Are you able to tell if you, or someone else you know, is experiencing anxiety? Here are some ways you can recognize anxiety in yourself and others. Children, adolescents, young adults, older adults (and basically anyone) experiences anxiety sometimes.
Anxiety becomes a problem when you find yourself, or someone else, experiencing anxious symptoms nearly every day and it is negatively impacting your life. If you notice this about yourself or someone else then it is probably time to seek out professional help from a therapist or counselor.
Below lists 15 different ways to recognize anxiety in yourself or others. Just for easier purposes, I will be addressing "you" throughout. Even though I am addressing you, I still want you to keep in mind if anyone else in your life is experiencing these things. It could be your child, a friend, family member, etc. You can then seek help for your child or send this article on to someone you care for and want to see get helped.
- If you are someone who is anxious, you will notice that you are overthinking EVERYTHING. Usually this comes about in the, "What if..." thoughts. "What if I get on a subway and it stops underground?" "What if I continue this relationship with my partner and I never get to find out if there's someone out there better for me?" "What if I don't study enough for this test and I fail?"
- The first step is acknowledging that you are overthinking everything. Overthinking can lead to worrying and feeling anxious in multiple ways. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a great therapeutic method that I specialize in to help clients slow down their thoughts and ultimately stop these "what if..." / worried thoughts.
- Usually when you are anxious about something, you try to avoid it. You may think, "Since I usually get anxious when I speak in front of the class, I will call out sick the day of my presentation" or "I usually make a fool of myself on first dates so I'm going to decide not to go." Another common one I hear for clients who live in Hoboken or the Hudson County area is, "If I go on the path train it will get stuck underground and I'll never survive that so I will take the bus instead."
- Avoiding something makes us feel better in that moment. Because we are avoiding what we feel may cause anxiety. So feeling no anxiety is the best solution right? No, this is actually not right. If you face your anxiety or fears head on, eventually the anxiety will decrease. Eventually, you will be able to get on that path train and only feel annoyed if the train stops underground for a few minutes.
- If you do have a fear of something such as getting on a train, public transportation, etc. I do recommend seeking out professional help. There are steps to take and relaxing techniques to use to get your anxiety to decrease so that you can go on the transportation again.
- By avoiding something, you are just feeding into your increased anxiety and fear in the long run. If you are thinking this may be something you want to change then reach out to discuss the first steps in how to overcome this anxiety or fear.
- Everyone sweats. That is a healthy and normal part of being human. But if you find yourself sweating more than others seem to, or you find yourself sweating when you are feeling nervous, then that is a sign of anxiety. You may find yourself wearing multiple shirts so that no one can see your sweat stains. It is possible that you may be experiencing more stress than usual or have anxiety.
4. Stomach Issues:
- Since our brain is connected to everything in our bodies, you may feel some physical symptoms of anxiety. A common one is stomach issues in which you get an upset stomach, vomit, or feel nauseous due to stress. Stress can cause a lot of physical problems. When you have an upset stomach, it is important to reflect if you had food that upset your stomach or is it due to something else- such as stress/anxiety?
5. Panic Attacks:
- Panic attacks are a form of anxiety. Think of anxiety like an umbrella term and panic attacks are underneath that umbrella. So if you experience panic attacks, then you do experience anxiety. But if you have anxiety, it does not mean you will get a panic attack.
- An adolescent or young adult who is a student may experience panic attacks when they have a test coming up because they feel pressure to do well in school. A young adult may experience panic attacks after a break-up or figuring out what they want to do with their life after adjusting to life post school. An adult may experience panic attacks after the loss of a loved one.
- Panic attacks can come on at random times and could feel like you are dying (i.e. heart attack or loss of breath). The best way to get out of a panic attack is to remind yourself you're under a lot of stress, tell yourself that you are safe, and take very deep breaths while mentally counting. You want to make sure you are counting so that each breath you take gets longer and longer. Your breath out should be longer than your breath in.
- If you, or someone you know, experiences panic attacks then it is advised to seek help from a professional therapist or counselor to help you cope with these panic attacks and ultimately decrease them.
6. Needing Reassurance:
- When you are feeling anxious or worried about something, you usually need a friend, family member, teacher, therapist etc. to reassure you that everything will be okay. An example is you may feel worried that your increase in heart rate is a medical problem. One person who you can get reassurance from is a medical provider who can tell you if you are medically healthy.
- Sometimes you may experience negative thoughts that cause your imagination to run away with itself. When this happens, it may be helpful for you to tell someone else these thoughts. That person who you talk to can then challenge these negative thoughts. By challenging- I mean that person can remind you that these thoughts you are having are only coming from your imagination and are not reality.
- As a mental health therapist, this is something I do in most of my sessions with clients who experience anxiety. I am able to reassure that their thoughts are just worries. That's it. Just worries and thoughts. They mean nothing else.
7. Lack of patience:
- Patience is something we all struggle with from time to time. Some examples could be that you cannot wait for others who are late 15 minutes, you are on hold on the phone too long so you hang up, or you lose your patience with a customer service representative who does not give you the answer you want. These are common examples of losing your patience. But do you find this happening almost daily and every time it happens to you, do you lose your cool and become angry? This is when you know it has become a problem. It may be beneficial to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor to work on your frustration tolerance and increase your patience level.
- I will admit that I can be a procrastinator at times. I work best when I set deadlines for myself so that I can get things done. Another thing I find helpful is keeping to-do lists. I like the feeling of accomplishment when I cross something off my list. I personally keep my to-do list on my phone so that it is always near me. Another popular way to organize your thoughts and goals is to get a bullet journal.
