13 Signs It's Time to Get Help for Your Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, you aren't alone — it affects nearly one out of five American adults. Here's how to know when it's time to seek professional help.

By Mallory Schlossberg, Redbook

If you struggle with anxiety, know you're not alone — in fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 18.1 percent of the adult population (ages 18 and over) every single year.

"We obviously all struggle with [anxiety and stress] at different times in our lives," says Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, PhD, professor of psychology at Hunter College. "The big question to ask, though, is, 'If I’m having these experiences, to what degree are they interfering with my ability to lead life?'"

Here are a few more things to think about if you're wondering whether it's time to seek help.

Your Chronic Worry Is Interrupting Your Life

Everyone faces worries, Dennis-Tiwary says, but if it's "getting in the way of making decisions [or] taking up too much time," be it at work, home, as a parent, or in relationships, that's a sign you may need help from a professional. She also says that if "these experiences are getting in the way of living a happy, full, healthy life," it's worth reaching out for help.

If You No Longer Want to Travel

One way to know it's time to seek out a therapist? "If it keeps you from doing things you enjoy," says Ilene S. Cohen, PhD, a psychotherapist and instructor at Barry University. So if you (or a pal) usually love to travel, but suddenly feel the urge to bail on your next trip, that may be a sign something's the matter.

You Don't Speak Up

"Another [sign] which people might not be aware of, is avoiding voicing your opinions," says Cohen. The same holds true if you're experiencing an uncharacteristic fear of conflict. This can negatively affect your work or your relationships, she says.

You're Worrying to the Point of Exhaustion

If worrying is causing exhaustion "[to the point that someone] cannot perform well in school or in class or anywhere, that's definitely [a sign to seek therapy]," says Mia Biran Weinberger, PhD, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. ("Being easily fatigued" is actually a symptom listed in the DSM-V's diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder.)

You Bailed on a Work Obligation

If you were supposed to give a presentation at work, but backed out due to a fear of public speaking, it may be time to find a therapist. Bailing on a task essential to your role because you're afraid is a sign you need help, says Biran.

You Feel Isolated

If someone's social anxieties are causing them to feel isolated and to isolate themselves, that's a problem, says Biran.

Your Fears Keep You From Performing Essential Tasks

Biran says that someone might be able to ignore their fear of elevators if they don't have to use one — but what about when it's time to work at a new job that requires using an elevator to get to the office?

More generally, according to the ADAA, if your anxiety is keeping you from taking part in "daily activities," you may have an anxiety disorder. So while the elevator instance is just one example, it's shows how seemingly minor fears and anxieties can be indicative of big problems.

If You're Having Panic Attacks

Biran says if you're regularly having panic attacks, you should speak to a therapist. If you're not sure what they look or feel like, Dennis-Tiwary says panic attacks might consist of constricted breathing and sweating, "as if you're having a heart attack." The similarities can sometimes lead people to head to the emergency room, where they learn their condition has nothing to do with their heart health.

If You Won't Leave the House

If you've been having regular panic attacks, it's normal to develop a fear of having one in a public place. And that fear, says Dennis-Tiwary, can sometimes make people afraid to leave home at all. "Panic attacks are unpredictable. [Patients are] not sure what triggers them," says Dennis-Tiwary. "People can fall into that vicious cycle [of wondering when the next one's going to happen], and it can start to become debilitating." Prognosis, however, can be good: "There are very effective treatment for panic," she says, from medication to cognitive behavioral therapy. And the agoraphobia can often fade as people start to feel better, too: "Panic is something treatable — but the sooner, the better."

The Anxiety Has Lasted More Than a Few Days or Weeks

A key question to ask, Dennis-Tiwary says, is, "Is there consistency to this? If you’re going a day or two and your anxiety and stress made things harder for you, in a couple of days, [you might] get back to your baseline. If there’s been 2, 3, 4, 5 weeks of this then — that's a time all of us should seek support, whether that’s through a primary care physician, a psychologist, or counselor."

You Feel Physically Anxious

Dennis-Tiwary notes that anxiety can present itself differently in different people. Some people may experience physical symptoms, including feelings of restlessness, according to the DSM-V. People suffering from anxiety disorders may also notice they have muscle tension.

You Have Anxiety In Your Relationship

If you're anxious about the state of your relationship, Dennis-Tiwary says you might "form dependencies" — and by that, she means, "constantly seek assurance" by asking your partner to tell you they love you. That, she says, creates barriers rather than bringing you closer. "If you find yourself growing dependent," she says, it may be worth it to "press the reset button, and maybe do that through seeking help and seeking support."

You Suspect Something Is Off

Dennis-Tiwary encourages people debating if they should seek help to "lower the bar."

"Why are we treating mental health concerns any differently than an autoimmune problem, [for] which we would immediately seek help if we suspected a problem?" she says. "Keep the bar low. Seek another viewpoint — there's absolutely no harm in it." If you find out therapy just isn't for you, she notes, you can stop at any point.

Dennis-Tiwary adds that there are plenty of resources out there for anxiety, and that you don't necessarily have to take medication. There's cognitive behavioral therapy, and even other ways to manage anxiety, like practicing mindfulness to reduce stress, yoga or even using a health app.

The point? There are lots of ways to get help, and lots of people out there willing to help you feel better. There's no shame in seeking them out.

See more at: Redbook


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