Almost everybody has small amounts of anxiety from time to time, and it’s not always a bad thing. It’s only natural to be a little jittery or nervous before big events like final exams, a sporting competition, the opening night of your play, a job interview, or your wedding day, just to name a few. A case of “nerves” can be attributed to a slight boost in adrenaline that sets your heart pumping and makes you ultra-aware of your environment so that you can actually function and perform at your peak during these stressful moments. So in some cases, a little nervous anxiety is totally natural and it can actually be a good thing. However, there is a fine line between experiencing nervous excitement and having an anxiety disorder, so you may be interested to know some of the symptoms to see if your ongoing anxiety is something that requires outside help to overcome.
- Severity, duration, persistence. Serious anxiety is marked by a severity of symptoms not present in mere nervousness. For example, you may experience a racing heart or palpitations that leave you feeling short of breath. You will also notice that these symptoms linger even after the triggering event has passed or occur persistently when there does not seem to be an event that would warrant their arrival.
- Causes. While many people feel nervous or excited about big events, those who suffer from anxiety often experience symptoms when the cause is seemingly trivial, such as when children leave for school or upon entering freeway traffic, or even if there is no apparent cause whatsoever. Keep in mind that certain consumables (for example, caffeine) may also be triggering these symptoms, so consider this possibility when consulting a physician.
- Fear. Severe anxiety is often accompanied by a host of fears. They are sometimes associated with impending (but unlikely) catastrophic events (such as an automobile or airplane accident, natural disasters, etc.) or you might feel like you are having a heart attack or that, in essence, your symptoms are going to lead to your death. This is so common that most doctors, in the course of therapy, suggest that patients remind themselves that they are not going to die and that the anxiety is only temporary.
- Panic. It is natural for someone to panic when they are in the throes of anxiety. After all, your body is primed for fight or flight and all that energy has to go somewhere, so your body goes into panic mode. Anxiety and panic attacks are closely linked. However, there are many exercises you can learn to calm yourself and regain control.
- Debilitation. The best way to determine if you have an anxiety disorder, as opposed to run-of-the-mill stress or nervousness, is to take a close look at the affect it is having on your life. If you find that you are hesitant to leave the house because you fear a panic attack or that you suffer from distorted hearing or vision, severe headaches, or even hallucinations as a result of your anxiety, then you should realize that you have a serious and debilitating condition and seek professional help immediately.