Depression has become a buzzword in American households, but did you know that anxiety has similar symptoms and can sometimes be the actual issue at hand? It is for me. The CDC estimates that 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental issues such as depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety often walk hand-in-hand.
In fact, I took depression meds for years before I realized that for me, depression is like a plant’s leaves, and anxiety its stem. Finding the roots? That’s another post and lots of counseling.
Based on my own experience, here are some signs of anxiety that I wish someone had warned me about:
1. Nervous and/or destructive behavior. Early in my childhood I began biting my nails and it only grew worse as an adult. I realized nail biting is a nervous coping mechanism, and I was hurting myself. I’ve only found healing from nail biting in the last month. What behavior do you exhibit when you’re running late, stressed out, or nervous? Biting your cheeks or lips, tapping, popping joints, and eyebrow pulling are other common behaviors among many.
2. Needing a drink . Do you need a drink before or after joining friends for dinner, giving a presentation at work, or dealing with your kids’ bedtime? If a casual cocktail becomes a necessity, evaluate the why behind it before you need another, and another.
3. Needing painkillers. Do you suffer from headaches and debilitating muscle pain either constantly or more than 3 times per week? You may be carrying tension that is building up and hurting your body. Overusing some meds may also cause bounce-back headaches that only ratchet up the problem.
4. Difficulty relaxing. Your partner’s head hits the pillow and he’s out like a light, and you lie in bed tossing and turning for hours. Your mind races with to-do lists, weird conversations that you pick apart, what-if’s, and future hypothetical worries. You can’t shut down. Or, you may get to sleep only to wake up at 2:30 A.M. with the same wakeful worries.
5. Trouble concentrating. What was that number again? Where did he say to find that file? The simplest things are forgotten and mixed up, which only causes more…
6. Feelings of worthlessness. There’s so much to do and you can’t get it all done and don’t know how to do it, and what’s the point?…and you feel paralyzed to even start. This can even affect work and hobbies that you typically love. It makes no sense and it happens anyway.
7. Food issues. Some people overeat, while others lose their appetites. When I’m in an anxiety spiral, I could have coffee, a cookie, and almost no dinner. No wonder I…
8. Feel fatigue. The sleep issues also contribute to an energy drain during the day. Oh yeah and the feelings of worthlessness. Just crawl back inside and go to sleep, everything in me says!
9. Thoughts of suicide. There’s a lot of chatter about depression and suicide, but depression may not be the main issue for people who are perfectionists or are driven toward success and then suddenly commit suicide. For someone who pushes to get life “just right,” failing a goal or spiraling into chaos can lead to darker places. See: L’Wren Scott, Mark Madoff, and J. Cliff Baxter (ex-vice chairman of Enron).
If you or someone you care about is in crisis, please seek help immediately.
- Call 911
- Visit a nearby emergency department or your health care provider’s office
- Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor
If you are not in crisis but recognize some of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, you can visit your general practitioner to discuss medication. In my experience, medication brings me down to a calm enough place to hear reason (to hear God and to hear the voices of people who love me). Still, undergoing counseling to find the root cause of anxiety is the only way to seal your cracks and heal.
And guess what. Digging down to the roots is the only way to grow.
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