It’s normal to feel anxious at times, particularly during stressful situations. But how do you know if your everyday worries are a sign of something more serious?

Ask yourself these five questions to get a better idea of where you land on the worry vs. anxiety spectrum.

What am I worried about?

Everyone worries about something, whether it’s dealing with COVID, sending kids off to college, making ends meet, or anything in between. These worries are specific and concrete. Anxiety, on the other hand, tends to be more vague. You feel unsettled and uneasy, and you can’t pinpoint why. There’s no rhyme or reason for the distress. When there’s no distinct cause for your anxious feelings, you may be dealing with generalized anxiety disorder.

Are my worries realistic?

Some worries are logical. If you’re repeatedly late for work, for instance, you may worry that you’ll be fired. That concern is grounded in reality, and it can lead you to take action to prevent a negative outcome—like committing to being on time every day. But when you’re anxious, you may overestimate risks and underestimate your ability to cope with what may come. This kind of catastrophic thinking can have you convinced you’ll be out of work and living on the street, with no real evidence to support those assumptions. If you regularly experience significant distress about unrealistic scenarios, you may have an anxiety disorder.

How long have I been worried?

Worry is usually temporary. You’re concerned about a specific situation, and you use your problem-solving skills to address the issue. Maybe you’re worried about your elderly parent’s cough, so you take them to the doctor to get help. The worry is proportionally related to a specific issue and lasts only as long as the problem does. Unlike short-term worries, however, anxiety lingers. It is persistent and longstanding. While everyday worries fade, anxiety remains.

Are my feelings affecting my body?

When you worry about something, your thoughts may be consumed with your fears. But while worries take up mental real estate, anxiety messes with your mind and your body. Anxiety can make you feel faint or lightheaded, and even cause you to hyperventilate. You may feel restless, irritable, and on edge, experiencing rapid heartbeat, sweating, dry mouth, muscle tension, and sleep problems. You may also have digestive issues like nausea and irritable bowel syndrome. When anxiety manifests itself physically, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Am I able to function?

You may be concerned about your finances, but you find a way to get up and go to work each day. You may be worried about your family, but you still make appointments and drive your kids to various activities. Anxiety, on the other hand, impairs your ability to function. It makes it hard to focus and get anything done. You may start avoiding people, stop communicating about your feelings, and feel too paralyzed to make decisions. You may even find yourself taking sick days because of the toll anxiety is taking on your mind and body. If your worries are crippling, it can be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Keep in mind that only a licensed and certified mental health practitioner can diagnose an anxiety disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, in order to be diagnosed, the anxiety must be out of proportion to the situation or age-inappropriate, and hinder your ability to go about daily life.

If you suspect you’re experiencing something more than run-of-the-mill worries, help is available. At a mental health treatment center, you can gain the tools you need to experience relief from crippling anxiety and start living your best life.

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, call Beachside Rehab at 866-349-1770 to learn more about our mental health treatment programs. Our trained admissions counselors can assist you on your journey to finding relief

Photo by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash