The difference between feeling stress and having clinical anxiety can be a tricky one to identify. One of the most common questions people ask in our clinic is “how do I know when I need help?”. The answer is, “when you think you need help”.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time, or worries about loved ones, or work performance. But when stress and anxiety keep you from enjoying daily living, or impacts your sleep or ability to perform important duties, it may be clinical anxiety.
Clinical anxiety is not just “feeling stressed”. Anxiety disorders can be physically and mentally harmful creating a cascade of physical and chemical reactions in the body that can be damaging to mental and physical well-being. People with Clinical Anxiety may have problems with work or school performance, relationship problems, or difficulty going into social or public situations.
If you are experiencing anxiety and worry plus 3 or more of the following symptoms most days for the past 6 months, you may have clinic anxiety:
- Sleeping problems
- Restlessness or being on edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension, jaw pain, neck or back pain, shoulder pain, numbness in hands or fingers
In some cases, there may be panic attacks in which you may suddenly feel as if you are about to die or go crazy. (DSM-5, 2013)
Many people that suffer from clinical anxiety report nervousness throughout their entire life, but the average age of onset tends to be age 30. Anxiety is a chronic condition that comes and goes over time, often times in relation to stressors. However, clinical anxiety is a heightened response to stress and is in excess of what other people might experience with the same stressors.
Causes: genetics (family history), biology (early life stress, health, physical condition, substance use history, trauma), stressors (work, family problems, financial difficulties).
Treatment: The most effective treatments for anxiety disorders include medication management (antidepressants, sedatives, sleep aids), psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy), and lifestyle management (adequate sleep, healthy eating, regular exercise, maintaining good physical health, avoiding substances). Supplements may also be helpful.
Get help: Contact your mental health provider for further information, evaluation and/or treatment.