It is normal to feel nervous and worried once in a while. These feelings are a useful part of human evolution because they help us stay alert and deal with danger.
Some people, however, experience those strong feelings for no apparent reason. They might worry about stressful situations for a prolonged time, or they might worry a lot, even about minor things.
While you should always seek the opinion of a health professional, these could be common signs of anxiety. It’s a condition that can affect daily life and strain relationships, your job, and your physical health.
Common signs of anxiety
Continuing the theme from our previous article (5 signs and symptoms of anxiety) here are five more common signs.
There’s good news too. Anxiety is a condition that can be managed and treated.
1) Do you find it hard to focus or concentrate?
Many negative thoughts can be ‘front of mind’ if you’re constantly worried. Not surprisingly, you might find it hard to focus when you’re caught up in so many negative emotions.
You might forget or put off important things like paying the bills or going to social events because of the constant concern and worry. However, the consequences can add to the feelings of anxiety.
Being on edge can also affect how you listen and talk. You might find that you jump from topic to topic, interrupt people mid-sentence, or are distracted while they talk to you, all because of the worries on your mind.
2) Do you clench your jaw?
The medical term for jaw clenching is “bruxism”. It’s also called teeth grinding and it can be associated with anxiety.
It can happen during sleep or when you’re awake. It can cause jaw soreness and muscle pain. In more serious cases it can cause dental problems and headaches.
There are different ways for dealing with both the physical and emotional symptoms of teeth grinding. Some health professionals treat it with a mouth plate (a fitted insert similar to a mouth guard). There is often a mental health component too. Always consult a medical professional if you are concerned about teeth grinding.
3) Do you have trouble sleeping?
If you have anxiety, then it’s common to experience anxious or negative thoughts while you’re about to fall asleep. There are usually no distractions at this time and you’re usually very much ‘in your head’.
You might find that you’re replaying stressful situations in your mind. Or small worries can start to build up into bigger concerns. Anxiety before bed can even be linked to nightmares.
As you can imagine, lying awake at night because of stress and worry can affect your sleep. Proper sleep is vital for your wellbeing. Not getting enough of it can affect your mental health and cause you even greater anxiety. It can also affect your physical health.
4) Do you drink, smoke or use drugs to cope?
Grog is a widely accepted part of Australian culture. Smoking is also common, with 20 per cent of people in northern Queensland being daily smokers.
There are many reasons why people drink alcohol, smoke tobacco and use drugs. While they are often complex, the main reason is that it makes them feel good. People feel more confident or more socially outgoing. That is, it’s a fun (recreational) thing to do.
However, your drinking, smoking and drug taking could be a sign of underlying anxiety. Your behaviour might be due to a need to make negative feelings go away, instead of an outlet for enjoyment. That is when it’s no longer recreational use, but a way to try and deal with difficult emotions.
All substances (legal or otherwise) can harm if you consume enough. Risk-taking or hang-overs from drinking; the cost and effects on health from smoking; and risk-taking behaviours or financial and even legal problems from drug use are all examples. All of them can cause feelings of anxiety to be intensified.
5) Do you overeat or overindulge on food?
Unhealthy food is widely available and is a normal part of modern living. Your brain is programmed to make you crave sugary and fatty foods. No wonder almost everyone overindulges once in a while.
Regular eating to excess can be a sign of anxiety. Sometimes called emotional eating, this is when you eat food as a way to deal with feelings of emotional stress, rather than because you’re hungry.
Overeating can affect your physical health (from weight gain to heart disease), your mental health (feelings of shame or self-esteem) and might lead to heightened feelings of anxiety.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety can be due to many different things. Quite often, a combination of situations in a person’s life led them to feel anxious. Common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stressful time at work.
- Changing jobs.
- Relationship problems.
- Financial worries.
- Grieving the loss of a loved one.
- A major life event like an impending birth or marriage.
- Abuse (sexual, physical or emotional).
- Living with a chronic illness (e.g. diabetes).
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.
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.