Anxiety is a normal part of life. We all experience a certain degree of it. According to Kellie “Casey” Cook, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas, these standard anxious feelings can assist us in decision making or in keeping ourselves safe.
“It’s when anxiety impairs your daily functioning and overall enjoyment of life that it might be time to take a closer look at what’s going on,” Cook tells Considerable.
That’s why it’s important to seek professional help for a budding anxiety disorder sooner rather than later, says Dr. Brian Wind, Ph.D., a clinical executive at JourneyPure. Too often, Wind sees people attempting to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, which creates a severe risk for co-occurring disorder — meaning substance use disorder and anxiety disorder simultaneously.
Below, we’ve shared the signs that your anxiety may be something more serious. And don’t be intimidated: “It’s common to see your symptoms abate when the anxiety is addressed and managed,” says Cook.
This will look different for everyone and, again, it’s important to consult with your doctor to determine the best plan of action for your individual situation.
1. You’ve lost your appetite
When your feelings are severe enough that you’ve lost your appetite, you’re experiencing more than typical anxiousness. “This is particularly true if the loss of appetite extends well beyond the anxiety episode and permeates throughout your day,” Jamie Bacharach, a Licensed Medical Acupuncturist and the Head of Practice at Acupuncture Jerusalem tells Considerable.
Our bodies require energy in the form of calories to help us make it through our day without crashing, Bacharach says. This is why loss of appetite is so dangerous — if you stop eating, your body won’t receive the fuel it needs to function properly.
2. You have trouble sleeping
If you’re thinking about your anxiety at night to the extent that it makes it hard to fall asleep, causes you to wake up in the middle of the night, or otherwise disrupts your typical sleeping habits, Bacharach says that you are experiencing a more severe anxiety disorder.
“Healthy sleep is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle — any capacity in which your anxiety disrupts your sleep warrants professional attention,” the doctor says.
3. You can’t function properly at work
Everyone deals with different kinds of stress and anxiety on a regular basis. “But our ability to put those feelings aside and focus on work and other responsibilities is critical to our health,” Bacharach tells Considerable.
If you find that your feelings of anxiety linger and disrupt your focus at work, she says, your anxiety is beyond what would be described as typical.
4. You don’t want to leave home
Anxiousness is difficult, but most people are capable of enduring an anxiety attack without significant lingering effects. However in some cases, fear of encountering an anxiety attack is so severe that it confines people to their homes, which represent a sort of ‘safety zone’ where anxious situations are unlikely to occur.
If you’re unable to leave home to carry out your typical routine, you could be suffering from anxiety that’s far more severe than typical anxious feelings and should consult your doctor.
5. You’re experiencing panic attacks
Panic attacks are another way that more severe anxiety disorders can manifest. You’ll know if you’re experiencing reoccurring panic attacks, as they produce overwhelming and intense feelings of fear that can often be debilitating.
According to Healthline, this extreme fear is typically accompanied by rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea and fear of dying or losing control. Panic attacks, though exceptionally scary, can indeed be managed with the proper treatment.