At some point, everyone will feel anxious about something: a big presentation, bills to pay, or health, for example. But how much anxiety is "normal" and when does anxiety merit professional attention?
The American Psychiatric Association reports that, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.”
One of the first steps is trying to identify from where the stress is coming. Are you anxious about your job or career, your romantic life, interactions with family members, money, health or something else? Do you:
Persistently worry or are anxious about a number of areas that feel out of proportion to the impact of the events;
Overthink plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes;
Perceive situations and events as threatening, even when they objectively aren't;
Have difficulty handling uncertainty;
Struggle with change;
Worry about making the wrong decision;
Have difficulty letting go of a worry;
Have difficulty relaxing; or,
Have difficulty concentrating or have the feeling that your mind "goes blank"?
Then, try to take stock of what the anxiety feels like. Does it wax and wane, disappearing once you start thinking about something else? Or, does it linger below the surface, nagging at you for extended periods of time? Are you having physical symptoms too? According to the Mayo Clinic, common physical symptoms of anxiety include:
Muscle tension or muscle aches
Trembling, feeling twitchy
Nervousness or being easily startled
Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
Here's the secret: there's no threshold for when anxiety is a "problem." If your anxiety (whatever its level) bothers you, then you can - and should - address it. But, should you believe that your anxiety is something other than ordinary everyday stress, do visit your general practitioner. He or she can rule out any physical problems that may be causing your symptoms. Meanwhile, regardless whether you would meed the technical definition for any "anxiety disorder" don't hesitate to address your anxiety.
I recommend The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. This workbook offers a host of skills for quieting fears and taking control of your anxious thoughts.
If you are looking for guidance beyond the workbook, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484-222-6436 for a free fifteen minute consultation. We can determine the right treatment plan to help you cope with and reduce your anxiety.