Anxiety isn’t rare. In fact according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) it affects “40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older.”
Merriam-Webster describes anxiety as “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”
In a clinical sense Anxiety becomes a disorder when it starts to have a significant impact on an individuals daily living. Biblically we know that we are encouraged to not be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:6) That can often be easier said than done.
Five things to think about how anxiety may be affecting your life
- Excessive Worry – The main symptom of an anxiety disorder is worrying. You can worry about everyday things, big or small. It also involves having anxious feelings that persist throughout the week or lasts for months. Worry starts to become problematic when it prevents you from going through your daily routine.
- Disrupted Sleep Patterns – Naturally, you’ll be nervous before a big game, a job interview or a final exam. What distinguishes normal nighttime worries and anxiety from normalcy is the frequency. If you find yourself lying awake in bed multiple nights a week with agitated or worrisome thoughts, you might have an anxiety disorder. These thoughts can be about real problems or nothing at all. Another sleep clue is if you wake up with a racing heart or mind and are unable to calm yourself.
- Muscle Tension – Continuous muscle tension is often associated with anxiety disorders. Muscle tension can include, but is not limited to, jaw clenching, raising your shoulders, making fists or moving various muscles throughout your body. This symptom can be so persistent that it becomes a part of your daily life. If you’ve had these tendencies for a long time, you may not even notice them anymore. One of the quickest remedies for managing muscle tension is regular exercise.
- Persistent Indigestion – Anxiety doesn’t just affect your mind; it can also spread to other parts of your body and cause physical issues. Anxiety can worsen symptoms of abdominal cramps and pain that literally make you feel sick to your stomach. People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sometimes suffer from anxiety, which can worsen their symptoms.
- Panic Attacks – Panic attacks happen when you feel overwhelmingly fearful and hopeless with physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, chest pain, hot or cold flashes, light-headedness, and sweating. These episodes can last for several minutes. You might start to dread when your next attack will happen and try to elude places where previous ones occurred.
Don’t be afraid to reach out.
If some or all of the symptoms above describe your situation, you are likely dealing with anxiety. If you are struggling with symptoms of an anxiety disorder it is not uncommon to feel alone and misunderstood. Because the fear that people with an anxiety disorder have is not experienced by others, they may not understand why, for example, being in a crowd of people, not being able to wash your hands after meeting a new person, or driving through the street where you got in a car accident can be really anxiety-provoking for someone with an anxiety disorder. Talk with your doctor, or a mental health professional to help you with the proper treatment plan. Reaching out will be the first step to get on track to managing the symptoms so you can get back to living your life. Someone familiar with anxiety disorders should be able to talk you through what your options are.