We all experience anxiety at times. Who hasn’t felt their heart beat faster, or broken out in sweat at the thought of an important work deadline, a school exam, or potentially awkward social situation?
The triggers may differ per individual, but no one escapes it completely. Everyone feels anxiety at some times in their lives.
But if anxiety is normal, even healthy, how do we know when it’s time to seek help?
First, if you are struggling with everyday life and feel the desire to talk about your experiences and feelings in a safe space, then that’s reason enough to seek help. There are no particular criteria you need to meet to receive assistance.
That said, there are also times when anxiety goes beyond our ability to cope with it alone. These times can be hard to recognize because we’re wrapped up in our experience and unable to view it objectively, or because we’ve been trained to deal with our anxieties alone and can fail to notice when a new strategy is needed.
In her Psychology Today article, Andrea Brandt lists six signs that indicate it’s time to get help from physical symptoms up to and including panic attacks, to mental thought patterns and behaviors. Her main point is that any symptom that is excessive, impairs your ability to perform daily activities, or goes on for too long, is a sign you need help.
For example, sweating and heart palpitations before a first date is healthy and manageable. But the same reaction, if it happens every time you get ready to leave the house, may indicate you would benefit from help with your anxiety.
The same is true for forgetfulness and having trouble focusing, both states of mind we all can experience on occasion. But, according to Brandt, if you can’t focus repeatedly at work, or can’t finish a book or movie without becoming restless, then you need support.
“When you’re severely anxious about something, even if the thing is “irrational,” it can be hard to function normally,” Brandt writes.
Brandt’s recommendation when distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy anxiety is to ask yourself this question, “Is it manageable?”
If the answer is no, or even I’m not sure, then you may want to reach out to a therapist. To find one, or for the full article and list of symptoms, go here.