The symptoms of anxiety disorder are not immediately evident. Some people suffering from this mental condition will not be vocal about the way they feel and some will consciously cover up their anxieties.
Studies show that four out five people with anxiety are likely to appear as though nothing is bothering them. They’ll put on a brave face as much as possible so that it’s not always easy to see when something is wrong.
But when someone is struggling with their feelings and emotions, it can be critical that you recognize telltale signs. If you think someone you care about is suffering from anxiety, below are some signs to watch out for according to experts.
1. They seem always on the edge because they fidget a lot
Someone with a hidden anxiety disorder may pace a lot instead of standing still while waiting in a corner. This person might also fidget and act restless when sitting down for a few minutes. So, why can’t a person with anxiety disorder stay still? Well, according to the expert, this has to do with how the body responds when stress hormones are elevated due to anxiety.
A raised level of stress hormones signals the body to prepare for a sudden exertion. So, the person with an anxiety disorder fidgets with things, jiggles his legs, or bites his nails in order to find relief.
Experts at the University of Hertfordshire learned that fidgeting actually promotes a positive response for someone with anxiety. So, it might not actually be helpful to tell the person to stop fidgeting because this is a natural and biological response to stress, according to the experts.
So, if you know someone who fidgets a lot, it might be better to provide a fidgeting tool or toy. People with anxiety disorders can be calmed down by these common features of a fidgeting tool:
- Repetitive – mindless activities that they do over and over with the tool helps lower their anxiety level.
- Textured – an item they can pull apart, bounce, click or squish can keep their mind occupied.
- Sentimental value – attachment to the item gives anxious people immense comfort.
2. They have poor sleeping habits
Insomnia and other forms of sleep issues are very common for people suffering from anxiety disorders. This is actually a catch-22 situation as the lack of sleep may cause anxiety or anxiety can result in the lack of sleep.
If your loved one is suffering from poor sleep, here are a few things to observe:
- Is she having trouble getting some sleep?
- Does he seem to be a light sleeper, or is he having difficulty staying asleep?
- Is she an early riser no matter even if she slept late at night?
- Does he wake up feeling unrefreshed and more tired?
There are proven health risks associated with poor sleep. Aside from the physical weakness, someone suffering from anxiety may have exacerbated mood disorders because they are sleep-deprived. It’s important to encourage and convince a loved-one with a sleep disorder to see a therapist to address the anxiety disorder. But talking to someone about their mental health should be done at the right time.
As for the sleep issues, express support for your loved one in establishing positive sleeping habits. If your partner needs to be in bed by 9 p.m., then you may also have to eat dinners earlier, avoid watching Netflix in bed, or put gadgets out of the bedroom. You may also have to encourage them eliminating the following:
- Caffeine and alcohol
- High-fat foods
Also, try to encourage a person with sleep problems to have some form of regular exercise or physical activity during the day. However, insomnia may not be resolved unless your partner sees a therapist, so convincing your loved one to get help should be the ultimate goal.
3. They needlessly and excessively worry or have irrational fears
Excessive worrying and having irrational fears are the most common symptoms of an anxiety disorder. People who suffer from this condition can view problematic instances and events in their life as so magnified that you might call your friend a drama queen.
So, how can you help a friend who worries too much? First, understand that your anxious friend may not be completely aware of the type of anxiety disorder she’s experiencing. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are five different kinds of major anxiety disorders but these conditions also have various types:
- General anxiety disorder (GAD) or chronic anxiety.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or having recurrent thoughts and repetitive behaviors.
- Panic disorders or intense fears that lead to chest pains, palpitations, abdominal distress, shortness of breath and dizziness.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or the effects of exposure to a terrifying experience.
It might be frustrating to help out a friend who doesn’t know why she’s worrying too much or having an anxiety attack. It takes time and effort to apply practical solutions to this situation since a person with an anxiety disorder will feel like she’s losing control of her life. But if this person really matters to you, then you will make an effort to educate yourself about the condition and try to de-stigmatize what your friend is going through.
