Anxiety disorders include a number of conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders, and social phobia. Each of these disorders has specific symptoms, although many have overlapping characteristics.
Physical Signs of Anxiety Disorders
The type of anxiety disorder, severity of the condition and individual’s physiology impact the physical manifestations of anxiety disorders. There are, however, many common signs. These include:
- Muscle aches;
- Chest pains;
- Tingling sensations;
- Difficulty swallowing;
- Difficulty breathing;
- Racing heart;
- Frequent urination;
- Dizziness; and
Since many of these physiological signs of anxiety mirror serious health conditions, the symptoms of an anxiety disorder can, in themselves, be anxiety-producing.
Psychological Signs of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders also have a strong psychological component. The mental signs of an anxiety disorder include:
- Irritability – Persons with anxiety disorders often feel on edge, keyed up, irritable, or angry. This irritability can manifest itself with or without cause or provocation.
- Fear of dying – Many persons living with an anxiety disorder may have feelings of impending doom or fears that they may die. These feelings are often exacerbated by the physiological sings of the anxiety.
- Feeling of “going crazy” – A common sign of an anxiety disorder is the sense that the person is going crazy or losing control of their mind.
- Recurring, disturbing thoughts – Persons with post-traumatic stress disorder may experience recurring, disturbing thoughts, particularly thoughts about the event that led to the trauma.
- Recurring, disturbing images – Persons with both post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder may envision disturbing images and have a difficult time getting these upsetting pictures out of their minds.
- Difficulty concentrating – Since anxiety disorders affect both the mind and the body, persons with anxiety often have difficulty focusing on their work or completing day-to-day tasks.
When is Anxiety a Disorder?
Most people experience the signs of an anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime. Usually, these symptoms are short-lasting and a normal response to stress. If these symptoms interfere with your personal relationships, make it difficult to work or get in the way of your studies, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder. Likewise, if your anxiety signs are long-lasting or are accompanied by disturbing thoughts, you may have an anxiety disorder or other condition that requires treatment by a doctor or mental health practitioner.
Only a licensed mental health counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or physician can diagnose you with an anxiety disorder. Even if you do not meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder, a mental health practitioner may be able to give you advice on how to manage your symptoms and process your worries in productive, healthy ways.