Everyone, and I mean everyone, experiences anxious feelings, stress, or worries from time to time. It's a natural, albeit sometimes uncomfortable, part of life. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may start to wonder if you're actually exhibiting signs of an anxiety disorder, rather than "normal" worrying or even a less severe worry that doesn't fit the description of an anxiety disorder. Although anxiety isn't rare, it's also a term that tends to get thrown around a lot for things that likely don't fit. In fact, there are habits you think are signs of anxiety, but aren't, that you might want to know about — particularly if you find yourself wondering if it's worrying or actual anxiety.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders, affecting about 18 percent of American adults. Because these disorders aren't extremely rare disorders, it's understandable that, depending on what's going on, you might begin to question if your habits indicate anxiety. That being said, it's also important to understand if your habits don't indicate anxiety, because it's a real condition that affects a lot of people. Ultimately, there's a difference between worry and anxiety, so just because you worry doesn't mean you're exhibiting signs of anxiety. Here are a few habits that are often mistaken as signs of anxiety.
1. Temporarily Stressing About Something Specific
If your stress and feelings of anxiety are limited to something specific, such as a job interview, big presentation, or cross-country move, and those feelings will dissipate once the event has passed, it's not true anxiety. According to Women's Health, in order to meet the diagnostic criteria for anxiety spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM V), your worry has to stick around for at least six months. If it lasts for less than six months, it's not anxiety. That doesn't mean that it's not bothering you, it just means that it doesn't fit the criteria to be considered a disorder.
2. Having To Talk Yourself Down From Time To Time
Everyone has to do this periodically. If you're able to problem solve and talk yourself down and it alleviates that worry, then it's not anxiety. According to Psychology Today, anxiety isn't as easily controlled as worry, which means you can't just strategize ways to fix what you're concerned about to get rid of those feelings.
3. Worrying That Doesn't Interfere With Your Life
When you're worried about something, it can consume much of your thoughts. If it really doesn't interfere with how you work or live, however, it's probably not anxiety. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta's column for Everyday Health, if it's severe enough to negatively impact your professional and personal life, it's anxiety. Although anxious or nervous feelings can briefly make you a little bit less focused, true anxiety tends to take over.
4. Worrying That's Caused By Something Concrete
According to the previously-mentioned article from Psychology Today, worrying about something causing something else when the two aren't in any way related indicates anxiety, while worries about something that does have a causal relationship is just "normal" worry.
5. Worrying That Doesn't Impact Your Health
Anxiety often manifests physically as well as mentally, according to WebMD. If your worry doesn't interfere with your health, it may just be "normal" worry, rather than anxiety. Of course, if it fits other diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders — and a qualified professional tells you so – it still could be anxiety. If you're truly concerned that you're dealing with anxiety and not just "normal" worry, you may want to speak with a qualified professional. That way, if it is anxiety, they can get you the help you may need.