Anxiety is part of everyday life. We all get stressed out, dread obligations, get overwhelmed with responsibilities, worry about being evaluated at work, and get nervous when deadlines are looming. The price of doing anything important or taking up responsibility for yourself is some degree of stress and anxiety. A little anxiety can help spur activity and motivate success, but a lot of anxiety can be crippling. This article gives some signs that your anxiety may need to be assessed by a mental health professional.
When should you seek treatment for anxiety?
Psychologists, social workers, and counselors use a set of two primary criteria to decide whether everyday anxiety is becoming a problem that would benefit from therapeutic intervention. The first criterion is distress.
It is normal to be under stress during a busy work week, from overscheduling or from interpersonal conflict on occasion, but if you find yourself always stressed, always worried or constantly focused on the future; you may have an anxiety issue. Duration of anxiety and whether that anxiety is in response to a recognized external cause are both ways of distinguishing normal anxiety from a possible anxiety disorder. Rarely being able to relax, shut your mind off or “let things go” is a sign that you may need to develop new coping mechanisms or speak with a therapist.
Some people also experience anxiety that not only lasts longer but is of greater intensity than others. For example, everyone has some fear before public speaking, but you may find yourself so intensely afraid that you avoid speaking in all group settings. The highest fear levels are characterized by panic, where you have many different bodily symptoms of anxiety. Stress that affects your health and well-being and is out of proportion with those around you are good indicators that you should learn new ways to cope or seek mental health care.
Dysfunction is the other criteria psychologists use to determine whether a person meets the criteria for an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can significantly interfere with our personal lives, social relationships, and our ability to excel at work.
Anxiety can cause problems with friends, partners, and colleagues in many ways. Here are a few ways that stress can cause harm to your social relationships:
- Finding yourself so focused on worries you cannot listen to your loved ones
- When fears, anxieties, or obsessing makes you more irritable with people around you
- Avoiding meeting new people or keeping up with friends due to anxiety
- Lowered confidence in yourself, preventing you from sharing feelings/thoughts or taking risks that might deepen relationships
- Work or worry so much that you do not spend time with the people you care about
All of these are signs that you have significant interference in your relationships due to anxiety.
Anxiety can cause difficulties at work that can impede efficiency and limit your ability to be effective. A few ways anxiety can interfere with functioning at work are listed below.
- Avoiding primary responsibilities that damage work relationships
- Being unable to stand up for yourself and your interests at work (e.g., allowing others to take credit for work, not asking for promotions, and accepting unfair treatment)
- Spending time too much time on details of work
- Inability to concentrate due to anxiety
- Difficulties meeting deadlines due to time lost to anxiety
To summarize, if you find that anxiety causes you a high amount of distress or significantly interferes with your life, you may meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. An assessment with a qualified mental health professional can tell you for sure and provide you with more information about anxiety disorders and better ways to cope with anxiety.
By: Christopher Grandits, PhD