Do I have normal anxiety or an anxiety disorder?
Sam John

At any given time anxiety disorders affect more than 45 million Americans. In fact, most of us will experience anxiety at some point. Why? Because anxiety is a typical human emotion and a natural response to life’s stresses and challenges, For those with an anxiety disorder however, these feelings can lead to panic attacks, insomnia, and other symptoms that really disrupt daily life.

While everyone experiences some level of anxiety at times, there is a big difference between anxiety and a true, persistent anxiety disorder. It's not just about how long the symptoms last; it's how they affect you and what you need to do to get rid of them.

 What are the symptoms of normal anxiety?

What exactly is “normal” anxiety? 

At its core, anxiety is simply a feeling that something bad or painful will happen. A big client meeting at work, an anticipated conflict with a family member or your child’s first solo recital are all capable of creating this anxiety you feel. 

When you feel anxious about something, it can make you feel nervous or uncomfortable and your body physically responds to those feelings. Your muscles may tighten and your mind may race. You could feel agitated, have butterflies in your stomach, or even have trouble breathing. 

Here’s the important thing to remember: Normal anxiety lasts only as long as the situation or problem lasts.  Once the big client presentation is over, your physical symptoms of anxiety should dissipate as well. When that is not the case, we need to look further.

What are the symptoms of anxiety disorders?

Anxiety Disorders are a mental condition in which a person has excessive thoughts and feelings related to certain situations or everyday problems. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in the U.S.

They usually begin in childhood and become more frequent as a person grows older. Often they are associated with other conditions such as depression and substance abuse. General anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, and specific phobias like agoraphobia (fear of crowds) are all examples of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders present with feelings of fear, panic, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, feeling like you’re out of control, and difficulty concentrating. They can range from milder fears to severe phobias.

For someone with an anxiety disorder they may experience unrealistic anxiety for a problem or situation highly unlikely to happen. They may have anxiety that persists even after a problem is solved. They may even avoid situations in fear of experiencing the symptoms of their anxiety.

For example, I can be scared of snakes and choose not to intentionally interact with one (common fear). Or, I can be so scared of snakes that I’m unwilling to even walk out of my home for fear I’ll accidentally come into contact with one (irrational, incapacitating fear). As you can imagine, there are an infinite number of variations in between these two extremes as well. 

The key is to recognize if, and how, the anxiety disrupts or interferes with your daily life.

How can I get help controlling my anxiety or anxiety disorder?

When you can't stop thinking about the things that make you feel anxious and it interferes with your day to day living, it’s time to seek help. Our licensed professionals can help you figure out exactly what kind of anxiety you have and which treatments are right for you. Want more information? Schedule your free 15-minute Discovery Call today

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