One last sign that goes unnoticed is crying easily. Inexplicable bouts of crying can mean that you are overwhelmed by the situation you find yourself in. Not only is it due to a sensitivity to stress, but it also can be due to your fight or flight response. Technically, the correct terminology is the fight, flight, or freeze. Feeling stuck or freezing amidst a perceived threat can make you feel stuck and frustrated. Thus, making you feel more stressed and overwhelmed.
When you find yourself crying, let it go. Allow yourself to cry. Crying can release all of those you are holding on to. But, also try to find other ways to self-soothe when you are feeling anxious. If you ever need help or guidance, please reach out to a therapist.
Anxiety is quite common and is definitely manageable. If you ever need help, please reach out to a therapist.
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