You might be wondering, why do I need to read a post to know the signs that my anxiety is getting worse? Wouldn’t it be obvious? Well, it’s not always so clear!
Anxiety has a way of slowly creeping up on you and getting worse without you realising, even if you think you’re managing it perfectly. (There’s a fantastic journal I recommend for managing anxiety, you can read my review here.)
Unfortunately, missing the signs that your anxiety is getting worse usually ends up in it spiralling out of control. You might find yourself after the fact wondering ‘how the hell did it get that bad’?! The answer is usually that the signs were only obvious in hindsight.
I generally consider myself reasonably on top of my anxiety, but I’ve definitely fallen victim to missing, or ignoring signs. In fact it happened recently! I kept brushing signs off until I had a moment of clarity that made me realise the issues had been persisting for months.
Part ignorance and part shame blinded me to recognising there was a problem. Noticing those signs earlier would have saved me a lot of stress and relieved a lot of issues!
That’s why I’ve created this post outlining 5 signs that your anxiety is getting worse. While it’s not an exhaustive list, it encompasses some of the most common signs. Remember they everyone is different, and it’s important to know your signs and listen to them!
Please note I am not a mental health professional and this article is written only from my own experience. If you are struggling please consult a professional, or check out some crisis resources here.
1. When worrying turns into self destructive behaviour
Unfortunately worrying is a part of anxiety, but can usually be managed through therapy, medication, journaling or other measures. When that worrying is left unchecked, it can escalate into self torment and self destructive behaviours.
That excessive worrying gets in your head by convincing you that awful things are you going to happen.
An example could be someone who has a fear of their partner leaving them. Without that worry being addressed, it can fester, and escalate to being convinced that their partner is going to leave them. This is where self destructive behaviour jumps in, making them believe that leaving their partner first is the only way to escape that heartbreak.
Obviously this is incredibly destructive, usually for no good reason! Unmanaged anxiety can create totally irrational fears, and cause you to torment yourself for no reason. When it gets to that point, it’s time for some intervention.
Anxiety, especially social anxiety, is exhausting. Struggling with it myself, it’s not uncommon for me to politely decline social invitations or avoid large groups.
That exhaustion can usually be managed by being selective of what to spend that energy on, but sometimes selective turns to straight avoidance.
That avoidance isn’t necessarily a bad thing, until you realise you haven’t left the house or spoken to anyone in 6 months. (Yep, speaking from personal experience here. Oops!)
The problem with slipping into that avoidance, is that it can be really hard to get out of, and it sets back progress you’ve made with your anxiety.
For me, addressing my anxiety is like a muscle. If I stop flexing it, or challenging it, my capability for dealing with it shrivels up! While avoiding any stressful stimulus obviously feels good short term, it’s not great for long term.
It’s important to know and respect your boundaries, but not let them grow and take over your life.
3. Attitude and behaviour
One of the biggest giveaway signs that your anxiety is getting worse, is simply your behaviour and attitude.
Anxiety that is getting out of control can result in behaviour changes like increased irritability, mood swings and a lot of other signs.
As obvious as these signs seem, they can actually can be tricky to notice! If I’ve been more irritable or easily frustrated, it often takes someone pointing it out to me before I’ll recognise it. Once it’s been brought to my attention though, it’s generally pretty easy to look back and recognise a pattern!
If I start noticing that behaviour, it’s a pretty good indicator that my anxiety needs better management, or that something is bugging me subconsciously.
4. When normal coping mechanisms just aren’t working
Anxiety is a highly personal mental illness, and different coping measures work for different people. For me, thinking exercises, journaling and reassurance is how I get through my anxiety when I’m struggling, but that won’t work for everyone.
(If you’re struggling to find coping mechanisms that work, the workbook I use has a heap of different ones to try, full review here.)
Remember that it’s ok if your coping mechanisms don’t work 100% of the time. Bad anxiety days are common, especially if something stressful is happening, and it doesn’t mean you’re failing.
However if those coping mechanisms stop helping at all, especially for a long period of time, that’s a pretty good sign that your anxiety is getting worse.
5. Physical signs
If you’ve ever had a bad anxiety spell or even a panic attack, you know that physical symptoms can make up a significant part of anxiety.
Sweating, shaking, clenched teeth, tense muscles, racing heart… These are all common signs that you may feel during a high anxiety moment. That’s common! Annoying, but common.
However if these signs are getting worse, or are present constantly, it’s time to address it.
The stigma of anxiety
The very nature of anxiety means that struggling with it feels shameful. This can lead to ignoring it, or focusing on hiding it instead or addressing it.
In the past I’ve spent a lot of time and energy in pretending things are fine, instead of actually doing something about it. This means I accidentally conditioned myself to ignore the signs of it getting worse, until it’s out of control. Obviously this isn’t healthy or helpful!
Thankfully I’m getting much better at keeping a better and more honest eye on my anxiety through journaling and talking to others, but it still sneaks up on me sometimes.
It’s hard to share on the internet that you struggle with mental illness but I want you, dear reader, to know that you’re not alone in the battle. It’s ok to struggle, to slip, or not be managing it perfectly.
The most important part of managing anxiety isn’t managing it perfectly. It’s having the strength and foresight to recognise when you aren’t ok and need extra help.
Don’t be afraid of seeking help, or admitting something’s not working!
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