Anxiety - What is it and do I have it?
Updated: Feb 19
EVERYONE EXPERIENCES ANXIETY from time to time. It is normal for individuals to experience anxiety. Anxiety can be a healthy response to life stressors. You may experience anxiety when you are stressing over an upcoming test or feel nervous about giving a speech in front of the class. You may experience nerves when you are interviewing for a new job or worry when you are driving somewhere different.
Anxiety can be experienced on many different levels. There are several benefits of experiencing lower levels of anxiety. Good stress, otherwise known as eustress, can motivate us to complete daily tasks or keep us interested in life activities. This is referred to as positive stress. Eustress is beneficial to your overall wellbeing and it is important for you to maintain this type of stress. This type of stress allows you to overcome daily challenges, strive for your goals, and to live life with excitement and passion.
For many individuals, anxiety exists on several levels above eustress. This is when a person experiences intensified anxiety. Intensified or extreme anxiety interferes with our daily functioning. It can be overwhelming, debilitating and exhausting. When we experience this type of anxiety, we feel and react with intense emotional responses. This anxiety were experiences at heightened levels is out of proportion to the the actual stressor being experienced. If you are living with heightened or extreme anxiety, you may not be aware of the severity of your anxiety.
How do you know if you have heightened or intense anxiety? The following are examples of what a person with heightened or severe anxiety may experience:
-Heightened nerves, worry or stress many weeks before a major event, life occurrence or situation.
-Several racing thoughts regarding upcoming events, situations or life occurences.
-Self-defeating or negative thoughts regarding themselves, the event/occurrence/situation, the performance, the outcome, etc.
-Dwelling or obsessing about the situation, event or occurrence.
-Loss of sleep due to difficulties relaxing and increased racing thoughts or repetitive thoughts prior to bed.
-Tossing and turning throughout the night.
-Waking up in the middle of the night and difficulties falling back asleep.
-Stress or emotional eating throughout the day.
-Mindless eating (without thinking). ie: shoving 20 Oreo cookies into your mouth or eating an entire bag of chips without truly experiencing the flavor or enjoying the food. This also includes not being aware of the time frame in which you are eating.
-Heightened irritability or appears to display mood swings (an extreme or rapid change in mood) throughout the day.
-Feeling tired throughout the day or experiencing frequent low energy.
-Taking naps. Life may feel so overwhelming that sleeping allows you to avoid, or to shut out, the anxiety for a period of time.
-Avoidance, such as skipping classes, not going to activities with friends, engaging in procrastination or staying away from anything that makes you anxious.
-Somatic symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, nausea and tension in the muscles.
-Anxiety attack(s) – ie: feeling like it's hard to breath and your heart is pounding rapidly. This may be followed by sweating, shaking, trembling and crying.
When you struggle with anxiety, it can affect your entire life. If you can relate to any of the above, you are not alone. Severe anxiety affects many individuals. In fact, this type of anxiety can even be biological. If you have heightened anxiety there is a good chance that at least one, if not several, of your family members are suffering from it too.
If you are struggling with heightened, severe or overwhelming anxiety, do not hesitate to seek help. There are many professionals, such as myself, who specialize in treating anxiety. It is possible to manage anxiety and bring it to a lower, more functioning, level. Anxiety is one of the most treatable mental health conditions that a person experiences, so you it's possible to help you experience eustress without crossing into the realm of extreme or chronic anxiety.