Anxiety disorders exist in various forms with some people experiencing episodes of intense fear while others experience ongoing feelings of worry and unease. According to Harvard Health Publications, 30 percent of people living with illness anxiety disorders receive no form of treatment for their symptoms.
While the line between everyday anxiety and illness anxiety disorder may seem fuzzy, when feelings of anxiety reach a point where they interfere with daily life activities a person has developed a full-blown disorder.
The various types of illness anxiety disorders include:
- Social phobia
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Fortunately, there are ways to better cope with illness anxiety disorder so that a person can carry out daily activities and lead a normal life. If you’re wondering if you or someone you know suffers from an illness anxiety disorder, here are five signs to watch out for:
1. Constant or frequent worrying – Someone who worries constantly may be suffering from generalized illness anxiety disorder. Constant worrying may also be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. This symptom applies for someone who worries all the time over every little thing.
Someone who worries over specific situations, such as public speaking or being in social settings may be dealing symptoms of social phobia. Someone may also experience a sense of constant dread that something bad will happen. For each instance, worry has reached a point where it’s limiting a person’s daily activities.
2. Physical symptoms – Conditions involving social phobias and panic disorders can be so overwhelming to the point where a person starts to exhibit physical symptoms of anxiety. Physical symptoms of illness anxiety disorder may include:
- Rapid heart beat
- Trembling hands, twitching, shaking
- Sweaty palms
- Feeling out of breath
- Feeling a lump in the throat or chest area
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Feeling flushe
- Feeling disoriented
3. Behavioral signs – An illness anxiety disorder often affects a person’s mood states and behavior to such a degree that everyday activities like work or family obligations become difficult to carry out. Behavioral signs to watch out for include –
- Unable to remain still, constant fidgeting
- Persistent anger and/or irritability
- Edgy, high-strung behaviors
- Easily distracted
- Easily confused
- Losing track of time
- Going “blank” on a frequent basis
4. Coping responses – Someone who’s lived with an illness anxiety disorder for a long time gradually develops ways of coping with anxiety symptoms. In effect, coping responses enable people to “work around” their anxiety symptoms. Coping responses can take the form of:
- Avoiding certain places or things
- Avoiding people altogether or isolating
- Not expressing your opinions or asserting yourself
- Minimizing accomplishments you’ve made
- Using drugs or alcohol to numb anxiety feelings
5. Health effects – Over time, an illness anxiety disorder will start to take a toll on a person’s health. Some of the health signs to look out for include:
- Persistent aches and pains
- Problems sleeping
- Feeling jumpy all the time
- Problems relaxing
While no two people will experience the same symptoms in the same way, persistent feelings of anxiety and stress are sure signs that an illness anxiety disorder is at work.
Harvard Health Publications