Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting almost 40 million adults or nearly 18 percent of the population every year. Despite being highly treatable, only 37 percent of the people receive treatment.
Those struggling with anxiety disorders grapple with common symptoms like shortness of breath, sweaty palms, chest pain and nausea among others. But, one might also struggle with some unusual symptoms like eating disorders and increased substance abuse, which may go unnoticed. Some of these uncommon anxiety manifestations are discussed below.
- Eating disorders – According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety and eating disorders might co-occur in an individual. A person struggling with an eating disorder might end up eating too less or too much and also get extremely conscious about body weight and shape. He or she might follow an extreme diet or be obsessed with exercising. All these manifestations could have a serious bearing on a person’s health and life.
- Substance abuse – Anxiety can sometimes be so unbearable that a person might resort to self-medicating with alcohol, prescription drugs or other illegal drugs. The high gained from such substances can temporarily numb the user’s thoughts and related distress. However, it is important to understand that a person can get only short-term relief from these substances, but they do more harm in the long run. They destroy relationships, career, finances, social life, physical and mental health, and can even cause death.
- Sleep disturbances – Anxiety can induce sleep problems like insomnia, lucid dreaming, sleepwalk and even narcolepsy. When a person is anxious, he/she can have a major difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep, or might also struggle with disturbed sleep in the form of night terrors and nightmares.
- Social media presence – A person struggling with an anxiety disorder might become hyperactive on social media. Anxiety induces a strong urge to reach out to others. Too much activity on social media might lead to withdrawal from real-world interactions, restlessness when one is not able to log in, loss of interest in other activities, etc.
- Desire to assert control – People struggling with anxiety often think that they have lost control over many things in their life. This leads to obsessive-compulsive habits like doing something repeatedly until one is sure of doing it perfectly.
- Itching, picking and biting – Some people channelize their anxiety through physical acts like scratching repeatedly, picking a scab and biting nails. This could result from feeling anxious due to pressure at work, stress at home or any other situation.
- Developing phobias – Sometimes, anxiety leads to the development of unexplained phobias. One might start fearing heights, water, confined spaces or people.
- Social anxiety disorder – People grappling with anxiety often avoid social interactions due to the fear of being rejected, ridiculed or judged. Anxiety might compel one to stay indoors and only interact with people when forced to.
- Gastrointestinal disturbances – Anxiety can also lead to gastrointestinal disturbances because the gut is sensitive to emotions like anger, depression and anxiety. A person is likely to experience diarrhea and acid reflux or serious conditions like gastroparesis and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Miscellaneous symptoms – Experiencing olfactory hallucinations (smelling a substance), excessive burping or farting, too much yawning, getting cold hands and feet, having a dry mouth and jittery legs are some of the other symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety is treatable
Despite being a prevalent mental illness, many people avoid seeking treatment because they fear stigma and discrimination. It is important for them and their families to understand that anxiety can be managed and that there is nothing to be ashamed of it. With medication and therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, the symptoms can be controlled and a person can be healthy and productive again.