14 Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

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It is estimated that around one in every six people suffer with some form of anxiety disorder or depression, making these the most common of all mental disorders. While symptoms can vary from person to person, it can be helpful to be able to recognise and understand some of the main physical or mental signs that anxiety is having an effect on you or a loved one.

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Understanding the difference between an anxiety disorder and general feelings of worry, fear or stress is extremely important. It is perfectly natural to experience these feelings if you find yourself in a stressful or frightening situation, for example a job interview or a serious accident. However, people with anxiety disorders experience these emotions in a different way; the feelings are often heightened which can sometimes cause the body to react abnormally, both physically and mentally.

Having an anxiety disorder is often defined as experiencing ongoing feelings of stress or worry that have a direct impact on your daily life. Usually when people feel stress, the body will release stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) which will cause the usual physical symptoms such as sweating or shakiness. However, for those with an anxiety disorder, these feelings can not only be heightened, but ongoing and difficult to manage.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

As with most mental disorders and illnesses, there are various types of anxiety disorder that present in different ways. If you think you might be suffering with one or more anxiety disorders, you can take the anxiety test here.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder. It primarily presents as ongoing feelings of worry and stress that are heightened enough to have an impact on an individual’s ability to work, carry out specific tasks or leave the house.

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

BDD is a form of anxiety centred around upsetting concerns about your appearance. People with BDD may believe that others see them (or a specific body part of theirs) in a negative way which feels out of their control. This can sometimes lead to depression and low self-esteem.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

If someone has experienced a stressful or upsetting event, or trauma at any age, this can lead to PTSD. This anxiety disorder can consist of ongoing stress, flashbacks or worry as a direct cause of an upsetting event.

Panic disorder

Panic disorders are different from anxiety disorders. A person may experience panic, or a panic attack, but not have a panic disorder diagnosis. Those with a panic disorder may experience sudden, intense panic attacks, sometimes with no particular trigger. This may also cause general stress and worry at the thought of having another panic attack.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety is also referred to as social phobia. This type of anxiety can affect those who have a fear of performance or public speaking, or those who fear being in large groups. While some symptoms can be mild, many social anxiety sufferers find that they have difficulty controlling the symptoms.

Phobias

Phobias are overwhelming feelings of fear. Phobia sufferers may react to objects, places, situations, feelings or animals that trigger their fears (for example, the common arachnophobia: fear of spiders).

Skin picking / hair pulling

Skin picking (dermatillomania) and hair pulling (trichotillomania) are impulse control disorders often associated with anxiety and depression. They are addictive disorders which can be difficult to manage without professional support.

Health anxiety

Constant fear or worry that you are ill is also known as health anxiety. You may mistake your anxiety symptoms for other illnesses and therefore cause yourself to feel additional stress.

14 Common Signs of Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders can affect children, adolescents and adults, all to varying degrees depending on the circumstance. Understanding the most common symptoms can help you or your loved one to cope with their disorder and learn when they should seek professional help.

Anxiety can affect both the mind and the body. See below for the 14 most common signs that you may be suffering from one or more of the anxiety disorders listed above.

1. Overthinking

If you find yourself constantly overthinking past or even future situations, you may be suffering with an anxiety disorder. Overthinking may involve playing out a different version of events in your mind, assuming things are worse than they are or convincing yourself that people have seen or will see you in a negative light. Overthinking may seem harmless at first, but over time it can trigger other disorders such as body dysmorphia and depression.

2. Concentration difficulties

We all have difficulty concentrating every now and again, but if these problems are continuous and are having a significant impact on your life, it could be a sign of anxiety. Concentration problems can also be caused by other mental disorders such as ADD or ADHD.

3. Problems eating or sleeping and changes to your routine

A lot of people suffering with mental disorders find that they fall out of healthy routines such as sleeping and eating well. If you are noticing dramatic shifts with regards to your sleeping patterns or if your relationship with food is frequently changing, this could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Fear and worry is known to keep people up at night, but when the feelings of stress become more difficult to manage, sleep can suffer significantly and lead to depression and other illnesses.

4. Feelings of dread and panic

One of the most common and noticeable signs of anxiety is suffering from constant dread or panic. These feelings may not have a definitive trigger and may take a while to subside. This can lead to you feeling increasingly anxious about when the feelings might crop up again.

5. Alertness

Feeling constantly alert is another key symptom of anxiety for some sufferers. While many can feel tired and lethargic due to lack of sleep, others can experience a heightened sense of awareness, as if constantly on the lookout for danger. This can be extremely mentally draining and lead to other more serious issues.

6. Irritability

While this can be difficult to notice in yourself, you may find that you notice a friend or loved one being less patient if they are struggling with an anxiety disorder. Irritability is a common symptom and can get more difficult to manage over time. However, it’s important to remember that feelings of anger and impatience can come and go, and may not be signs of anxiety or depression.

7. Dissociation

Dissociation is when you feel disconnected from your thoughts or surroundings. It can be a difficult symptom to understand, even if you are experiencing it yourself. A lot of people with anxiety experience small bouts of dissociation but in more severe cases it can last several days and have a significant impact on how you function day-to-day.

8. Heavy breathing and a fast heartbeat

This is another relatively common anxiety symptom. Those suffering with extreme cases of anxiety may find that they have an accelerated heartbeat and are breathing heavily even when they aren’t in stressful situations.

9. Lack of energy or extreme tiredness

Contrary to the alertness symptom, some anxiety sufferers find themselves feeling extremely tired. This may be due to lack of sleep but can also be a side effect of overthinking. Feeling like you have no energy can severely impact your general life, performance at work and your relationships.

10. Sickness and stomach problems

Many anxiety sufferers struggle with constant stomach problems, vomiting and nausea. This can lead to social anxieties and body dysmorphia if no professional help is sought.

11. Dizziness, fainting or shaking

While these symptoms are often most prevalent during a frightening or stressful situation, anxiety sufferers may experience one or more of these signs on a daily basis without any obvious trigger. This symptom is particularly common among those with PTSD.

12. Sweating

Those suffering with anxiety disorders may also experience excessive sweating. The hormones produced in the body during bouts of anxiety cause this, but usually it only lasts a short period. People with anxiety disorders may find that their sweating is so excessive it impacts their life and relationships.

13. Hot flushes

Hot flushes are usually caused by hormone changes in the body (for example they are common in women during the menopause). If you have an anxiety disorder, you might find that your hot flushes occur relatively frequently, often without an obvious trigger.

14. Hair loss

This symptom can affect anxiety sufferers to varying degrees, and is more common than you may think. While hair loss can also be caused by general stress, overuse of products and even hormonal changes, anxiety disorders may also be to blame.

How Can I Get Help With My Anxiety Disorder?

Dealing with your symptoms and calming your anxiety will take time, so it’s important to seek professional assistance so that you can understand exactly what you are suffering from and what may trigger your symptoms. At Psymplicity Healthcare, our professionals have years of experience treating patients with a whole range of anxiety disorders. We offer anxiety testing and diagnosis and can arrange a tailored treatment plan for you or a loved one.

Mavish Sikander

Mavish Sikander

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity.

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