Anxiety isn’t fun for anyone. We all know what it’s like to feel our stomach do flips or to panic over things that we feel we have no control over. Some of us soak our clothes with sweat before a job interview or a presentation. Others have trouble gathering their thoughts and forming words, leaving them tongue-tied. More often than not, we notice these physical reactions to our stress. That poor sweaty interviewee usually takes a trip to the bathroom, dabs themselves with some paper towel, and takes a few breaths. The stuttering speaker may slow their speech down to make talking easier. But are we always so in-tune with our mental states? There may be some signs of anxiety that you’ve been ignoring. Here are 6 signs that you might have anxiety, and not even know it.
Are you prone to migraines, or long-lasting headaches? Have no fear, there are lots of others like you. If you have throbbing head pain that won’t stop coming back no matter what you do to treat it, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Or at the very least, chronic stress. Constant headaches and migraines are common for people who suffer from chronic anxiety.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, over 50% of those who have migraines also have anxiety! Don’t worry. If this sounds like you, there are a number of treatment options available. If over-the-counter pain relief doesn’t work for you, you might benefit from anti-anxiety medications or cognitive therapy.
Excessive Bathroom Use
Do you find that you’re constantly trying to find a bathroom before things like major exams, or crowded social events? Isn’t that never-ending need to urinate or poop, around these moments a little too coincidental? That’s because it probably is. A 2011 study revealed a strong correlation between a heightened need to urinate and anxiety.
Bladder all cleared out? Well, how does your stomach feel? Yes, having an unfortunate case of the runs, or even constipation can be due to anxiety. Kyle Staller, M.D., states that stress does, in fact, cause the irregularity of one’s bowels. Those nervous butterflies in your stomach are actually spasms in your intestinal tract, which can speed up the digestion process and give you diarrhea. Sometimes, those spasms only occur in one area of your system, leaving a blockage in another. Yup, that’s the beginning of constipation. If any of this relates to you, you might want to carry a laxative around with you. Or some wet wipes!
Ever feel sore in your neck or back? Do you sometimes catch yourself clenching your jaw? Do you find yourself constantly trying to stretch to relieve the tension in those areas? That body stiffness is most likely a product of stress. Body tension can be so long lasting that many people actually become used to their problem areas. Don’t become one of those people! Pain is your body’s way of telling you to de-stress. Forget about your anxieties and loosen those muscles with regular exercise. Activities like jogging, yoga or even a brisk walk can help to reduce muscle stiffness. Good habits like regular stretching and meditation also work wonders on the body. If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with investing in an appointment with a licensed masseuse every now and then!
Being a Perfectionist
There’s nothing wrong with striving to do the best that you can, but there is a difference between doing your best and trying to be the best. As useful as it is to be able to pay attention to incredible amounts of detail, attempting “perfect” is futile and can bring stress to just about anyone! If you are someone who needs perfect outcomes, in everything ranging from work projects to having the perfect relaxation day, you might be doing more harm to yourself than good. Psychologist Sharryn Muir links these behaviors to anxiety related to obsession over control, and fear of failure. Do you consider yourself a perfectionist? If so, it might be a good idea to relax, and remember that nothing and no one is perfect!
Having a Hard Time Trusting Others
Do you often find yourself feeling threatened or intimidated when you meet new people? Do you feel this despite all your other friends liking them? Maybe you tend to overreact to disagreements or arguments with other people. Your perception of events like these may be affected by anxiety. A 2016 study shows that people with anxiety are less able to differentiate between safe, and negative situations. One may believe they are simply being smart by keeping their guard up to protect themselves from possible social threats, but this guardedness stems more from a fear of being vulnerable and meeting new people.
Habits like biting or picking your nails may just seem like, well, habits. They are something to do to keep your mouth and hands busy. Some people don’t even realize they are doing it until someone else points it out. But nail biting is not always just a habit. For many, it is a reaction to stress and anxiety. People often bite their nails in an attempt to relieve tension. There are other common tics and habits that people hold onto as well. Common tics are things like hair or eyebrow pulling, itching a specific area of the body, and foot tapping, among many others.
How did you do? Were there any signs on this list that you’ve noticed whenever you feel anxious? Are there any interesting signs of anxiety that we’ve missed that you want to add? Leave a comment down below and let Psych2Go know!
Bogner, Hillary R., et al. “The Temporal Relationship between Anxiety Disorders and Urinary Incontinence among Community-Dwelling Adults.” Journal of Anxiety Disorders, vol. 25, no. 2, 2011, pp. 203–208., doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.09.003.
Laufer, Offir, et al. “Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms of Overgeneralization in Anxiety.” Current Biology, vol. 26, no. 6, 2016, pp. 713–722., doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.01.023.
Muir, Sharryn. “Perfectionism and Anxiety.” Adavic.org, 2014, www.adavic.org.au/PG-articles-perfectionism-anxiety-.aspx.
Smitherman, Todd, and Steven Baskin. “Anxiety and Depression.” American Migraine Foundation, 2016, americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/anxiety-and-depression/.
Tejada, Chloe. “This Is Why Stress Can Cause Diarrhea and Constipation.” Huffington Post, 2017, www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/08/30/stress-poo-diarrhea-constipation_a_23190742/.