How to Tell if You Have Anxiety Disorder

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If you're someone who can never earn enough or have enough money to relax about it, and to enjoy spending it, you may have underlying anxiety problems that you haven't had to face, or you haven't wanted to face. If opportunities to travel become reasons for days or weeks of anxiety-induced upset tummy, while you worry about packing, not packing; getting to the airport on time; finding the right terminal; getting lost in a foreign airport, driving in a foreign country, then it might be a good idea to look at other areas of your life.

It's Important To Confront Your Anxiety

Not so that you can find a label to put on your behaviour, but so that you can face your problems as the first step to managing them. Why? Because chances are that if you worry excessively about something as everyday as money or as unusual as travel, you may see that you spend a great deal of your day, every day, worrying in an unhelpful way about other things.

You probably also worry unduly about your job performance, and you're far too concerned about running late for appointments and about your contribution to work meetings. Your anxiety switch is turned up way too high. Your anxietylevel is excessive to a point where your quiet enjoyment of life is being seriously impaired. Forget about whether or not you're ill, your life is so filled with unhappy fear-filled feelings that you've forgotten how to feel joy and happiness. Joy is your birthright.

A person who has problem levels of anxiety, tends to worry far too much. Worry is their middle name.

They predict the worst about everything.

They worry, and sometimes feel intense levels of fear, about big and little issues. That anxietymanifests itself as uncomfortable physical symptoms throughout the day. Although that person may have days, even weeks, without feeling too much fear and anxiety about life, if they're invited to address a meeting at work, or represent their political party at a debate, the roof of their world will cave in. Sometimes, the person with what I term background anxiety (anxiety that doesn't manifest itself as debilitating attacks of panic, but stays in the background of your life), sometimes that person has had much more serious episodes of panic attacks and anxiety disorder in their adolescence or early twenties. Once they escaped from those attacks as many people do just by a process of maturation, they regard the less severe anxiety as perfectly normal. It's not.

Generalized anxiety refers to a level of concern and worry that has become dysfunctional rather than helpful in your day-to-day life. As I mention throughout Calming Words, anxiety is a very important part of our lives. Without it, we would not get up in the morning in time for work, we wouldn't study for exams, train hard for the Olympics, and nor would we make an effort to escape real and present danger.

In other words, if your plane leaves at 6pm and you have to be at the airport at 4pm, then you need to be there at 4pm. Making sure that you get there by 2pm or even 2.30pm can place a lot of extra strain on you, your family, and friends. Your normal, functional and helpful anxiety which works with you to get you there on time, has gone over the top. Given that you may not travel a lot, that sort of highly anxious approach may be understandable, and it's not likely to affect your life too much.

However, it is likely that the same person who stresses out about being on time - to the point where he or she is obsessively early - that person will also always, or usually, think the worst when their relatives or friends are late, or ill.

Generalized anxiety is not just about being pessimistic, though that is a component of this type of anxiety. It is more that in every single sphere of life, the person worries, feels ill at ease, and yes, just plain anxious. The alternative - that of feeling positive and joy-filled is a state that s/he rarely feels.

Seeking Help With Your Anxiety Problem

Many people with generalized anxiety do not seek help for their anxiety because they put it down to "that's just the way I am. I'm a worry wart". That sort of generalized anxiety is perhaps more difficult to diagnose and treat than something like a panic attack. The panic attack is so intrusive into your life, and
makes life so obviously unpleasant and difficult that people do reach out to seek help.

In the case of people who have generalized anxiety, they live a life of quiet desperation and profound unhappiness. Rarely do they just relax and enjoy, or even recognise, the blessings they have in their lives. A great deal of their time is spent criticising work colleagues and even family and friends - often
seen as the cause of their anxieties. Because they rarely breathe in joy themselves, they are not as capable of transmitting sheer pleasure and joy in being alive to those around them.

Although it is always difficult to define what is a natural and normal level of concern about work, study, family, finances and the state of the world, it is such a waste of the great and finite gift of life, to spend so much of it in a negative, fear-filled, state. And usually, there is no good and rational reason for feeling that fear.

How often have you heard the expression: "Everything's a drama to her"?

In all likelihood, that drama queen is a highly anxious person. Their anxiety and worry has led to the person experiencing at least three of the symptoms listed below.

* Rapid heartbeat and palpitations, and an uncomfortable awareness of the heart rate often accompanied by a dry mouth;

* Hyperventilation symptoms caused by rapid, shallow, breathing;

* Involuntary trembling of the body, or parts of the body, eg the mouth;

* Feeling apprehensive, aroused and vigilant;

* Feeling "on edge," impatient, or irritable, also related to fatigue caused by insomnia and sleep disturbance;

* Need for frequent urination;

* Difficulty becoming sexually aroused or achieving orgasm;

* Difficulty swallowing, and in some cases, a fear that others notice that difficulty;

* "Butterflies" in the stomach, gurgling sounds in the intestines;

* Nausea and vomiting or dry retching;

* Diarrhoea and/or constipation;

If you regularly experience three or more of those symptoms, please check with your doctor: you may have physical reasons for those symptoms or you may have an anxiety disorder.

About the Author:

Dr Jeannette Kavanagh has a counseling and coaching Practice in Melbourne Australia, to help people find their unique solutions to anxiety and panic attacks. For over two decades, Jeannette has helped thousands of people overcome anxiety and panic attacks. Visit her website to sign up here for a FREE MP3 ( "Relax on Cue".

Copyright (c) 2010 Dr Jeannette Kavanagh

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