Is It Normal Anxiety Or Anxiety Disorder? How To Tell

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NervousWe all have things in life that we worry about, and sometimes that worry can get overwhelming. We’re told that some anxiety in life is normal, yet up to 40 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. Telling the difference between normal worry and generalized anxiety disorder can be difficult, particularly during challenging times in your life. But knowing the difference is important—after all, if you do have an anxiety disorder, it’s best to know so that you can seek help from a mental health therapist right away.

But how do you tell the difference between normal anxiety and general anxiety disorder (GAD)? Watch for these signs:

  • Normal worry causes mild to moderate distress. Concentrating on other tasks may be difficult, but they are not impossible. GAD causes severely distressing thoughts. You worry will be intense and you won’t be able to focus.
  • Normal worry is situational—you have a big test coming up, money is tight, someone you love is expecting some medical test results. If you have GAD you will find yourself feeling worried and anxious for no reason at all.
  • Normal worry does not interfere with your job or social life. GAD may cause you to call in sick to work or cancel plans.
  • Normal worry is limited to one topic or situation, or several small topics. GAD means worrying about a broad range of topics, some of which you have no control over.
  • Normal worry means feeling that your issue is temporary and can be solved at a later time. If you have GAD, you will feel like your worrying is out of control.

If you’re experiencing normal, situational anxiety, your worry will be the only thing you feel. However, if you have an anxiety disorder, you may also experience these other symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Tense muscles
  • Loss of focus
  • Insomnia or trouble staying asleep
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • A disconnect from reality (feeling like you can’t think straight)
  • Moment of intense heartbeats, sweating and dizziness known as panic attacks

If you think your anxiety is simply situational worry, there are things you can do to help. Regular exercise can reduce stress and anxiety. Even taking a daily walk and clearing your mind will help. Chamomile tea has been shown to help with the jitters, and learning mindful meditation can help you calm your mind and relax. If the source of your anxiety is being caused by a negative person in your life, try to reduce the time you spend with them.

However, if you think you might have GAD, it’s best to seek professional help right away. Even if you’re still unsure, setting up a consultation at a counseling center will help you figure out your best course of action. Anxiety disorders are treatable through behavioral therapy and medication when needed. Getting help is the first step to taking control of your life and your mind.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Tucker, a psychiatrist in Orange County, CA, contact us at (972) 473-7628