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What to Look For: Anxiety

Learn about the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical symptoms connected to anxiety.

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The symptoms here are ones that show up early on. Other symptoms may develop later. Everyone experiences anxiety differently and not everyone will have all the symptoms.

Thoughts add

  • You spend a lot of time worrying about everyday things.
  • You often think something bad is going to happen.
  • Negative thoughts keep coming back over and over again.
  • Many thoughts keep running through your head (can’t shut your mind off).
  • Thoughts keep you from concentrating, relaxing or enjoying everyday life.
  • Flashbacks to things you went through in the past that cause a lot of distress. This might be one negative memory or many memories that still bother you.

Feelings add

  • A general sense of uneasiness.
  • Extreme fear for no clear reason.
  • Easily irritated or angered.
  • Intense ongoing fear of an object or situation (for example heights, spiders, small spaces).

Behaviours add

  • Always looking for signs that something bad might happen.
  • Stop doing activities (for example don’t go to class, give up favourite sports, spend less time with friends).
  • Jumpy, easily startled (for example by noises).
  • Decide not to do certain things so you can avoid an object or situation you’re afraid of.

Physical Signs add

  • Sleep problems – difficulty going to sleep, waking up often or can’t get back to sleep.
  • Feeling restless or tense a lot.
  • Dizziness.
  • Shaking, trembling.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pounding heart.
  • Nausea (upset stomach).
  • Headaches.
  • Feeling exhausted or drained.

Remember, symptoms are changes from your usual routines or habits. Not everyone experiences the same set of symptoms or to the same level. Most people experience these symptoms from time to time but they become a problem when they keep coming back or don’t go away. They can also indicate there is a physical health problem.

There are many different ways anxiety is experienced. One of the most common is social anxiety. If you feel nervous, embarrassed or worried others may judge you in social situations check out the Social Anxiety section.

Concerned about someone else?

It can be hard to understand why a friend worries so much, even over stuff that doesn’t seem to matter. One person’s worry may seem silly to another, but each person’s worry or anxiety is real to them. It doesn’t help to tell them to not worry so much. For information on how to help a friend, visit Supporting a Friend.

Families are often the first to notice changes and become concerned. For information on how to support a young person, visit Supporting a Family Member.

What Next?

If you want to find out if this is something you are experiencing or are looking for tips to help manage anxiety here are a few options.