How You Can Help
Reassure your friend when she’s starting to show behaviors of excessive worrying that while problems may keep coming, she will still be able to cope with it. Let her know that she can be in control of the situation because having anxiety doesn’t make her weak, incompetent, or flawed.
But your friend might also show patterns of reassurance-seeking behaviors with excessive worrying. In this situation, it would be best for her to work with a therapist who can devise for her a proper way to disrupt destructive patterns.
If your friend has indeed gotten professional help, show support by asking her, from time to time, about what she and her therapist have been working on. Always keep a positive approach when asking about any useful insights she has learned from her doctor and if she’s happy with her therapist.
4. They get very irritable
Anxiety can make a person irritable. If you know someone who’s easily infuriated about the little things, then he may be suffering from anxiety and may not realize it. His irritability may be frequent or persistent. It may also escalate into other feelings like fear, nervousness, and stress. This angry state might come in waves. One minute, he’s exploding in anger at someone and the next minute the anger eases off.
Others might view this as a character flaw or an attitude problem. But some experts believe that this may be rooted in biology. Specifically, irritability caused by anxiety might be due to the hyperstimulation of how their brain cells respond to stress. The more hyper-stimulated the sensory receptors are, the more his reactions are over-dramatic, intense, and overpowering.
Try to minimize the stress triggers to help someone with irritability anxiety. Suggest to your friend that he also needs to work with a therapist to teach him how to underreact, as in an anger management workshop. This requires a great deal of patience, control, and persistent reinforcement.
There are also short-term solutions to lower irritability anxiety:
- Take frequent breaks at work.
- Get a good night’s sleep as much as possible.
- Walk away from a tense situation, like an argument, to cool down.
- Find a hobby to help the body de-stress.
Anxiety-related irritability, however, will not be completely gone if it’s not managed and treated well. So, working with a therapist is still necessary because there are underlying factors that must be addressed.
5. They complain a lot about body pains and are actually physically prone to diseases
A person with an anxiety disorder may experience muscle pains more often than normal. They might also suffer from other physical ailments and frequently need to take pain medication. They may also move about or engage in physical activities less because they feel their body is heavy and tired all the time.
The association between anxiety and muscle tension is still not explicitly clear for the experts. But studies have shown that it’s also another biological and physiological response to stress, according to the Anxiety Centre in the U.K.
Apparently, the body becomes more resilient to attacks with tight muscles. In ordinary cases, this muscle tension eases off when the stress triggers are gone but, obviously, it’s different with chronic anxiety. If the body is frequently subjected to stress triggers, then the body will remain in this state where the muscles are always tensed. Thus, the muscle pain and the headaches become common for a person with anxiety disorder.
Since there could be many medical reasons for body pain, encourage your friend to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor. If it has been determined that the muscle tension is anxiety and stress related, and not another medical condition, seek a therapist’s help to flesh out the underlying cause of the anxiety.
There can be ways to get quick relief from muscle pains, such as:
- Regular massages
- Light exercises
- Leisure walks
- Deep breathing and relaxation techniques
- Morning and bedtime stretch
- Good sleep
- Warm baths
Final Thoughts On Signs Someone Has A Hidden Anxiety Disorder
There are too many misconceptions about mental health disorders. But if you’re aware and informed, you can approach a person suffering from anxiety disorders in a positive and helpful way.
Broach the conversation about seeking help to your spouse, relative, or friend in a private place when he or she is in a good mood. As much as possible, resist the urge to come up with a group intervention, especially if this is your first time to talk about it. You need to exercise sensitivity and respect the other person’s struggles.
Be prepared for some resistance as well. People with anxiety disorders may not easily accept that they need to seek help. When you talk to this person, emphasize that they are important to you. Help them understand that you want them to benefit from therapy sessions with a licensed professional. They might be scared and anxious to open up to other people about their problems. Therefore, give assurance that you will be there to offer support.