11 Signs You May Have Anxiety Disorder

Everyone is nervous or anxious from time to time – it is normal to be a little anxious when speaking in public, for example, or when you are experiencing financial difficulties.

For some people, however, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so strong, that it begins to take over their lives.

How do you know if normal day-to-day anxiety has crossed the line and turned into a disorder? It’s not easy.

Anxiety comes in different forms – such as panic attacks, phobias, social anxiety … and the distinction between an official diagnosis and “normal” anxiety is not always very clear.

Below are 11 signs that your anxiety has turned into a disorder and seeking help with available treatments may be necessary:

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1 – Excessive Concern

The hallmark of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – the broadest type of anxiety – is worrying too much about everyday things, big or small ( 1 ). But what does “too much” mean?

In the case of generalized anxiety disorder, it means having persistent anxious thoughts almost every day of the week, for six months ( 2 ).

And the anxiety has to be so strong that it interferes with your daily life and is accompanied by notable symptoms, such as fatigue.

“The distinction between anxiety disorder and normal anxiety is whether your emotions are causing a lot of suffering and dysfunction,” says Sally Winston, PhD, co-director of anxiety and stress disorder at the Maryland-USA institute.

See also: Do You Care Too Much? How to Fix Exaggerated Concern

2 – Difficulty Falling Asleep Or M Prev Sleep

Sleep disorders, such as difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep, are strongly associated with anxiety disorders ( 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 ).

Waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble falling asleep are the two most commonly reported problems ( 7 ).

Some research suggests that having insomnia during childhood may even be linked to the development of anxiety later in life ( 8 ).

A study that followed almost 1,000 children over the age of 20 found that having childhood insomnia was linked to a 60% higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at age 26 ( 9 ).

Although insomnia and anxiety are strongly linked, it is not clear whether insomnia contributes to anxiety, whether anxiety contributes to insomnia, or both ( 10 , 11 ).

What is known is that when the underlying anxiety disorder is treated, insomnia usually improves as well ( 12 ).

And, of course, it is not uncommon to be spinning and coughing in anticipation of an important speech or job interview.

So if you often find yourself lying and awake, worried or agitated about specific problems (like money), or nothing in particular – it can be a sign of anxiety disorder.

See also: 5 Ways to Cure Insomnia to Implement Today

3 – Irrational Fears

Some cases of anxiety are not widespread, on the contrary, it is linked to some specific situation or thing, such as flying, animals, closed places, height or crowds.

If the fear becomes oppressive, disruptive and far out of proportion to the real risk involved, then it is a sign of phobia.

A phobia is defined as extreme anxiety or fear about a specific object or situation. The feeling is severe enough to interfere with your ability to function normally.

Agoraphobia is another phobia that involves fear of at least two of the following:

  • Use public transit
  • Being in open spaces
  • Being in closed spaces
  • Standing in line or being in the crowd
  • Being out and about alone

Phobias affect 12.5% ​​of people at some point in their lives. They tend to develop in childhood or adolescence and are more common in women than in men ( 13 , 14 ).

Although the phobias are disabling, they are not obvious at all times. In fact, they cannot surface until you face a specific situation and discover that you are unable to overcome your fear.

“A person who is afraid of snakes can go years without a problem,” says Winston.

“But suddenly, your son wants to go camping , and they realize they need treatment.

See also: 10 Signs Fear Took Over Your Life – And How To Fix It

4 – Muscle Tension

Almost constant muscle tension, whether it’s tightening your jaw, tightening your wrists, or flexing your muscles all over your body, often accompanies anxiety disorders.

This symptom can be so persistent and widespread that people who have lived with it for a long time can stop realizing it after a while.

Although tense muscles can be common, it is not completely understood why they are associated with anxiety.

It is possible that muscle tension itself increases feelings of anxiety, but it is also possible that anxiety leads to increased muscle tension or that a third factor causes both.

Interestingly, treatment of muscle tension with muscle relaxation therapy has been shown to reduce concern in people with generalized anxiety disorder. Some studies even show that it is as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy ( 15 , 16 ).

Regular physical activity can also help keep muscle tension in check.

See also: Back Pain, Stiffness, Tension, Spasms and Immobility as Symptoms of Anxiety

5 – Feeling Agitated

When someone is feeling anxious, part of the sympathetic nervous system is depleted.

This triggers a cascade of effects throughout the body, such as a fast pulse, sweaty palms, shaking hands and a dry mouth ( 17 ).

These symptoms occur because your brain believes you have felt the danger and is preparing your body to respond to the threat.

