You hear it all the time. “It’s okay to be nervous.” And to an extent, people are right. Everybody gets nervous before a big event. Whether that’s public speaking, hosting a dinner party, or meeting the in-laws. It’s natural, and sometimes it helps to have adrenalin running through your body and giving you energy to feed off of. However, when these anxious feeling start impacting you in a debilitating way, your everyday anxiety may have crossed the line into a disorder. But how can you be sure? In truth, you can’t really be sure. But if you experience any of the following symptoms, you may want to see a doctor.
1) Excessive worry
The most recognised symptom of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is excessive worry. This means worrying about everyday things for a prolonged period of time. For me, this included fretting over handing homework in on time, double and triple checking that my dogs water bowl was filled up, and feeling like I had 100 things on my mind all the time. I was always a nervous person, so I didn’t really notice that much of a difference in my feelings until I found it difficult to go to school. It got to a point where I couldn’t remember the last time I felt at ease, this is often the case with people suffering with untreated anxiety, so it’s important to know your feelings.
2) Difficulty falling asleep
This was a massive problem for me. Often, when you’ve got a big event, the night before it’s difficult to sleep. Your brain won’t stop churning thoughts over, and that’s normal. But I found myself tossing and turning almost every night, my mind bouncing from one thing to the other, unable to quieten. And once I did eventually drift off, my dreams would be disjointed and I’d often wake to tears on my cheeks. Not having enough sleep then made me more anxious, as I wasn’t sure what was going on with my body.
It’s okay to take pride in your work, but beginning to obsess over it is when it could be linked to anxiety. This was probably the biggest indicator that my anxiety was damaging my overall well-being. If I had an assessment in school, I would stay up all hours of the night to do extensive research, aiming to be the best in the subject. I’d also have an incredible amount of self-doubt over my work, often not wanting to hand it in, in case of criticism. Worrying about my grades would add to my sleepless nights, which in turn would add to my anxiety and overall mood.
4) Muscle Tension
Often when you’re anxious, your muscles tense up. Typically it’s jaw clenching, balling your fists, and bunching your shoulders up. When you’re feeling anxious for prolonged periods of time, this can lead to pain in your muscles. This indicates that it’s happening everyday. Because these symptoms can be so persistent, you don’t often notice when you’re doing them. But since you’re reading this now, check down your body and see if your body is tensing up. If it is, release the tension in your muscles.
5) Heart pounding
Physical symptoms can also play a massive part when you’re suffering with anxiety. Separate from panic attacks, which are often an isolated incident, a pounding heart when thinking or doing something that makes you nervous could be a sign of anxiety. This happened to me when talking on the phone. My hands started shaking, my mouth went dry and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. This didn’t lead to a panic attack, but I felt the similar dread and fear that accompanies a panic attack.
Anxiety is a very debilitating thing. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, then it’s best to get it checked by a doctor and get the help you need.
Edited by Viveca Shearin