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DO you have anxiety? The 6 most common signs of anxiety you might not know you have.

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

  1. Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge

  2. Being easily fatigued

  3. Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

  4. Irritability

  5. Muscle tension

  6. Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)

Restlessness is an inability to rest, relax, or concentrate. It is a very common symptom of anxiety. Being keyed up is a lot like a wound-up toy, which is where the word originated. Think of the clapping monkey. When it is wound-up tight, and then the key is let go, the movement causes the monkey to vigorously clap until it is out of energy from the coiled spring. Anxiety is a lot like this. You get wound up so tight, you are ready to explode with energy.

Are you easily fatigued? Anxiety disorders directly affect sleep. You may toss and turn all night, and you might not even notice. More noticeable is the inability to fall asleep or go back to sleep after being easily woken. I recommend reading my article on The importance of leisure to better understand how to become mentally, psychologically, and spiritually rejuvenated; something mere sleep will not and cannot do. Working on your anxiety's underlying causes will help you feel much less fatigued and much more rejuvenated.

Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank. Anxiety makes the mind go blank! This is not good for those whose school and assignments cause them anxiety. It is a perpetuating cycle. The most common way we all have experienced this form of anxiety is in traffic. You ever miss a turn because of the traffic or because you are running behind? Your brain cannot take but so much at one time.

Irritability is often a mask to your anxiety and vise versa. Your anger allows you to put a label on the causes of your anxiety. It is not something inside of you but an external force that deserves justice. You do not have to think about the anxious feelings when you are in attack mode, and it acts as a defense mechanism. But it is not healthy and does more harm in the long run.

Muscle Tension comes from the constant release of adrenaline activated by your body's fight or flight response. Your muscles do not receive the needed blood flow due to blood vessel constriction from all the adrenaline release, which in turn causes tension and muscle fatigue.

Sleep disturbance comes from all the above. Also, when the mind is busy focusing on things that have happened and may or may not occur in the future, your mind can never properly shut down. Lack of sleep then amplifies your anxiety.

Most people with the above symptoms first seek medical treatment as well as for other somatic complaints such as headaches and gastrointestinal problems that can be perpetuated by anxiety. They then get referred out to psychotherapy by their physician. It is important to seek medical help if you have any of the above symptoms.

Can therapy help with anxiety?

Absolutely! Evidence shows that having a warm, empathetic, trusting relationship with a therapist who can help you understand the nature and cause of anxiety symptoms to be most beneficial. Research has proven cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to reduce anxiety symptoms significantly. Many cognitive distortions are found to be at the root of anxiety disorders, such as interpreting neutral information negatively. Also, research has shown anxiety to be ego-syntonic in nature (Reichenberg & Seligman, 2016). Ego-syntonic refers to when our behaviors, values, and feelings are in harmony with our values and goals. When you continuously worry, it is because you are not living up to your ideals. This is why our view of happiness can affect anxiety (read my post on How to reduce and deal with anxiety and Our search for true happiness for more on this). The constant worry is a misguided attempt at coping. You believe that if you can think about the problem long enough, the correct solution will come to you, and you will be able to solve the problem. But such thoughts only increase rumination and negative thoughts while simultaneously preventing you from doing other things you enjoy (Reichenberg & Seligman, 2016).

If you experience any of the above symptoms or if this article resonates with you. You might want to consider therapy with a good CBT therapist.


Ingram, Rick E., and Joseph M. Price. Vulnerability to psychopathology. 2nd ed., Guilford, 2010.

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