Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. If anxiety regularly affects your activities, then it’s a problem that needs addressing.
There are several types of common Anxiety Disorders. Early intervention is crucial in any case of illness, including anxiety. So how do you know if your anxiety is normal or a serious problem?
There are a few key areas to consider when measuring your anxiety episodes: stressor, intensity, length, and background.
It’s important to honestly evaluate your anxiety as dependent upon how strong the problem is and it is likely that you will need external help to alleviate it. Whether help is readily available, self-help or professional, it can make a huge difference in your life.
What Brought on the Anxiety?
Medium to large life events (stressors) often come with some nervousness or anxiety. You have an exam, a job interview, meeting with a potential partner, learning how to drive, and so on – these sorts of normal but important events are likely to cause some anxiety.
When daily activities (stressors) bring on nervousness or anxiety, this can be problematic. Doing some shopping, cleaning your room, making a decision about what to eat or wear – these shouldn’t make you anxious.
How Anxious Do You Get?
Sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach – it’s difficult to measure feelings, but physical symptoms are real. Nervous feelings that easily pass are in the normal range.
People often describe an anxiety attack as feeling like they can’t breathe, can’t move and are dying. That’s problematic. You may also have nausea, can’t think clearly, having light-headedness and/or faint. Having repetitive and uncontrollable intrusive negative thoughts are also problematic signs.
How Long Does the Anxiety Last?
Can’t sleep before a medium to large event? That’s normal. Maybe you are even nervous for a couple days before the event, but soon afterwards you feel fine again.
Being anxious for weeks (or even months), before a medium to large event is problematic. Frequently being anxious about doing daily activities is also problematic.
Avoidance is another key to consider, but again difficult to measure. If you avoid daily activities, skip tests and exams, don’t go to important appointments or work – these are all problematic signs.
What’s Your Background?
Normal or Problematic Range:
This is where it is especially tricky and particularly important to be honest with yourself; while the causes of anxiety disorders aren’t entirely understood, traumatic events can trigger anxiety in many people.
Health issues can also be a trigger. How much trauma have you experienced in your life? Have you had challenging health issues?
So Now What To Do?
If you feel your anxiety is in the “normal range” you may simply need an occasional de-stressing before particular events. But as anxiety disorders are on the rise in these stressful times, you should talk about your anxiety with someone.
Chatting with a friend or loved one about your and their experiences with anxiety may help you feel better.
Talking to a health professional can also give provide relief by helping clarify whether or not you have regular levels of anxiety or simply need to adjust your lifestyle before things get worse.
If your leanings are towards the “problematic range” the sooner you get help, the sooner you will find relief. Anxiety disorders are among the most treatable of emotional disorders; you may just need to consider a few lifestyle changes or learn how to implement useful strategies that a professional health care provider can help you with.
When anxiety dips into the problematic range, it has become a biological problem that will not simply go away. Many “normal” (though not necessarily healthy) habits will only make your anxiety worse.
Caffeine, poor sleep habits, diet, and/or lack of exercise will all contribute to your anxiety, prolonging your suffering. Please take your anxiety seriously; you were not created to suffer.
Narrated Usamah ibn Sharik:
“I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and his Companions were sitting as if they had birds on their heads. I saluted and sat down. The desert Arabs then came from here and there. They asked: Messenger of Allah, should we make use of medical treatment? He replied: Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, with the exception of one disease, namely old age.” Sahih Al-Albani