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Do you know what anxiety really feels like? 5 signs you may have it
Wondering if you deal with anxiety? Here's how to tell. - photo by Kevin Ippisch

Anxiety isn't rare. In fact, it affects "40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older," according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

Generally, doctors and specialists define anxiety as being in a trance of worries and fears about an ambiguous future.

This spell comes from a fixation on an anticipated event, either realistic or made up. People in this state can become impaired physically and psychologically.

Anxiety becomes a disorder when it prevents people from living a normal life.

Types of anxiety disorders

Four common anxiety disorders include:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Patients with GAD excessively worry about daily problems, such as physical and mental health, finances, careers and their home life. They could also have trouble sleeping, and muscle cramping or tension. Panic disorder: Patients experience an unanticipated, intense feeling of danger without actually being at risk. Symptoms often mimic a heart attack. Social phobia: Patients feel overly judged by their peers and become embarrassed more often. They feel overly self-conscious about themselves in any social situation. They often will exhibit panic attack symptoms. Specific phobias: Patients have a strong fear of something that poses a threat to them or is made up. Common phobias include heights, water, animals, or situational examples. They can have a panic attack or extreme anxiety over these phobias, sometimes without experiencing it; they can just think about it. Determining which anxiety disorder you might have can be difficult. Many symptoms overlap or mimic some from a different disorder.

Five symptoms you shouldn't ignore

Fortunately, there are common symptoms of all anxiety disorders. Contact your doctor if you experience one or more of these symptoms:

1. Excessive worry

The main symptom of an anxiety disorder is worrying. You can worry about everyday things, big or small. It also involves having anxious feelings that persist throughout the week or last for months.

Worrying becomes unwarranted when it prevents you from going through your daily routine. This can also be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as muscle aches or tiredness.

2. Disrupted sleep patterns

Naturally, you’ll be nervous the night before an important interview or a final exam. What distinguishes normal nighttime worries and anxiety from normalcy is the frequency.

If you find yourself lying awake in bed multiple nights a week with agitated or worrisome thoughts, you might have an anxiety disorder. These thoughts can be about real problems or about nothing.

Another clue: if you wake up with a racing heart or mind and are unable to calm yourself.

3. Muscle tension

Continuous muscle tension is often associated with anxiety disorders. Muscle tension can include, but is not limited to, jaw clenching, raising your shoulders, making fists, or moving various muscles throughout your body.

This symptom can be so persistent that it becomes part of your daily life. If you’ve had these tendencies for a long time, you may not even notice them anymore.

Exercise can help manage your muscle tensions if you need a quick solution for it.

4. Persistent indigestion

Anxiety doesn’t just affect your mind; it can also spread to other parts of your body and cause physical issues.

"Anxiety can worsen symptoms of abdominal cramps and pain and make you literally feel sick to your stomach," according to the ADAA.

People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sometimes suffer from anxiety, which can worsen IBS symptoms.

5. Panic attacks

Panic attacks happen when you feel overwhelmingly fearful and hopeless with physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, chest pain, hot or cold flashes, light-headedness, and sweating. These episodes can last for several minutes.

You might dread when your next attack will happen and try to elude places where previous ones occurred.

Don't be afraid to reach out

If the symptoms above describe you and your situation, you are likely dealing with anxiety. See your doctor or a specialist to help you with the proper treatment plan. Reaching out will only get you on track to managing your symptoms so you can live life the way you want.