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I'm a Doctor and These are Signs You Have Anxiety

Here's how to know for sure.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

I very recently had a patient in who had COVID in December and part of her anxiety symptoms included chest pain. In our last appointment, she said she had a full work-up by her primary care physician to make sure her heart was "OK" and all the tests came back negative. As we talked and I asked her some more questions, it seemed that the chest pain she was having coincided with her going to bed at night and reflecting on her days events. Part of her thoughts focused on what would happen to her 8-year-old daughter if she were to not recover from COVID and die. She was spending her evenings catastrophizing over her physical health, COVID, and such. After two years of a pandemic that has left 9 million Americans losing parent, child, or another family member it's more important than ever to take care of your mental health. Read on to learn to recognize signs you have anxiety—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Anxiety?

woman with anxiety biting nails

Anxiety is often described as feelings of intense nervousness or worry. It's common to experience feelings of anxiousness from time-to-time, particularly in times of acute stress. However, when these feelings become chronic and begin to interrupt daily life, it can be an indication that someone is experiencing generalized anxiety disorder. In either case, if you recognize that something feels "off" for you, it's important to reach out to a licensed therapist for help. 


What Causes Anxiety?

woman stressed at her desk

Anxiety can have several causes, ranging from lifestyle to environment to biological factors. These causes can be incredibly wide-ranging depending on the individual, which it's why it's important to keep tabs on your emotions and how you're feeling and seek help if you notice subtle changes. Examples of factors that could contribute to anxiety include lack of sleep, a high-stress job or home life, financial insecurity, etc. 


What are the Signs of Anxiety

Woman awakened lying in bed with her eyes open.
  • Feelings of worry: This may feel uncontrollable like you're unable to stop
  • Difficulty concentrating: This particular symptom can also be indicative of other mental health conditions, which is why it's important to speak with a trained mental health professional if you find you're experiencing challenges concentrating on a frequent basis
  • Sleep issues (trouble falling/staying asleep) and fatigue: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can be a supportive tool for our mental health, but if you find that you're having difficulty sleeping or experiencing fatigue, you may want to check in with a clinician. 

RELATED: How Long Do COVID Symptoms Last?


What Does an Anxiety Attack Feel Like?

Russ & Daughters Cafe 127 Orchard St

A panic attack is associated with physical symptoms like increased heart rate and shortness of breath. If someone is experiencing a panic attack for the first time, they may feel a sense of impending doom like they're going to die. These are very frightening symptoms. Even just one session or evaluation with a mental health provider can be extremely helpful for people who experience panic attacks because they can learn to recognize the symptoms and understand that they are not in physical danger, which is a big relief. 

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How to Tell if Shortness of Breath Is From Anxiety?

Woman suffering an anxiety sitting on a couch.

I'd encourage individuals to consult with their primary care doctor or a mental health clinician if they're uncertain about what's causing shortness of breath. If these symptoms are related to anxiety, your provider can also help you identify a treatment plan to effectively manage these symptoms and feel better. 

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How to Deal with Anxiety?

woman relaxes while doing yoga by the water
  • Identify triggers. If you notice that increased media consumption, for example, brings up feelings of worry and dread, you may want to consider scaling back your screen time for your mental health.
  • Practice mindfulness. Meditation can be a tool to help manage symptoms of anxiety and promote positive feelings of wellbeing. 

Don't forget your basic self-care. It may seem obvious, but eating a nutritious diet, getting moderate exercise, spending time outside and establishing good sleep hygiene are all helpful tools for our mental health and encourage healthy coping techniques when anxiety presents. 

Anisha Patel-Dunn, D.O.
Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, D.O. and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health, a provider of outpatient virtual and in-person mental healthcare. Read more about Anisha
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