Anxious Behaviors You Might Mistake for Normal

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Anxiety isn’t a bad thing; it’s the body’s natural response to stress and danger. However, anxiety can turn into a chronic mental health condition, when the body is constantly stuck in a place of feeling the need to fight or run. 

Subtle signs of anxiety 

Anxiety is not having constant anxiety attacks, or being perpetually stressed and nervous. Anxiety isn’t always a screaming internal voice with very obvious outward signs. Sometimes, anxiety is a quiet sense in the back of your mind, questioning everything, being on edge and keeping you on your toes. 

It’s this more subtle side of anxiety that can be hard to miss and easy to question or misdiagnose in yourself. In other words, if you don’t know some subtle anxiety symptoms, you might wonder if you or a loved one has anxiety, or if you’re just always “on edge.”

While this list is far from all-inclusive, we’d like to offer an idea of some subtle signs of anxiety and how they might easily be mistaken for normal behavior. 

1. Constant apologizing: We all can have a tendency to over-apologize as it’s important to us to gain and maintain the approval of others, especially in situations like work, school or relationships. Apologizing frequently can give the illusion of smoothing over any potential tension, alerting the other that you’re trying to make sure things work out “just so.” 

However, this habit of over-apologizing can be a sign of anxiety. Anxiety craves the approval of others, and hates the presence of tension, so apologizing for even the most minor things can be a sign of an anxious mind. 

While apologizing for mistakes or wrongdoing is prudent and kind, apologizing for harmless behaviors, like being busy or accidentally being in the way as they reach for the coffee pot, is an anxious mind’s response to what could possibly cause tension. 

2. Meticulous planning: This isn’t just planning every moment in your schedule down to the minute, although it is a part of it. Meticulous planning includes knowing every detail and thinking about how you’re going to encounter them way ahead of time. 

You might ask about the guest list, in order to know who’s going to be at a party to help you decide if you actually want to show up. It might be planning out what you’re going to say in a conversation to avoid awkward silences. It could be taking into account every possible inconvenience you could encounter on your commute to work so you never show up late. 

While planning ahead can be good, and knowing the details of everything before you make a decision can be prudent. It can also get you stuck in a rut of routine and a false sense of comfort. While being purely go-with-the-flow isn’t always smart either, finding a balance between being overly prepared or caught unaware is key to alleviating this subtle sign of anxiety. 

3. Restlessness: Have you ever felt uncomfortable in an environment? You might’ve experienced an overall sense of being on edge without knowing why, and accordingly looked for an exit, exhibited signs of discomfort by planning with your nails, hair or clothing or paced around subconsciously. 

Restlessness and experiencing that edginess can be a key sign that your surroundings are truly unsafe, or they may be your brain overreacting in an anxious way to general discomfort. 

4. Avoiding new situations: New people, places or events can be overwhelming for anyone, but a mind battling anxiety threatens to shut down when faced with family reunions, job interviews or starting at a new school. 

So much unknown circles around newness, which inhibits the ability to plan for and foresee every detail. Because of this, an anxious mind might avoid new situations entirely, or become very stressed and nervous when faced with one. 

5. Struggling with decisions: Making decisions can be wildly challenging for someone with anxiety, as the need to know every possible outcome, potential setback and all the in between stages is great. However, it can take a long time for all these questions to have answers, so making decisions can be a lengthy process for someone struggling with anxiety.

It’s important during stages of difficult decision making to seek the advice of a trusted family member or friend. With your best interests in mind, they can help you see what’s really important and encourage you to let go of the small, unimportant details.

6. Desiring to leave: Events with large groups of people, be it a wild concert or simple work party, can be a massive source of stress. You might feel nervous about what to say, how to act or just feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of noise or people. 

To cope with this, you might feel a strong desire to leave. Getting away from the situation is the safest route, says your mind, so the sooner you leave, the better. Unfortunately, this can get in the way of you enjoying a fun event or building relationships with the people around you.

Questions about anxiety’s signs?

If you recognize these signs in your own life, it does not immediately mean you have anxiety. Many of these behaviors are normal human behaviors, often exacerbated or seen in extreme levels in individuals struggling with anxiety. However, if you are concerned about the frequent presence of signs of anxiety in your life, or the life of a loved one, The Light Program is here to help.

To speak with a counselor and learn more about the signs of anxiety, including treatment, contact The Light Program today at 610-644-6464.