Your body moves blood from the digestive system to your muscles in case you need to run or fight. It also increases the heart rate and increases the senses ( 18 ).

While these effects are useful in the event of a real threat, they can be debilitating if the fear is only in your head.

Some research even suggests that people with anxiety disorders cannot reduce their arousal as quickly as people without anxiety disorders, which means that they can experience the effects of anxiety for a long period of time ( 19 , 20 ).

6 – Restlessness

Restlessness is another common symptom of anxiety, especially in children and adolescents.

When someone is experiencing restlessness, they usually describe him as feeling “on the edge” or with an “uncomfortable desire to move”.

A study of 128 children diagnosed with anxiety disorders found that 74% reported restlessness as one of the main symptoms of anxiety ( 21 ).

Although restlessness does not occur in all people with anxiety, it is one of the red flags that doctors often look for when making a diagnosis.

If you feel restless on most days for more than six months, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder ( 22 ).

7 – Avoid Social Situations

You may be showing signs of social anxiety disorder if you find yourself:

  • Feeling anxiousor afraid of upcoming social situations
  • Concerned that you may be judged or examined by others
  • Afraid of being embarrassed or humiliated in front of others
  • Avoid certain social events because of these fears

Social anxiety disorder does not always involve talking to a crowd or being the center of attention.

In most cases, anxiety is caused by everyday situations, such as making conversation at a party, or drinking and eating in front of even a small number of people.

In these situations, people with social anxiety disorder tend to feel as if all eyes are on them, and they often turn red, tremble, have nausea, sweat, or have difficulty speaking.

These symptoms can be so disturbing that they make it difficult to meet new people, maintain relationships, and progress at work or school.

Social anxiety disorder is very common, affecting approximately 12% of adults at some point in their lives ( 23 ).

Social anxiety tends to develop early in life. In fact, about 50% of people who have it are diagnosed at age 11, while 80% are diagnosed at age 20 ( 24 ).

People with social anxiety can appear extremely shy and quiet in groups or when meeting new people. Although they do not seem distressed on the outside, on the inside, they feel extreme fear and anxiety.

This indifference can sometimes make people with social anxiety appear snobbish or impassive, but the disorder is associated with low self-esteem, high self-criticism and depression ( 25 ).

See also: 6 Smart Ways to Overcome Anxiety You Probably Never Tried

8 – Panic Attacks

A type of anxiety disorder called panic syndrome is associated with recurring panic attacks.

Panic attacks produce an intense and overwhelming feeling of fear that can be debilitating.

This extreme fear is usually accompanied by rapid heartbeat, sweating, tremors, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, nausea and fear of dying or losing control ( 26 ).

Panic attacks can occur in isolation, but if they occur frequently and unexpectedly, they can be a sign of panic disorder.

It is estimated that 22% of adults will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, but only about 3% will experience them frequently enough to meet the criteria for panic syndrome ( 27 ).

Not everyone who has a panic attack has an anxiety disorder, but people who experience it repeatedly can be diagnosed with panic syndrome.

People with panic syndrome live in fear about when, where and why their next attack may happen, and they tend to avoid places where the attacks occurred in the past.

See also: Is it a heart attack or a panic attack?

9 – Difficulty Concentrating

Many people with anxiety report having difficulty concentrating.

One study, including 157 children and adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder, found that more than two-thirds had difficulty concentrating ( 28 ).

Another study of 175 adults with the same disorder found that almost 90% reported having difficulty concentrating. The worse the anxiety, the more difficult it was to concentrate ( 29 ).

Some studies show that anxiety can disrupt working memory, a type of memory responsible for storing short-term information. This can help explain the dramatic drop in performance that people generally experience during periods of high anxiety ( 30 , 31 ).

However, difficulty concentrating can also be a symptom of other medical conditions, such as an attention deficit disorder or depression, so there is insufficient evidence to diagnose an anxiety disorder.

10 – Fatigue

Becoming easily fatigued is another potential symptom of generalized anxiety disorder.

This symptom may be surprising to some, as anxiety is commonly associated with hyperactivity or excitement.

For some, fatigue can follow an anxiety attack, while for others, fatigue can be chronic.

It is not clear whether this tiredness is due to other common symptoms of anxiety, such as insomnia or muscle tension, or whether it may be related to the hormonal effects of chronic anxiety ( 32 ).

However, it is important to note that fatigue can also be a sign of depression or other medical conditions; therefore, fatigue alone is not sufficient to diagnose an anxiety disorder ( 33 ).

