Do I Have An Anxiety Disorder?

I have lived with anxiety most of my life, so when I was first diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), my mind was blown. You mean there are people out there who aren’t constantly worrying? What’s that like?

I have spent a lot of time contemplating what these people think about with all that extra space in their brains. How would I ever fill the time? Would I finally have the mental real estate to learn a new language? Unlock the secret to world peace? Or would I fail to live up to these expectations, proving that it isn’t my anxiety holding me back, but an inherent lack of worth? And now I’m anxious and depressed.

If you can relate, you may now be worrying that you have an anxiety disorder. I am not going to tell you not to worry because that’s probably the least helpful thing you can say to someone who is already worrying (oh, why didn’t I think of that? Everything is better, thank you!).

I will say two things: one, try not to diagnose yourself on the internet. Especially if you are inclined towards anxiety, you have probably already diagnosed yourself with cancer multiple times like I have. The best thing you can do is talk to some sort of healthcare professional who can guide you to the right resources. While anxiety is generally self-diagnosable, the last thing I want is for you to take this blog post as an excuse not to see a medical professional for treatment. I know I have all the symptoms, why would I bother? Because anxiety is a real ailment that impacts your life and wellbeing and should receive equal medical attention as a physical health condition.

Two, try to have hope. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorders in the U.S., affecting around 40 million people, and they are also highly treatable. This means that you’re not alone, and you have options.

Signs You May Need Professional Help for Your Anxiety

You feel out of control.

Does it feel like you have no control over how you think, feel, and/or behave? Maybe you are so consumed with anxious thoughts that you didn’t hear a single thing that went on in that meeting. Perhaps you are feeling so fearful and sad that you cancel all your plans with your friends, leaving them concerned. You might know that you have to go to your property management company to pay rent, but the idea of talking to a stranger makes you so nervous that you can’t make yourself go. If you feel like your anxiety is controlling you, you might benefit from professional help.

You’re feeling physical symptoms of anxiety.

You might be able to identify your anxiety by certain mental symptoms. For instance, you may recognize that you are obsessing over something. But many people don’t realize that even if they aren’t thinking about something that makes them anxious, anxiety can manifest in physical ways.

Remember that your body and mind are not really separate. What you think impacts how your body feels, and what your body feels impacts how you think. Even if you are pushing anxious thoughts down and in denial about how you feel, your body knows, and will tell you in ways you can’t ignore. If you’re experiencing symptoms such as heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, a heavy feeling on your chest, or digestive issues, listen to your body and seek help.

Everyone is getting on your nerves.

Does it seem like everyone is annoying you recently? Chances are, you haven’t suddenly found yourself surrounded by assholes — irritability is actually a symptom of anxiety. This one can be tough to deal with, but I have found it can be a helpful indication that something is going on for me. If my friend is talking and I am finding myself getting annoyed by them for no apparent reason, generally, this is because my anxiety wants my attention too. So I try to pause for a moment and think back to what exactly is distracting me from this conversation.

You can’t sleep.

Again, this could be your body’s way of telling you something is up. I can’t even tell you how many times this has happened: I am exhausted by 6 p.m. I am complaining to everyone I know how tired I am and how much I can’t wait to go to bed. Then bedtime rolls around, and I am doing everything I can to avoid it. Suddenly I have to organize my Tupperware right then or I won’t be able to do anything the next day. I have to make more progress on the book I am reading so that I can return it to my friend in a timely manner so they don’t think I am a slow reader (and maybe they will even call me a fast reader, which is a comment that I find very flattering for some reason). My phone is a fascinating portal that I must fall down for hours instead of sleep.

On my healthiest days, I recognize that I am having some anxiety, take my anxiety med, journal about it, and do my best to set aside my worries for another day. Regardless of what will work for you, talking to a specialist about your anxiety may help you get better sleep.

You avoid social situations.

Sometimes, there is nothing better than the sweet sound of your phone buzzing to let you know that your plans have been cancelled. Wanting alone time, or even preferring it, is not in itself a sign of anxiety.

However, if you’re always dodging Facebook invites out of fear, or you spend social situations analyzing your every movement with a critical eye, you could have social anxiety.

Many people are surprised to learn that I struggle with social anxiety. I have a management position at a 600+ person company and I was the president or my sorority senior year, so I can see why people who don’t know me that well get confused when I say this.

On the outside, I appear very socially easy. I am not trying to brag but, I’m likable. I know how to make people feel good and I am very go-with-the-flow, so I don’t tend to cause much conflict. On the inside of my brain, however, my anxious brain is often going a mile a minute. In times when my social anxiety is really bad, I have felt like I was reading people’s minds, and they were thinking awful things about me.

