By SUZANNAH WEISS
If you have anxiety, you probably don’t experience it the same way every day. Some days may be totally anxiety-free, while others are tough to get through. So, how can you have more good days and fewer rough ones? By spotting the signs your anxiety is getting worse. That way, you can nip any destructive feelings in the bud before they spiral out of control.
“Some people have the ability to tolerate and reduce the intensity of anxiety,” Licensed Clinical Social Worker Vena M. Davis tells Bustle. Some strategies for reducing anxiety include taking deep breaths into your stomach, meditating, exercising, reading, watching a good movie or show, writing, making art, or going outside.
“In the event those things are no longer ‘enough,’ I would invite the person to consider the pros and cons of receiving therapeutic support from a licensed mental health professional,” says Davis. “A professional can help the person learn additional strategies to manage anxiety if it is long-lasting and happening more often than the person’s usual experience. If the aforementioned continues unaddressed, the person may experience challenges in maintaining pleasant relationships. … The person may have challenges in maintaining a pleasant relationship with themselves, as well.”
Here are some signs that your anxiety could be getting worse.
1. You’re Having Trouble Sleeping
Anxiety puts you in fight-or-flight mode, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Elise Franklin tells Bustle. A part of your brain called the amygdala goes into overdrive, telling you that you need to focus on surviving. Unfortunately, we don’t sleep well in survival mode. A lot of things can cause insomnia, but insomnia caused by anxiety is distinct because it’s usually accompanied by racing thoughts. “Some of my patients complain that their mind races at night — especially when their anxiety is worse — which prevents them from falling asleep,” Jennifer Caudle, DO, Family Physician and Associate Professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, tells Bustle. “Others wake up prematurely or have interrupted sleep when anxiety worsens.”
2. Your Eating Habits Have Changed
“Overeating and under-eating are both signs of trying to relieve anxiety,” says Franklin. While eating for emotional reasons is common and not always a problem, you might want to address the feelings that are causing a change in your habits.
3. You’re Scatterbrained
When we go into fight or flight mode, we become focused on the bare essentials of getting by, says Franklin. Our brains don’t want to concern themselves with things like where we put our keys or what the name of the person we just met is. So, what may look like ditzy behavior could actually be an anxiety flare-up.
“Feeling distracted, being unable to complete tasks, or having problems at work or home due to a lack of concentration can be a sign that anxiety is worsening,” Caudle agrees.
4. You’re Testy
Our brains also tend to run out of patience when they’re in survival mode, says Franklin. On top of that, your “fight” instinct can make you extra defensive.
5. You’re Just Not Totally There
In addition to “fight” and “flight,” there’s a third “F” we don’t always talk about: “freeze.” This is when your brain gets so exhausted trying to keep you alive, you dissociate, Franklin explains. You get too lost in thought to deeply connect with the people around you. You might feel like a robot going through the rote tasks of your work without any passion
6. You’re Not Interested In Sex
From a biological perspective, your body’s not going to try to reproduce if it’s concerned you won’t even survive long enough to give birth. From your own perspective, it’s pretty hard to get in the mood when a thousand worries are running through your mind, says Franklin.
7. You’re Worrying Over Little Things
If you have anxiety, you’re probably almost always worried about something or another. But if the nature of your worries changes from “I’m scared my partner will break up with me” to “I’m scared spiders are going to crawl through my window,” your mind may be getting extra wound up. “Worrying about things you’ve never worried about before, about ‘small’ things, or worrying more than usual can all be signs that anxiety is worsening,” says Caudle.
If you notice any of these signs, the last thing you want to do is get anxious about your anxiety. So remind yourself it’s your body’s way of trying to protect you, think about how you can use it to your advantage, and do your best to keep it at bay when it’s not useful.