It’s normal to feel nervous every now and then. If you feel jittery before public speaking, attending a job interview, or going on a romantic date, then guess what — you’re like most people.
That’s because nervous feelings are quite normal. Many people get ‘butterflies’ in their stomach before doing stressful things. Those feelings are normally short-lived and go away once the stressful event is over.
Anxiety is when those negative feelings last for a long time. The constant worry either doesn’t go away, or you start to feel it for seemingly no specific reason.
You might find that these anxious feelings happen so often, or are so intense, that they affect your day-to-day life. Worry might start to strain your relationships, your job, or even your health.
There’s good news though. Anxiety can be managed and treated.
“It is normal to feel worried about these situations. However, if the anxiety stays with you even after the situation or event has passed, it could begin to affect everyday life.”
5 common signs of anxiety
It is normal to feel worried about these situations. However, if the anxiety stays with you even after the situation or event has passed, it could begin to affect everyday life.
Although anxiety (as well as depression) is very common in the population, the specific feelings and symptoms of anxiety are usually different between individuals. Even so, there are some common symptoms, both emotional and physical.
Here are 5 common signs of anxiety.
1) Do you feel like you worry constantly?
Worrying is a common sign of anxiety. You might imagine ‘worst-case-scenarios’ (“did I leave the oven on?”) or you might tend to believe things are worse than they actually are ( “everyone at this party hates me” or “my boss things I’m useless”). You might even worry constantly about a pet or a loved one.
Intense worry can affect how you live daily life and how you relate and talk to people. It can affect your wellbeing, it could strain your relationships with partners and family, and even affect your employment.
2) Do you put a lot of effort into avoiding some situations?
It is normal to want to avoid difficult or stressful situations. With strong feelings of anxiety, however, that drive can be very intense. Instead of just feeling nervousness, you might go to a lot of effort to avoid situations or events altogether.
You might think of excuses to not go to a social event, or you might avoid the freeway (even if it takes far longer to go somewhere). This kind of avoiding behaviour can affect your wellbeing and can further compound underlying anxiety.
3) Do you get stomach upsets?
Butterflies in your stomach are a common feeling before an event like a social situation (“I don’t know anyone at this event”) or some kind of public speaking. However, intense anxiety can cause those feelings to seem far more intense.
With anxiety, those nervous sensations can feel like you’re “sick to your stomach” with worry. You might feel nausea (feeling queasy) or, in more serious cases, you might actually be sick or get stomach pains. You may also get “the runs”.
4) Do you pick your nails, skin, or hair?
You know that picking your nails, skin or hair has something to do with nervousness. There are many complex reasons why people do this. However, if you tend to do it a lot during or before stressful situations, it could be a sign of anxiety.
The effects of skin and nail picking (bleeding fingers, scarring, etc.) can feel embarrassing or shameful, which can make existing feelings of anxiety feel even more intense.
5) Do you use your phone to help you cope?
For better or for worse, smartphones have changed the way we live our lives. On one hand, planning, organising and staying in touch digitally is easier than ever. On the other, smartphones can be a huge distraction and an annoying intrusion in social situations.
You expect (or can’t avoid) to see people on their phones during social events or dinner. If you do this from time to time, then you’re probably like most people under the age of 40. However, if during social events you’re constantly checking social media, playing games or watching, then that might be a sign of anxiety.
It’s the difference between doing something for fun and using something as a means to escape or cope with normal social interaction.
“Anxiety is not shameful. In fact, talking about it can be very helpful.”
How can I talk about anxiety?
There are many more behaviours that are symptoms or signs of anxiety. While none of them are fun, remember that many other people are experiencing similar feelings.
Anxiety is not shameful. In fact, talking about it can be very helpful. It might feel unusual if you’ve never been brought up to talk about it, but it’s almost always a step in the right direction.
Reaching out to a trusted friend or family member is one way to get the conversation started. NQ Connect also provides professional free counselling over the phone and online. The people you speak to are trained to help you identify ways to manage and deal with anxiety.
If you are concerned, it’s a good idea to see a health professional to get a full diagnosis. This will allow you to get appropriate treatment.
Want to know more?
Check out the second part of this story: 5 more signs of anxiety
Need help? You can find support services in northern Queensland or complete a self-administered K10 test for depression and anxiety. You can also join the online mental health forum to talk with like-minded people.