11 – Irritability

Most people with anxiety disorders also experience excessive irritability.

According to a recent study, including more than 6,000 adults, more than 90% of people with generalized anxiety disorder reported feeling highly irritable during periods when the anxiety disorder was at its worst ( 34 ).

Compared to self-reported concerns, young and middle-aged adults with generalized anxiety disorder reported more than twice daily irritability ( 35 ).

Given that anxiety is associated with high arousal and excessive worry, it is not surprising that irritability is a common symptom.

Other Signs To Keep An Eye On:

12 – Flashbacks

Reliving a traumatic event – a robbery, sudden death of a loved one – is a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder, which shares some characteristics of anxiety disorder ( 36 ).

But flashbacks can occur in other types of anxiety as well. Some research, including a 2006 study in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, suggests that some people with social anxiety have post-traumatic flashbacks, but from experiences that are not obviously traumatic, such as being publicly ridiculed.

These people may even avoid remembering the experience.

13 – Perfectionism

The obsessive mentality known as perfectionism “goes hand in hand with anxiety disorders,” says Winston.

“If you are constantly judging yourself or you have a lot of anticipatory anxiety about making mistakes or fall short of your norms, then you probably have an anxiety disorder.”

Perfectionism is especially common in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which, like post-traumatic stress, has been seen as an anxiety disorder.

“OCD can happen subtly, as in the case of someone who cannot leave the house for three hours, because the makeup has to be absolutely impeccable,” says Winston.

See also: How to Regain the Power to Control Intrusive Thoughts and OCD

14 – Compulsive Behavior

To be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person’s obsessive and intrusive thoughts must be accompanied by compulsive behavior, whether mental (saying: It will be all right over and over again) or physical (washing hands, straightening items, etc.).

Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior become anxiety when the need to end the behavior – also known as “rituals” – begins to control your life, says Winston.

“If you like your radio at volume 3, for example, and it breaks and is stopped at volume 4, would you panic until you fix the radio”?

Natural Ways To Reduce Anxiety

There are many natural ways to reduce anxiety and help you feel better, including:

  • Eat a healthy dietDiets rich in vegetables, fruits, high-quality meats, fish, nuts and whole grains can decrease the risk of developing anxiety disorders, but diet alone is probably not enough to treat them ( 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 ).
  • Consuming probiotics and fermented foods: Taking probiotics and eating fermented foods have been associated with improved mental health ( 41 , 42 ).
  • Limiting caffeineExcessive caffeine intake can worsen feelings of anxiety in some people, especially those with anxiety disorders ( 43 , 44 ).
  • Abstaining from alcohol: Anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse are strongly linked, so staying away from alcoholic beverages can help ( 45 , 46 ).
  • Stop smoking: Smoking is associated with an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Quitting smoking is associated with improved mental health ( 47 , 48 ).
  • Frequentexercise: Regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of developing an anxiety disorder, but research is mixed on whether it helps those who have already been diagnosed ( 49 , 50 , 51 , 52 ).
  • Meditation: A type of meditation-based therapy, called mindfulness stress reduction, has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms in people with anxiety disorders ( 53 , 54 , 55 ).
  • Practicing yogaRegular yoga practice has been shown to reduce symptoms in people diagnosed with anxiety disorders, but more high-quality research is needed ( 56 , 57 ).

Consuming a nutrient-rich diet, abandoning psychoactive substances, and implementing stress control techniques can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

When To Seek Professional Help

Anxiety can be debilitating, so it is important to seek professional help if your symptoms are severe.

If you feel anxious most days and experience one or more of the symptoms listed above for at least six months, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Regardless of how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms, if you feel that your emotions are interfering with your life, seek professional help.

Licensed psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to treat anxiety disorders in several ways.

This usually includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, anti-anxiety medications or some of the natural therapies listed above.

Working with a professional can help you manage your anxiety and reduce your symptoms as quickly and safely as possible.

If you are experiencing chronic anxiety symptoms that are interfering with your life, it is important to seek professional help.


Anxiety disorders are characterized by a variety of symptoms.

One of the most common is the excessive and intrusive concern that disrupts daily functioning. Other signs include restlessness, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, tense muscles and trouble sleeping.

Recurring panic attacks can indicate panic disorder, fearing and avoiding social situations can indicate social anxiety disorder and extreme phobias can be a sign of specific phobia disorders.

Regardless of the type of anxiety you may have, there are many natural solutions that you can use to help alleviate it while working with a licensed healthcare professional.


by Abdullah Sam
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