What Is "Normal" Anxiety and How Do You Know When You Need Help?

A black man suffering from anxiety and depression sits on a park bench and holds his head in his hands

Key takeaways:

  • Occasional anxiousness is a regular part of life but people with anxiety disorders experience repeated episodes of intense anxiety and fear.

  • Common symptoms of chronic anxiety include persistent worry, feeling on edge, difficulty concentrating, excessive alertness or fear, restlessness, irritability, sleep disturbances, and muscle tension.

  • It’s important to seek professional help instead of turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health disorders adults experience. The pandemic has brought our mental health crisis to the forefront even more. While measures like social distancing and remote work have helped stop the spread of COVID-19, the unintended consequence is that many have been left feeling lonely, isolated, and depressed.

Add to that the fear and anxiety surrounding the virus itself, as well as other everyday stressors, and we are left with lots of stress, pain, and grief. In this article, we explore “normal” anxiety, common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders, and when it’s time to see a therapist.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to danger that’s triggered when you feel threatened, pressured, or are facing a challenging situation like a job interview or first date. It’s okay in moderation.

Anxiety disorders on the other hand involve constant, overwhelming anxiety that interferes with your daily life and/or relationships Typically, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of extreme worry or fear.

These feelings can last a long time and are out of proportion to the actual danger. Often, symptoms of anxiety start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood. In many instances, sufferers avoid certain situations or settings to prevent feelings of overwhelming worry.

What are the commons signs and symptoms of anxiety?

Signs and symptoms of anxiety are usually self-diagnosable and include the following: