Many have experienced difficulty in trying to differentiate an anxiety disorder from general worrying habits. The American Psychiatric Association states an anxiety disorder involves “excessive fear or anxiety,” referring to “anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.”
The disorder is categorized into various types including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Phobia and Social Anxiety Disorder.
Regarded as one of the most common mental health issues in the world, symptoms and signs of an anxiety disorder can manifest in surprisingly physical ways.
1. Muscle tension
Pain in the body, ranging from soreness to migraines to joint aches, can be an indicator of Generalized Anxiety Disorder though research literature on this link is limited. Sufferers of anxiety are known to involuntarily clench their jaw or practice poor posture which are potential causes of muscle pain.
In research studies, adult acne patients were found to experience comparatively higher levels of anxiety. The increased production of stress hormones, in turn, increases facial oil production.
“Both acne and anxiety are prevalent disorders. Dermatologists need to [be] aware of this and assess mental health status of patients presenting with acne — whether they are adolescents or adults,” says researcher Sandhya Ramrakha from the University of Otago, New Zealand.Another overlooked factor may be the habit of fidgeting and touching your face, a common symptom of anxiety and a common cause of acne.
3. Compulsive actions
An OCD is characterized by compulsive actions and intrusive thoughts that are difficult to control. One may repeatedly engage in an action until they find a sense of mental peace. Some examples of actions include obsessive lock checking, ritualistic behavior around even numbers or symmetry, and unrealistic hygiene standards. These coping mechanisms among OCD patients may stem from spontaneous uncontrollable thoughts or external physical triggers.
Some compulsive actions, as mentioned in the aforementioned point, can risk evolving into harmful conditions like trichotillomania (pulling out hair) or skin excoriation (picking at skin).
4. Sleep problems
Chronic sleep problems may represent a warning sign as statistics show a close relationship between anxiety and insomnia. Even after a night of sleep, anxiety patients may wake up with a racing mind or an inability to stay calm.
Nightmares are a common occurrence for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They often reflect a bad memory or a worst-case scenario i.e. anxiety for the past and anxiety for the future respectively.
Social anxiety is provoked by situations that may demand interaction in a slightly unpredictable setting, for instance, speaking over the phone or making conversation at a party. Those who suffer from social anxiety, involuntarily exaggerate the judgment of other people and this can show through a variety of physical signs such as blushing, increased heart rate, sweating, nausea, stuttering, or trembling hands.