Signs of anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety are sometimes not all that obvious as they often develop gradually and, given that we all experience some anxiety at some points in time, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

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What you might feel

If you are experiencing anxiety you might feel anxious, on edge or worried most of the time. Feeling overwhelmed, frightened or even panicked is also common.

You might also experience a range of physical symptoms when you are anxious like your heart racing, butterflies in the stomach, muscle tension, shaky hands or perhaps feeling nauseous.

What you might think

A common feature of anxiety conditions is to think about things a lot more than you would normally. You might also notice that what you are thinking about is unhelpful or perhaps even irrational or silly, but you are unable to stop these intense and sometimes overwhelming thoughts. 

This thinking tends to be repetitive and often negative in nature causing your feelings of anxiety or fear to get worse.

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What you might do

Our natural instinct is to avoid situations that cause us anxiety or stress. When an anxiety condition develops, you might begin to avoid lots of things and/or whatever causes you to worry. It might be places, people or specific situations. 

Beginning to avoid things might mean that you slowly spend less time with your friends. You might also begin to find going to school, university or work becomes challenging. You may find it hard to sleep because of your constant thinking and worrying, leaving you tired and lacking in energy. Not enough sleep can often mean that it’s harder to think clearly about things that are on your mind.

Common symptoms of anxiety

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These are just some of a number of symptoms that may be experienced. If you are familiar with any of these symptoms, check the list of symptoms common to the different types of anxiety below or take the anxiety and depression checklist. This information is not supposed to provide a diagnosis – for that you need to see a doctor – but it can be used as a guide.

Feelings

  • overwhelmed
  • fear (particularly when having to face certain objects, situations or events)
  • worried about physical symptoms (such as fearing there is an undiagnosed medical problem)
  • dread (that something bad is going to happen)
  • constantly tense, nervous or on edge
  • uncontrollable or overwhelming panic.

Thoughts

  • “I’m going crazy.”
  • “I can’t control myself.”
  • “I’m about to die.”
  • “People are judging me.”
  • having upsetting dreams or flashbacks of a traumatic event
  • finding it hard to stop worrying
  • unwanted or intrusive thoughts.

Behaviours

  • withdrawing from, avoiding, or enduring with fear objects or situations which cause anxiety
  • urges to perform certain rituals in a bid to relieve anxiety
  • not being assertive (i.e. avoiding eye contact)
  • difficulty making decisions
  • being startled easily.

Physical

  • increased heart rate/racing heart
  • shortness of breath
  • vomiting, nausea or pain in the stomach
  • muscle tension and pain (e.g. sore back or jaw)
  • feeling detached from your physical self or surroundings
  • having trouble sleeping (e.g. difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep)
  • sweating, shaking
  • dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • numbness or tingling
  • hot or cold flushes
  • difficulty concentrating.