When you experience anxiety, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s wrong. You may not know if it’s a panic attack, stress response, or something else. It can feel like there are many different types of anxiety and that you won’t be able to figure out which one you have.
Luckily, there are several ways you can determine the type of your anxiety and get help for it more quickly. If you want to find out which type of anxiety you have, read through these nine questions and answers about identifying the type of your anxiety. They can help you understand what is causing your anxious feelings and how to tackle them effectively.
1. What is the most common trigger for your anxiety?
The very first thing you should do when trying to identify the type of your anxiety is to examine what has been triggering it. What brings on anxious feelings and symptoms? If you can identify the trigger, you have taken the first big step towards alleviating your anxiety.
One of the most common triggers for anxiety is stress. If you’re dealing with a lot of stress in your life (at work or home), it can increase your risk of experiencing anxiety. People also report feeling more anxious when they are in a situation where they feel like they don’t have control. This can be anything from having an important presentation at work to going on a first date.
2. Where does your anxiety feel the most intense?
Anxiety can manifest in many different ways, but the place where you feel it is the strongest is a good indication of what type of anxiety you’re dealing with. Most often people experience anxiety in their stomachs, followed by their chests. The place where you feel your anxiety the most can help you to figure out what exactly is causing it. If you feel it in your stomach, you could be experiencing general anxiety, which might not have a specific cause. However, if you feel it in your chest, it might be caused by an anxiety disorder, like an anxiety attack or a panic disorder.
3. How long do your symptoms last?
Knowing how long your anxiety symptoms last is another helpful way to identify the type of your anxiety. People experience anxiety in different ways, but some symptoms are more indicative of specific disorders than others.
If your anxiety only lasts a few minutes or hours, you may be experiencing a panic attack. This is a very intense type of anxiety that usually happens in response to a specific trigger. Once the trigger is removed, the symptoms subside. However, if your anxiety lasts for days, weeks, or even months, you may have an anxiety disorder that happens without any specific trigger. This is known as general anxiety disorder. See the NHS website for help on general anxiety disorder.
4. Which thoughts accompany your anxiety?
What are you thinking during an episode of anxiety? What are you telling yourself? These thoughts can be a big clue about the type of your anxiety. For example, if you’re experiencing an anxiety attack, your thoughts may be very disruptive, like “I’m going to have a heart attack” or “I’m going to pass out.” If your thoughts during anxiety are more like “I am stressed” or “This is too much for me to handle,” you might have general anxiety.
5. Which emotions do you feel when you’re anxious?
Knowing which emotions you feel when you’re anxious can be helpful when you’re trying to identify the type of your anxiety. If you feel a lot of negative emotions like fear, sadness, shame, guilt, or anger, it might be due to general anxiety. If your anxiety is caused by an anxiety disorder, it’s more likely that you feel a very specific emotion. For example, people with panic attacks feel intense fear. Anxiety disorders often have a specific emotion that goes along with them.
6. How has your body reacted to the anxiety?
Many types of anxiety have different physiological responses. For instance, if you have an anxiety attack, your heart might speed up, you might break into a sweat, and your palms might get sweaty. If you have an anxiety disorder and experience general anxiety, your physiological response might be much less noticeable. This is why it’s important to identify the type of anxiety you have and what it looks like physically. Once you know, you can respond to it effectively.
7. What is your earliest memory of feeling anxious?
Anxiety disorders can develop for many different reasons, but one way to determine the type of your anxiety is to think back to your earliest memory of feeling anxious. This will help you to identify if your anxiety is related to an anxiety disorder or if it’s caused by a traumatic event. This is especially useful if you’re experiencing general anxiety. People with general anxiety often don’t have a specific cause for their anxiety. By thinking back to your earliest memory of feeling anxious, you can determine if your anxiety is general or if it’s caused by a specific event.
8. Have you been diagnosed with any mental illnesses?
If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, you have likely experienced anxiety at some point in your life. Anxiety is a very common symptom among people with mental illnesses. Do you know what type of mental illness you have? If not, you can use these questions to determine the type of your anxiety. If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (general anxiety, panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder), you can use these questions to determine the type of your anxiety and find ways to treat it. If you have any other mental illness (like depression or bipolar disorder), you can also use these questions to determine what type of anxiety you experience.
Get help with your mental health from the local charity Mind BLMK which helps people in Bedford and Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes.
9. Is your anxiety caused by a traumatic event?
If you’ve experienced trauma, you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is anxiety. If you’ve experienced trauma in the past and you feel anxious but you’re not sure why these questions may help you to determine the type of your anxiety and how to best treat it.
Hopefully, these 9 questions have helped you to identify the type of your anxiety. If you found that your anxiety doesn’t fit into any of these categories, that’s ok. There are many types of anxiety and there are many ways to treat them. Use these questions to help you get started down the path to recovery.
Local help with your mental health in Bedford, Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes and Luton
- For help in Luton you can contact Total Wellbeing Luton who supports people living in Luton who want to improve their physical and emotional health
- Mind BLMK has a Milton Keynes branch offering a central Wellbeing Centre (based on Midsummer Boulevard) for peer support and a bereavement by suicide support service They also have a Community Garden project at York House in Stony Stratford and work across the community to promote better mental health and wellbeing
- For Bedford and Bedfordshire the NHS provide the Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College which provide courses and workshops that focus on mental health wellbeing and recovery. They are delivered by people with lived experience and professional experience
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