Feeling anxious from time to time is a natural part of our lives. However, feeling anxious constantly or letting that anxiety get in the way of living a normal life is not natural. If you feel you may have more anxiety or your anxiety is more intense than is proper, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Is your level of anxiety appropriate for each situation? If you see a man walking your way with a gun, your level of anxiety should appropriately be high. On the other hand, if you’re feeling incredibly anxious about driving two miles to the mall, your anxiety is probably out of proportion.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Constantly worrying about everything. It can keep you up at night, make you chronically tired, and cause nausea. Your levels of anxiety are higher than the average person’s and you invent and worry about situations that will most likely never happen to you or your loved ones.
Example: Worrying that your daughter will get in a bike accident when she rides to school, worrying that you will be in a car accident as you drive to the grocery store, playing out the funeral scene in your mind should your husband die unexpectedly tomorrow.
This is beyond shyness; it’s a high level of anxiety about being out in public or in a group situation. It’s an excessive fear about social places and situations, and it can be incapacitating. You may have low self-esteem or worry too much about what others think of you.
You may practice avoidance rather than deal with the anxiety.
Example: Severe anxiousness when attending a church service or intense fear of going to a crowded movie.
Anticipated or random attacks of panic brought on by excessive adrenaline and incorrectly assessing a situation with intense anxiety. You spend a lot of time worrying you will have another panic attack and go to great lengths to avoid situations that might bring on an attack.
Example: Having a panic attack with symptoms of not being able to breathe, racing heart, and clamminess while on an airplane.
Obsessive thoughts and anxieties that are tempered by performing rituals. These rituals are done over and over again the same way each time or great anxiety is the result.
Example: Unlocking and locking your car door 6 times before you can leave it, or washing your hands with 3 squirts of soap and washing the back of the hands 4 times each.
Varying anxiety symptoms as a result of a traumatic event. You have very real feelings of anxiety that a similar event will happen again.
Example: The traumatic event of rape can lead to fear of men, flashbacks, not being able to sleep alone, and the new occurrence of panic attacks, etc.
Phobias are persistent, irrational fears and are associated with anxiety. If you are presented with the object of your fears, you immediately experience high levels of anxiety.
Example: Fear of airplanes or fear of snakes.
Having some anxiety in our lives is a normal occurrence, but when it is out of proportion to the event or seems to be taking over, then it could be that you are suffering from one of the above anxiety disorders.