Anxiety and its Symptoms
One of the most common challenges people face is anxiety. Anxiety and its symptoms, however, are rarely discussed. People who suffer with anxiety avoid talking about their symptoms because they don’t want others to think they are “crazy.” It is empowering to share real life, common symptoms of anxiety in order to help normalize the experience for millions of people suffering from it.
People with anxiety experience a sense of impending doom all the time. The irrational worry that goes along with anxiety makes everyday concerns, illnesses, etc. exponentially worse. Additionally, any type of physical symptom, no matter how minor it may appear according to Google, manifests into a death trap when you have anxiety. Anxiety turns every day thoughts into a never-ending cycle of terror. Sometimes, the only option left is to buckle up and try not to scream through the entire ride.
The Importance of Sharing Anxiety and its Symptoms
If you are like millions of other people in the world who struggle with anxiety, there are probably multiple nights you sit up wondering whether your symptoms are “normal.” I have found that most people dislike talking about anxiety and even fewer people like hearing about it. This makes it almost impossible to find normalizing experiences anywhere. With very few “real life” examples available, many people with anxiety start to imagine the worst. Often, they become too afraid to seek help.
In hopes of providing some answers for anxiety sufferers, I would like to use a personal example to illustrate common signs that your anxiety symptoms are spiraling and need to be addressed.
My Anxiety and a Winter Storm
In March 2019, winter storm Ulmer dropped what the news media called a bomb cyclone on the Midwest of the United States. What this translated into in layman’s terms was several inches of snow combined with hurricane force winds for 2 days straight. The outcome was something out of an Alaskan horror movie. There were thousands of stranded vehicles and entire towns closed down.
In the midst of this, I developed an ear infection secondary to the common cold. Although the two events may seem disconnected, they actually partnered with my anxiety to create the perfect winter apocalypse in my life.
They also clearly illustrate anxiety and its symptoms:
- Common physical illness suddenly becomes debilitating. An average headache, strained muscle, or similar common ailment seems to be the root of almost every thought you are having. For myself, my ear pain suddenly became the future cause of at the very least deafness, and at the most an excruciating imaginary death.
- Environmental stimuli become overwhelmingly irritating. What you count as frustrating on a typical day suddenly becomes unmanageable. It pushes you to the brink of loss of control. I found that having all but one doctor’s office closed due to winter conditions, combined with multiple snow days from school, was equal to instant insanity.
- Everyday decisions are suddenly excruciatingly painful. Whether or not to shower, what to fix for breakfast, whether to answer the phone number you don’t recognize can all become major life decisions in the midst of increasing anxiety. While driving myself to an emergency doctor’s appointment to save my hearing, I found it almost impossible to determine which snow drifted road would be most passable in my SUV. I came to several complete stops and reversed down neighborhood streets due to second guessing every tiny decision.
- Rational solutions sound implausible. Suddenly you cannot convince yourself that the sound advice your friends and family are giving you has any merit at all. No matter how many times my husband tried to tell me ear infections are common and most of the time do not lead to instant death, every solution he offered up sounded completely illogical to my anxiety driven ears. In otherwise “normal” conditions, it would have made sense to me to sleep on it and try some decongestants. However, in a state of escalating anxiety, the only solution often becomes the most unreasonable one.
- Even when it’s over, you can’t convince yourself it’s over. When acute symptoms have abated and life goes back to what is mostly normal, intrusive thoughts keep circling back around. Regardless of being soundly diagnosed with a common ear infection and getting a booty shot of penicillin, I continued to fret that the ringing in my ears was an emergency and indicative of life long illness.
You Are Not Alone
The bottom line is that anxiety is pervasive and can morph everyday experiences into terrifying realities. People who are struggling with anxiety need to know they are not alone. They need to be able to recognize some red flags. Without a break from the cycle of anxiety, moods can become increasingly unstable. Understanding common symptoms of anxiety issues not only helps you slow down and take a different road in the middle of an anxiety cycle, but it also may help those close to you know when to step in and offer their support.