It’s not always easy to talk about anxiety or to say you’re anxious. So, if someone you know is struggling with anxiety, they probably won’t be able to tell you directly. They might be embarrassed and it can actually make them more anxious to talk about it. So, how do you recognise anxiety in others and make sure they get the help they need?
Read on to learn how to recognise anxiety in your friends, family or colleagues and pick up on cues early on. Here are 5 signs you should look out for:
1. They avoid joining in
If someone suffers from social anxiety, they will avoid joining in on even the most enjoyable of situations. Refusing an invitation once or twice will go unnoticed and are not anything to be concerned about.
But if it seems they are continuously avoiding social gatherings, meetings and get-togethers, then this may be a sign that they are struggling. They feel that they need to avoid the situation entirely due to nerves and worry.
2. They seem to sweat a lot
The mind’s response to stress is to go into the fight-or-flight-or-freeze mode. And the body will react to that by sweating. It’s the first, and most common, symptom of anxiety.
If somebody is anxious, they may also be embarrassed about sweating so much, which in turn increases their stress levels – and their sweating. This vicious circle is very difficult to control but can easily be spotted by others, so do look out for it.
For example, mild perspiration on the forehead or upper lip can be early signs of anxiety disorders.
3. They are irritable
The sense of nervousness that surrounds anxiety means that someone could be easily irritated and a bit snappy. That is the ‘fight’ response in action, just a defence mechanism in order to deal with the sense of perceived threat.
Occasionally, having a bit of a short fuse may not be too concerning. But if it becomes more persistent it will be time to get help.
Anxiety also causes insomnia, therefore feeling tired puts people on edge, too. Look out for quick mood changes, pacing and generally being a bit jumpy – signs that there may be underlying anxiety issues.
4. They find it difficult to concentrate
When people are anxious they lose focus very quickly. The mind seems to flit from one thing to the next, constantly assessing the different situations, constantly looking for errors. They may even begin to find it difficult to perform tasks that they used to do quite easily.
Lack of concentration also affects the pleasure centres of the brain, resulting in not being able to focus on hobbies such as reading for long periods of time. This can cause an immense amount of frustration.
It can also cause a loss of focus hours before a stressful event. For example, struggling to concentrate on work when there is a meeting planned for later in the week. It’s difficult to know what the ‘trigger’ may be, but the signs of anxiety will be obvious.
5. They appear to shake
Commonly, people with anxiety find it very difficult to be still. You may notice that they seem to shake their leg or tap their foot constantly. Maybe they clench their fists or their voice appears a bit shaky.
This is once again the fight-or-flight-or-freeze response at work. The rush of adrenaline means that they can’t relax. Sometimes it can be so extreme that they physically shake throughout their body or seem to jitter and tremble.
These are all signs to look out for in someone who will probably find it extremely difficult to communicate that they are feeling anxious. But by looking out for these signs, you could really be helping to understand someone, maybe even encourage them to open up the conversation and to get the help they need.
If you want to hear more about how to recognise the signs of anxiety in others, listen to my podcast Stress Bucket Solutions episode 58.