Anxiety is an emotional state that transcends societies and cultures; virtually everyone has experienced the cold sweat, racing heartbeat, and restlessness that accompany it. Experiencing anxiety is normal and even expected, but too much exposure can have deleterious effects on your psyche.
In 2016, the global prevalence of anxiety disorders is at 4%, with around 270 million affected worldwide. A finding by the National Institutes of Health estimates that 33.7% of the world population will suffer anxiety disorders at least once in their lifetime. Therefore, recognizing whether you may have anxiety disorders is a good step towards protecting your mental health, given the high prevalence of the condition.
Signs Of Anxiety Disorders
According to Marla W. Deibler, PsyD “It’s ‘normal’ to experience some degree of anxiety when stressors are unfamiliar, unpredictable, or imminent.” What differentiates anxiety disorders from usual anxiousness is degree: the former is invasive enough that it interferes with day to day activities. Anxiety disorders also impose constant stress on the mind and body, leaving the person vulnerable to more diseases.
Accordingly, the most critical question to ask is whether the anxiety levels are high enough to prevent you from doing what you want. Do you find yourself distracted most of the time? Do you avoid specific activities or shy away from responsibilities out of excessive fear? If so, then these are signs you have unhealthy amounts of anxiousness.
“This is what it boils down to and it extrapolates to any social situation, It can be specific to certain social situations, it can be generalized to all social situations, but the anxiety is about judgement, and ultimately not being approved of and not being liked.” Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist used to say. Aside from activities, anxiety disorders may also manifest in the way you interact with people. It is most apparent in social anxiety disorder, which is characterized by feelings of severe anxiety when interacting with other people. Those affected have fears that they will be perceived as inferior or undesirable in social situations, leading them to avoid interaction as much as possible. It is different from introversion, as the anxiety is pathological and unhealthy.
Anxiety disorders impair the ability to assess stressors accurately. Many people who have these conditions tend to exaggerate the negative consequences of everyday events, living in constant fear of inadequacy and failure. This distorted viewpoint is a paralyzing force that imposes limits on how they can live out their lives.
Finally, a prominent hallmark of anxiety disorder is persistence. While specific events can trigger the disorder, the resulting anxiety persists long after the stressor is gone. People usually describe this as feelings of dread that refuse to go away completely, consuming a large amount of their time and energy. Constant stress whittles away at their mental health and can lead to even more mental problems in the future, underscoring the need to identify the illness quickly and to seek out treatment.
What To Do
“Anxiety is unavoidable and designed for our survival and protection.” Melissa Berschauer LMFT said. If you feel you have an anxiety disorder, find a time and place where you can sit down and reflect. Use the criteria mentioned above to assess whether your levels of anxiety are excessive enough to affect your life significantly. You may also ask your loved ones or closest friends to help you with your judgment since your anxiety might cloud your self-assessment.
If you conclude you may have an anxiety disorder, consult a mental health professional, who will ask you questions about your experiences and give you a diagnosis.
Anxiety disorders, once appropriately diagnosed, are highly treatable, with improvements becoming visible even after just a handful of counseling sessions. However, anxiety disorders are underreported like many mental disorders due to a general lack of awareness. Knowing how to identify when anxiety reaches unhealthy levels will help you preserve your mental health and live the life you want.