Fear can affect us in so many different ways. How many of these symptoms did you know?
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects up to 5% of the UK population, according to the NHS. GAD is defined as a constant or recurring feeling of discomfort, worry, or fear.
In general, we are all scared at certain points in our lives. This can be related to a specific activity, e.g. For example, speaking in front of a crowd or going to a doctor’s appointment, waves of fear may fall over us when we are going through a particularly stressful time.
The thing about fear is that it can creep in on us in creeping and deceptive ways. How can you tell when it does? Here we share 12 things that you might not have known could be symptoms of anxiety.
1. Difficulty concentrating
Have you ever had difficulty getting involved in the task at hand? Or do you find it difficult to block out distractions? Challenges to your concentration are a common symptom of anxiety. You might find yourself dealing with intrusive thoughts all the time – you might worry about what is troubling you – or your mind may feel clogged. When we struggle with fear, our bodies go into combat or flight mode, which means we are on high alert. All in all, it’s no wonder that our minds go into full swing too.
2. Shame spirals
A family member you haven’t seen in a while leaves a comment on a photo you uploaded to Facebook and says they missed you. Did you: a) send them a message to find a date to meet; or b) feeling guilty for not seeing them, declaring yourself a selfish and thoughtless person, thinking about it all day, and repeating the interaction in your head late into the night? Sound familiar? It’s called a spiral of shame and can be a sign of underlying anxiety.
Chills are an incredibly common, but seldom-spoken, symptom of anxiety. When our body goes into combat or flight mode, our body temperature changes quickly, which can make us feel “cold”. Chills can also be accompanied by an increase in our sweat response – a cold sweat – all of which comes from the adrenaline that flows through our bodies when our anxiety levels rise.
You have heard of the phrase “my heart skipped a beat”. This is what anxiety-induced palpitations can feel like. It can also describe a racing heartbeat or just an unusual awareness of your heartbeat – all of these are triggered by your panic response. However, if you have regular heart palpitations, it is a good idea to check with your GP to make sure you don’t have any other underlying problems.
Are you struggling to give up control while working on a project with coworkers? Or if you are arranging a meeting with friends, do you need to know every detail of how the day will go?
Controlling behavior can sometimes be the result of anxiety that makes you fearful of feeling out of control. Catching things up again and monitoring every detail can make you feel more relaxed in challenging situations. Of course, controlling behavior can be uncomfortable for others and – in the worst case – even abusive. If you find yourself having difficulty relinquishing control and it is affecting your relationships with others, it may be a good idea to speak to a professional.
6. Sleep disorders
In the UK, 22% of people have trouble falling asleep every night and it would be a good guess to say that many of these cases could be related to anxiety. Just as intrusive thoughts can keep us from focusing during the day, an anxious mind can keep us awake at night. Does that sound understandable? Check out our guide on how to get common poor sleep scenarios to bed for good.
7. Skin flair ups
If you already live with a skin condition like acne, psoriasis, or eczema, anxiety can cause it to flare up from periods of stress. This is due to the relationship between our stress response and our hormones. Hormones stimulate our skin glands and hair follicles, which is why we may find that pre-existing skin conditions worsen during difficult times.
Back to what we know about how fear puts us in combat or flight mode. When we are in combat mode, we may find that we are less able to control our temperament or react to stressful or irritating situations in our normal way. You may find that you are a little more prickly, that you hit other people, or that you have overreacted to a situation that normally doesn’t bother you.
Procrastination is when we continually postpone a job or task that we know needs to be done. When it comes to anxious thoughts, it’s easy to see how worrying about something can lead us to avoid it – but sometimes it’s not always obvious. If you find yourself postponing a task over and over, work backwards and consider why this might be the case.
Essentially, this can be fixed on rethinking. Perhaps you worry that the things you produce are never good enough, or you are worried about meeting other people’s expectations. You may find yourself pecking at your work all the time, going over and over again to make sure nothing can be perceived as wrong. Of course, not all perfectionism is based on fear, but this could be a subtle way it invades your daily life.
11. Never say no
We all feel compelled to say yes to things we’d rather not do now and then, whether out of courtesy or a sense of duty. But chronic people who are comfortable can come from a place of fear, worrying about letting others down, or fear of feeling out of control.
12. Nausea and stomach pain
Feeling sick, stomach cramps, constipation, gas and flatulence – the intestinal-brain connection is a complex and sensitive system. Chemically linked through neurotransmitters, what goes on in our head can directly affect the feelings we get in our gut.
For example, you may find that you have digestive problems on a particularly stressful day, or you may feel nauseous just before the start of a big interview. Additionally, when we are already anxious, we may have bowel symptoms – or we eat different things – which can then fuel our anxiety and keep us in a cycle.
For many people, fear is something that comes and goes all their lives. While professional assistance may be required in some cases, the key to managing anxiety lies in the daily things we can do to overcome it and, broadly, in recognizing the signs and responding accordingly.
If you are struggling with anxiety, visit angst UK or call the hotline on 03444 775 774.