- You may find that these are things you have tried before, but you continue to procrastinate and it causes you even more stress and anxiety. Procrastination can lead to real problems at work, school, or even staying accountable with friends/family in your life. Procrastination is not the worst thing in the world- some people work well under pressure and deadlines. But if you find that it is causing major problems in your life and increases your stress, then this may be a sign of something bigger happening- such as anxiety.
9. Trouble Concentrating:
- This might be something that others continuously point out that you do. Others may be telling you that you are changing the topic of conversation often, interrupting conversations, losing your train of thought, forgetting what was recently discussed, having a hard time completing a task, or not being able to relax. These are some examples of concentration issues that may arise. Concentration issues may be hard for you to notice happening which is why you may hear others close to you pointing them out. It is important to listen to them and then notice a pattern in what they are saying. Once you notice a pattern, you can determine if you have trouble concentrating.
10. Constant worrying:
- When you feel anxious, you may notice that you are worrying about anything and everything. You may worry about getting another panic attack if you have experienced one before. You may worry about the health of your parents, making enough money, doing well in school, your career path, getting sick yourself in the future, taking the subway train, etc.
- Worrying constantly is a big sign that you may be suffering with anxiety. If you find it is hard, or almost impossible, to stop the worrying on your own then you may want to reach out to a professional therapist for help to decrease these constant worries. If you don't address the constant worrying then it will only lead to more stress and an increase in anxiety in the future.
11. Trouble Breathing:
- This may feel like "your heart is in your throat", rapid breathing, or feeling as if you can't get enough air. Most people who experience their first panic attack, or anxiety attack, will end up in the hospital because they think they are having a heart attack or medical issue. Once in the hospital, and time goes by, that person will become more relaxed and will be told that they suffered an anxiety attack. That person will be referred to a mental health therapist for a consult. It would be nice to be able to tell the difference between a medical issue and anxiety so that you can skip that step of going to the hospital.
- Usually there are some signs leading up to a full blown panic or anxiety attack. These signs are listed in this article, "15 ways to recognize anxiety in yourself in others". If you notice that yourself, or someone else you know, is experiencing some of these symptoms then it would be helpful to seek out a therapist right away. This will help you figure out what is going on and decrease these symptoms. So that you hopefully never have to end up in the hospital due to an increase in anxiety.
- If you are experiencing shortness of breath due to anxiety- some suggestions to help this include going to see a therapist, going to yoga class, or starting guided meditation.
- Headaches can be due to multiple different things. One common cause of headaches is stress. When we are feeling stressed, it can impact your physical self negatively. The first sign of stress is usually a headache. When we see a doctor because we are experiencing headaches or migraines, they usually ask if we have been more stressed lately.
- I suggest tracking your headaches to see if there is a pattern. Rate your headaches from 1-10 (1 being rarely noticeable and 10 being a full on migraine where you cannot function). Each time you have a headache, rate the severity and then write down how stressed or anxious you have been feeling that week and if there are any different stressors that have popped up recently. You can then look back at this "chart" of headaches to see if any patterns emerge. You might be surprised by what you find.
13. Rapid Heartbeat:
- Whenever you are experiencing any symptoms that may be due to a medical condition, it is important that you rule that out first. After you consult with a medical professional and rule out a medical diagnosis, then you are most likely experiencing anxiety and increased stress levels. A common symptom of anxiety is a rapid heartbeat. You may experience an increased heartbeat when you are in a situation or environment that causes you to feel anxious or nervous.
- A common example is when people have a fear of public speaking, their heartbeat will increase before they have to stand in front of a crowd to speak. There are relaxation techniques that you can do before you public speak so that you can have more control over your heart rate. A professional therapist or counselor can help you figure out what is the best relaxation method that will work for you in those stressful moments.
- Again, consult a medical doctor, or sleep specialist, to rule out any medical condition that could be causing insomnia. If you are not experiencing a medical condition, then insomnia can be a mental health issue. A common cause of insomnia is anxiety. You may be awake at night ready for bed, but your mind is racing. Usually your mind is racing with worried thoughts and fears. A lack of sleep can then cause you to feel a lack of energy, irritability, and even an increase in anxiety. It is important that you are getting enough sleep at night so that you can focus on your goals of decreasing your anxiety. All of these symptoms go hand in hand. So it would make sense if you experience anxious thoughts that you may have trouble falling asleep at night.
15. Memory Issues:
- You may experience memory issues in which it is hard to focus and remember what someone recently told you or something you had to do. If you are feeling stressed and anxious, you may be more prone to losing your keys or phone. Your mind is constantly thinking and worrying about other things so you are not paying attention to minor things around you such as where you put your phone down.
- Memory also plays a role in concentration. If you find others are telling you something and then 5 minutes later, you forgot what they said then that is memory loss due to a lack of concentration. The best way to better your memory is to focus on concentrating on only one thing at a time. That means focusing your thoughts only on the task you are doing at that exact time. This is difficult to do since we live in a world where multitasking is so common- and usually expected. But if you find that multitasking is causing memory issues and other problems, then it is probably time to dial it back and focus on only one task at a time.
If you find yourself relating to a lot of these symptoms of anxiety, or you know someone who is, then it could be the perfect time to reach out for help. I specialize in helping adolescents and young adults in the Hoboken / Hudson County area who experience anxiety. I find that using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the best way in helping someone decrease their anxious symptoms- starting as soon as the first session. This is something you, or a loved you, shouldn't have to deal with alone any longer. Feel free to reach out to me to ask any questions and to schedule a free consult.
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in children and adolescent issues, and young adult counseling.