After years of therapy, I have come to a place where I can identify when my socially anxious thoughts are irrational. I can give myself a mean mirror pep talk at this point. The thoughts are still there, but I just don’t give them the weight that I used to. It has taken a lot of patience and practice, but it’s possible to cope with social anxiety.

If you feel like you can relate to any of these signs, it’s a good idea to talk to someone about them. I personally recommend connecting with a licensed counselor, and if you need help finding one, I have written a guide on how to find a therapist. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms, it’s also wise to consult with your doctor who can help rule out any medical causes of your anxiety.

Anxiety sucks, but it’s manageable once you figure out the right treatment for you. The key is to be patient with yourself and celebrate even the small victories. If you have any tips for getting anxiety treatment, I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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Mental Illness Getting in the Way of Your Resolutions? You’re Not Alone

As someone who is straight up obsessed with self-reflection and growth, I unabashedly love New Year’s. This is a time when everyone is getting a little introspective about what they want out of life, as well as what they have accomplished so far. I love seeing people taking advantage of self-improvement being in the air.

That being said, setting New Year’s resolutions is easier than accomplishing them. Personally, I have started many a year with lofty ambitions, only for December to come with no little-to-no progress made. I have often found myself waging a battle against mental illness to be the best version of myself. Turns out, I’m not alone in this experience.

Anxiety and Depression as Obstacles to New Year’s Resolutions

A recent survey of 500 people by Body Nutrition revealed that mental health may be a significant reason why many people cannot consistently implement the changes they want to make in the new year. Of the respondents, 29 percent said anxiety and depression were the biggest obstacles to making their fitness or wellness resolutions regular habits.

Body Nutrition New Year's Resolutions

These mental health conditions were nearly the most common reason why people struggle to make progress toward their wellness goals. Anyone who has experienced mental illness can relate to this. You might resolve to make more meals at home, but summoning the energy to get out of bed to cook feels impossible. Soon, you’re stuck in a cycle of rumination, beating yourself for not being able to follow through, filling you with shame. This is a common experience for people with depression and/or anxiety, and it may make the new year a time of stress for you rather than optimism. The good news is, there are plenty of resources to help people with anxiety and depression to set goals and achieve them.

Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions When You Have Anxiety and Depression

I was much more successful with my resolutions this year. While I didn’t accomplish all of them, I’m proud of my progress and what I managed to check off my list. Here are some of the tools that helped me.

Practice Self-Compassion

This is my number-one tip for literally every aspect of life, but particularly goal-setting. Living with anxiety and depression often means having a running monologue in your head of everything you’re doing wrong. With a constant critic whispering in your ear, it’s no wonder you struggle to summon the confidence needed to take risks and make necessary changes. Cutting yourself some slack allows you to approach your resolution with curiosity rather than fear of failure. Let’s say you have resolved to start running, but you end up skipping the second day. You might think something like, “I can’t do this. I can never stick with anything. I’ll never be able to change.” This line of thinking makes it that much more difficult to get back to running. Alternatively, a more compassionate response may be, “I feel the need to rest today, but that’s okay. I will run tomorrow instead.”

Self-compassion is not like flipping a switch. It takes time to adopt a new mindset, so when you have negative thoughts about yourself pop up, don’t be discouraged. Something that has helped me is to think of myself as a child I am taking care of. I would never speak to my adorable baby self the way I tend to now, so it helps me to approach my thoughts with more compassion and less judgment.

Be Realistic

One of the most frustrating parts of depression is feeling like you are capable of so much more than your condition allows. While being depressed doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish great things, it’s important to accommodate your symptoms instead of denying their real impact on your life. For example, let’s say you want to write a novel this year. That’s a great goal, but make sure to give yourself some freedom in this timeline to cope with any depressive symptoms that might pop up. Dedicating two hours every day to writing might not be realistic when some days, just waking up is a major undertaking. Instead, if you give yourself a flexible schedule with realistic expectations, you’re better able to cope when your mental illness decides to pop up and interrupt your plans.

Think Of Your Overall Wellness

Many wellness resolutions are appearance-based. The problem with these resolutions, such as losing weight, is that they focus on what you look like on the outside instead of how you feel inside. More often than not, you end up at war with your body, launching a grenade into your self-worth. Instead of putting your efforts behind aesthetics, I would encourage you to look at your wellness from a holistic perspective, with special attention to your mental health. How could you give yourself more space to heal old emotional wounds and learn new ways to manage your symptoms? How could you go through 2019 with more self-love? What are some things you could do for your health that have nothing to do with what you look like to the outside world? Reflect on these questions while writing your resolutions.

I hope that these tips help you with these common obstacles to sticking with your resolutions. Regardless of what you accomplished last year, I hope that you will give yourself credit for getting through 2018 and facing all the challenges that were thrown your way. Here’s to a great 2019!

XOXO,
Ginzo