Some symptoms of anxiety disorders are obvious.
For example, ongoing panic attacks, feelings of dread, and frequent worrying all suggest that you are experiencing abnormal levels of anxiety.
You may feel as though the thoughts going through your head will drive you crazy, or that you just can’t cope with life in general.
However, some signs are subtler.
In some cases, they are easily mistaken for symptoms of other conditions.
They may come and go, or remain constant.
Here are eight signs and symptoms to look out for if you suspect that you have an anxiety disorder:
1. You have bad or weird dreams:
If you’re anxious, your brain will be working overtime during the night.
This can result in some seriously strange dreams and nightmares.
Anxiety can also prevent you getting a good night’s sleep.
Not only can overthinking keep you awake at night, but stress can prevent you getting high-quality sleep that leaves you feeling rested the next day.
2. You suffer from random bouts of tearfulness:You might not understand why, but you may find yourself wanting to cry for no apparent reason.
Other times, you might find yourself crying at something that is somewhat sad but wouldn’t normally trigger a strong reaction.
For example, a charity ad might reduce you to tears, or an ordinary traffic jam could cause you to become strangely emotional.
These reactions are the result of an overstimulated nervous system.
When we are abnormally anxious, our bodies and minds are highly attuned to stimuli.
You may feel vulnerable, as though there is no buffer between you and the outside world.
It may seem as though you have lost your grip on your emotions, which can lead you to worry that you will go mad.
3. You get headaches and backaches for no real reason:
Anxiety is tough on the body as well as the mind.
Most anxious people sit in a hunched position, as though trying to hide from the world.
You may suffer regular tension headaches that last for hours or even days, and the muscles in your back may go into spasm.
4. You feel tired a lot of the time:
For reasons outlined above, a lot of people with anxiety disorders do not sleep very well.
Poor sleep can leave you feeling sleepy or fatigued throughout the day.
Even if you manage to sleep soundly at night, battling with anxious thoughts all day can leave you emotionally and physically drained.
Some people find they are too anxious to eat properly, which can lead to fatigue as a result of malnourishment.
5. You are addicted to something:
Anxious people can develop addictions as a means of shutting off the outside world.
An addiction provides a distraction, even when it lowers the quality of your life.
For example, an addiction to television can save you from having to think about your problems.
6. You ask other people for advice all the time, even on trivial matters:
If you have an anxiety disorder, you have probably lost faith in yourself.
The world might seem a scary place, and you may believe that you can’t face it head-on.
Perhaps you used to be fiercely independent, but now you don’t feel capable of making your own decisions.
Increased dependency on others is a common sign of anxiety.
7. You tend to zone out at work or in class:
The type of negative, rapid thoughts experienced by people with anxiety disorders can be enough to completely disrupt your thought processes.
You may try to work or study, only to find that half an hour or more has passed and you have made little progress.
This symptom has a significant knock-on effect.
It’s a vicious cycle: you feel anxious, so you can’t focus on a task, which in turn makes you feel even more anxious because you become worried about falling behind.
8. Your routines have become more rigid:
In times of uncertainty and fear, it’s comforting to cling to familiar routines, places, and even people.
If you have an anxiety disorder, you might find yourself leading an increasingly narrow life.
You may start to become fearful of new situations, which can wear away your self-confidence and restrict your independence.
If you notice these signs, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a doctor or psychologist.
Anxiety disorders can worsen over time, and they can have a serious, enduring effect on your quality of life.
Fortunately, it can be treated with talking therapy, lifestyle changes, medication, or a combination of approaches.