As someone who’s suffered from generalized anxiety for most of my life, I can tell you that it’s possible to “manage” your anxiety before you are actually managing it. For the better part of my existence, I didn’t know I had anxiety. I knew certain things made me wildly uncomfortable, but it wasn’t until I nearly had a breakdown and got a professional opinion on the matter that I discovered I was one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety.
You may be surprised to learn that my experience is pretty common. While 18% of the population is living with an anxiety disorder, just over one-third of those affected are receiving treatment. I was doing okay before my diagnosis, but understanding my anxiety and treating it has changed my life more than I could have ever imagined.
What I thought were personality quirks, cautiousness, and irritability was nearly all anxiety. As I mentioned before, I’d learned how to “manage” my anxiety before I was managing my anxiety, and many others who experience untreated anxiety likely do the same. It’s important to remember that anxiety manifests in different ways, and symptoms can vary from person to person.
So what are some general things that may actually be a sign anxiety? Well, I’m glad you asked.
1. You are punctual AF, and almost always arrive early wherever you go.
Do you always worry about being late? Arriving early to meetings and social events is a common practice of people with anxiety. Fear of being late or missing the event all together cause us to perpetually arrive early.
2. You tend to be an overachiever.
People with anxiety often worry they aren’t doing enough; therefore, they are chronic overachievers. Irrational worry about deadlines and event outcomes are all common signs an anxious brain. Those of us with anxiety worry we won’t meet expectation or live up to the hype, so we compensate by going above and beyond to alleviate the self-imposed pressure.
3. Whatever you do, it must perfect.
I’m sure you saw this one coming a mile away, but people who suffer from anxiety are often perfectionist. Though they rarely feel that anything they do is good enough, they’re always striving to be the best. This goes hand-in-hand with the overachiever mentality I mentioned before. Constant worry that we won’t meet expectations, perpetuates this need for perfection. An anxious mind obsessively worries about failure.
4. You’re always busy.
Busyness can be a sign of anxiety, because people with anxiety can have a hard time sitting still. It’s nearly impossible to relax when there is work to be done. We are often labeled as Type A personalities or go-getters, because people with anxiety have a never-ending to-do list in their minds.
5. You worry that you’ll be fired for being sick.
Ever show up at the office when you should be at home in bed for fear of being fired or worse—having someone think you aren’t really sick? If you answered yes to that one, you may be suffering from anxiety.
6. You rarely accept invitations for social events.
For most people with anxiety, chit-chat is actual hell, because nothing causes anxiety quite like unstructured, spontaneous conversation.
7. You are jumpy AF.
If you hate it when people sneak up on you, or you jump when there’s an unexpected knock at the door, you may have anxiety.
8. You suck at sleeping.
People with anxiety can have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, because there is always something on their mind, even at 2 a.m. Though trouble sleeping can point to a number of health concerns, it’s estimated that roughly half of people with an anxiety disorders struggle with sleep.
9. You worry about everything.
I know excessive worry seems like an obvious indication of anxiety, but for someone like me who has struggled with anxiety their whole life, excessive worry just feels normal. It wasn’t until I began treatment that I even realized most of my worries were caused by anxiety.
10. You are often self-consciousness.
Something as simple as walking into a restaurant can be overwhelming for someone with anxiety. Feeling like all eyes are on you, worrying excessively about your personal appearance, or how you will be perceived by others, are all common signs of an anxious mind.
If some of this rings true for you, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed, but please don’t worry. Anxiety is the most common form of mental illness and is highly treatable. And again, anxiety is different for everyone, so while these are common signs, symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. If you have concerns you may be experiencing anxiety, call your health care provider to talk more about your symptoms.