Figuring out you have anxiety is a rather complicated process. Mental illnesses are still taboo in even the most progressive countries. Anxiety disorders are rarely spoken about in a public setting. This results in many people with anxiety going undiagnosed until much later on in life, or sometimes never getting a diagnosis at all. Unfortunately, it is common for people to struggle with their anxiety disorders on a daily basis, yet simply believe that is just the way things are supposed to be.
Anxiety is a medical condition that is highly treatable through psychological counseling and therapy. This could include psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. Anxiety can also be treated by other types of counselling. Seeking professional treatment is a large step towards dealing with feeling anxious in your daily life.
When it feels like your heart is pumping faster than the pistons in a Lamborghini, while writing a typical daily report in your cubicle, you may have an anxiety issue. Employees may cope with anxiety in the work environment by just not showing up, or calling in sick.
The workplace is often full of things that can trigger anxiety: micro-managing, co-workers, stressfull environments, quotas and objectives, etc. Anxiety can also cause self-doubt in the workplace. Many types of anxiety conditions such as generalized anxiety (GAD) or social anxiety disorder (SAD) can lead to absence in the workplace.
National Institute of Health conducted a study on workplace phobic anxiety, that followed 739 workers from a retail company. Workers that perceived higher job demands and fewer resources to deal with these demands were more likely to suffer from workplace-related anxiety. Furthermore, people suffering from workplace phobic anxiety had more absences.
Trouble Sleeping at Night
Anxiety is strongly related to sleep problems like chronic insomnia. According to Harvard Health Publishing, more than 50% of adults with a generalized anxiety disorder will have health issues regarding their sleep.
Sleep problems are also common in those that suffer from:
- Panic Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
On the other hand, problems relating to sleep are one of the risk factors for developing anxiety. However, anxiety usually precedes the sleeping related issues. For instance, sleeping issues lead to anxiety disorders 27% of the time. Thus, you are more likely to have trouble sleeping as a result of anxiety and not the other way around. Here are some life-changing tips on falling asleep when you have anxiety.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety manifests itself in many forms. What does anxiety feel like? Jodi Picoult says “Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.”. Here are some physical symptoms of anxiety that you may have not even known existed.
- Chest pain
- Dry mouth
- Hot flashes
- Sweaty palms
Avoiding Social Situations
Avoiding social situations? This is a key sign of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Some people may not even notice that they’re actively avoiding situations, and place the blame on being introverted. Another misconception is that extroverted people are always outgoing and never socially anxious.
The main difference between SAD versus introversion, is that introverts seek solitude because of an urge to be alone. SAD can cause you to avoid social situations out of fear of being embarrassed or negatively judged.
Situations that may trigger social anxiety:
- Making eye contact
- Introducing yourself to new people
- Parties, dances and other social events
- Job interviews
- Entering rooms when people are already seated
- Going to Work/School
The posture of your body is heavily influenced by several muscle groups: lower back, core muscles, and hamstrings. Although, the postural system and can be affected by fear and anxiety. Fortunately, posture changes can also help reduce anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety-related posture changes:
- Slouched, or raised shoulders
- Chin pointed downwards
- C-shaped spine, instead of S-shaped
- Minimal body movement, and expressions
- Chest caved inwards
Søren Kierkegaard, author of The Concept of Anxiety describes anxiety as “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom”. Constantly second-guessing yourself is a natural feeling of anxiety.
Your mind exerts less energy when it makes decisions on autopilot. An example of this is if you’ve ever driven yourself home from work, and then realize that you don’t remember the actual trip. Your brain is able to do many repetitive tasks on auto-pilot to conserve energy. This is partially why it’s difficult to add positive changes in your lifestyle until they become habits: read a book, study, practice a hobby, etc.
Decision making is more mentally taxing with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can negatively affect your decision-making skills as well. It’s common for people with anxiety to feel as if that if they spent more time acting on their problems, instead of worrying, they would be a lot more productive. Anxiety disorders can cause you to worry about insignificant details, missing the bigger picture. For instance, second-guessing decisions that are insignificant, like what color door to purchase for your bedroom or the exact font size for your essay.
Findings from The Journal of Neuroscience, claims that anxiety shuts down the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is important for mood regulation and flexible decision making. These findings were used by the University of Pittsburgh, to test a group of rats doing activities to get a reward. One group of rats was injected with anxiety-inducing medication, while the other rats were given a placebo.
The rats that were injected fell slightly behind in their decision-making skills. However, their decision-making skills were significantly worse, when their activities involved avoiding distractions. The conclusive result is that anxiety can lead to poorer decision making, but those symptoms are amplified in distracting environments.
Procrastination is the result of avoidant behavior. Albeit, many people assume procrastination is simply because of laziness. Lack of emotional regulation can make it difficult for you to tackle daunting tasks head-on. After completing a task that you procrastinated over, you may end up realizing that the task isn’t as unpleasant as you initially thought. You can read my guide on managing procrastination anxiety here.
Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks, that are unexpected. Most people who have heard of anxiety, have heard of the concept of a panic attack. Because most people are not aware of having a panic attack when it happens to them, this symptom makes the list.
People that experience panic attacks often say their symptoms resemble that of a heart attack. Many people that have experienced panic attacks seek medical treatment from a doctor, expecting to be treated for some sort of cardiovascular health condition.
Different types of anxiety disorders can cause panic attacks. For instance obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may result in a panic attack when you feel like you’re being contaminated with germs and other harmful bacteria. A social anxiety disorder may trigger a panic attack 10 minutes before giving a best man speech at a wedding. Children with a separation anxiety disorder may be triggered when they are away from their parents for prolonged periods of time.
(Fictional) Here’s an example of what a panic attack may feel like:
Signs of a panic attack
- An impending sense of doom
- Peaks for 10 minutes
- Heart attack
- Irrational fears (e.g. dying, losing control of oneself )