6 Signs of An Anxiety Disorder

The information in this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, images, and information, contained in this article is for general information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional.

Do you often find yourself getting so anxious it’s hard for you to function normally, and you’re afraid your problem might be getting out of hand? 

Anxiety disorder is a mental health condition characterized with excessive and intense worry, fear and panic, which makes it a lot different from mundane worries everyone gets from time to time. Also, sometimes people with anxiety disorder get so used to feeling anxious everyday, they don’t even notice the extent of which they’re experiencing those feelings. 

If you’re unsure if your worrying might actually be an anxiety disorder, read this article and see if you relate to some of the common signs of an anxiety disorder.

1. Automatic thoughts

Automatic thoughts, as the name suggests, come automatically, almost as a reflex, and it is hard for you to control them. Most of the time they are negative, and they always manage to bring you down. For example, you might do a small, tiny mistake at your workplace, that is not even a big deal, but your brain is automatically going to make you think “I’m so stupid”. Or maybe your friend cancelled lunch because they are sick or busy, but your anxiety will make your thoughts race with “they must hate me and don’t want to hang out with me”. These thoughts are surely unpleasant, but they are also irrational and excessive, and unfortunately, very common in anxiety disorders.

2. Indecisiveness

Is it hard for you to make up your mind about things? With anxiety disorder often comes indecisiveness. You just can’t decide what choice to make or how to behave, so you avoid making a decision. This can happen frequently with some everyday tasks, but also with some important life decisions. For example, a 2013 study found that high school students with a higher anxiety score were most likely to be indecisive about their future career goals. This can happen because, when you’re anxious, you automatically think the outcome of your choice will be negative. And because you’re so afraid of that negative outcome, you spend more time thinking about your decision and trying to find at least one choice that would satisfy your anxious brain.

3. Procrastination

Similar to being indecisive, if you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you might also be experiencing procrastination. It is a common sign of anxiety-related disorders, such as panic disorder. For example, you might worry about your next exam, but instead of studying for it, you decide to go out with friends instead. You might overthink your next job interview, but instead of preparing for it, you binge-watch Netflix. This may sound counter-intuitive, because, if you’re so scared about something, how come you’re not spending your time trying to perfect it? Again, the worry you feel gets too much to handle, and you just don’t know where to start. You feel so overwhelmed with whatever is waiting for you, that you simply put it all on hold, so you can feel at least a temporary bit of relief. But unfortunately, when the deadline is getting closer, you realize your mistake and your anxiety gets even worse.

4. Rumination

Do you often constantly think about a specific event, problem or a situation? Like, “what if something happens to me on my way to work” or “did I say something bad during that conversation”? Does it feel like you’re always in your head, unable to escape things, whether it’s reliving them or imagining possible situations? This is called rumination, and it is another sign you might suffer from anxiety disorder. Of course, if this happens from time to time, when you have something really important on your plate, it could just be a sign of a normal worry that will pass as soon as the situation is over. But when it happens so often that you feel you can’t shut your brain off, it can make it very hard for you to live a quality life.

5. Panic attacks

Excessive worry and fear may also make you experience a panic attack. Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear, during which you may feel like your heart is stopping, like something very bad is going to happen, or even like you’re dying. You can easily recognize it by some of its distinguishable physical and emotional characteristics:

  • rapid heart rate
  • intense sweating
  • shaking or trembling
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • numbness or tingling sensation
  • muscle cramping
  • feelings of unreality or detachment

After experiencing a panic attack, you may be scared to relive that experience in similar situations, and that fear could possibly trigger another episode, making it a vicious cycle of fear. Many people with anxiety disorder experience panic attacks, and if you are one of them, try to remember that they are harmless: you’re not going to die and nothing bad will happen to you. But of course, nobody wants to go through this, so make sure to ask for professional advice.

6. Upset stomach

Even though anxiety lives primarily in your head, it can spread throughout your body and leave some physical consequences. One of the most common ones is an upset stomach. The stress you constantly feel puts tension on your stomach muscles, making your stomach ache, or it can affect your hormone levels and mess up your digestion. Stomach pains connected to anxiety can often happen if you’re in the middle of a panic attack.

So if you’ve been experiencing problems with your digestion (like pain or even IBS), but your doctor isn’t sure there’s a physical problem causing it, it’s most likely connected to stress and anxiety.

Closing thoughts

Do you relate to some of these signs?

What’s important to know is that these symptoms on their own don’t necessarily mean you suffer from anxiety disorder. The most tell-tale sign is that the symptoms you’re experiencing are much more intense than with other people, and they are seriously making it hard for you to function normally in your everyday life. But, to be 100% sure, the best thing to do would be to visit a mental health professional and tell them what you’ve been experiencing. They would be able to evaluate your symptoms, and if it turns out you suffer from anxiety disorder, they will be there to help you cope. No matter how much you’re struggling, with the right person you will surely be able to overcome your worries!

Good luck and thank you for reading!

Written by: Stela Košić

If you wish to find out more about topics on anxiety, feel free to check out some of the videos from Psych2Go’s YouTube channel:

Refer to this list for studies mentioned and used in writing this article:

  • Hope, D. A., Burns, J. A., Hayes, S. A., Herbert, J. D., & Warner, M. D. (2007). Automatic Thoughts and Cognitive Restructuring in Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 34(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-007-9147-9
  • How Negative Automatic Thoughts Drive Social Anxiety. (2020, November 27). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-negative-automatic-thoughts-3024608
  • How to Overcome Panic-Related Procrastination. (2020, September 15). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/procrastination-and-panic-disorder-2584095
  • How to Stop Anxiety Stomach Pain & Cramps. (2021, February 12). Calm Clinic. https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/symptoms/stomach-pain
  • Lauderdale, S. A., Martin, K. J., & Moore, J. (2018). Aversive Indecisiveness Predicts Risks for and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression Over Avoidant Indecisiveness. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 37(1), 62–83. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10942-018-0302-x
  • Means-Christensen, A. J., Roy-Byrne, P. P., Sherbourne, C. D., Craske, M. G., & Stein, M. B. (2008). Relationships among pain, anxiety, and depression in primary care. Depression and Anxiety, 25(7), 593–600. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.20342
  • Olatunji, B. O., Naragon-Gainey, K., & Wolitzky-Taylor, K. B. (2013). Specificity of rumination in anxiety and depression: A multimodal meta‐analysis. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 20(3), 225–257. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0101719
  • Oztemel, Kemal. (2013). An investigation of career indecision level of high school students: Relationships with personal indecisiveness and anxiety. The Online Journal of Counseling and Education, 2, 46-58.
  • Panic attacks and panic disorder – Symptoms and causes. (2018, May 4). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021
  • Stöber, J., Joormann, J. (2001). Worry, Procrastination, and Perfectionism: Differentiating Amount of Worry, Pathological Worry, Anxiety, and Depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research 25, 49–60. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026474715384
  • Villines, Z. (2019, November 8). How to stop ruminating thoughts. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326944

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