how anxiety affects behavior

5 Ways Anxiety Affects Behviour and How to Fight Them

Anxiety affects behavior and perception of the world which is what makes it a serious mental illness that should never be a widespread debilitating mental illness that most of us are familiar with. As of 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million people worldwide suffer from anxiety but only 37% seek help. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, either through medication or lifestyle changes. Anxiety disorders commonly revolve around a fear related to the future and make people avoid activities that can bring them closer to specific events that cause the anxiety and anything else that could trigger a stress response.

How Anxiety Affects Behavior

Anxiety is prominent in our daily lives and can even constitute itself in habits that we don’t recognize are due to anxiety. That’s generally referred to as hidden anxiety, which is not a clinical term and simply denotes behavioral changes and symptoms that aren’t as obvious to notice. If we do notice them, however, it can give us a sign that something might be brewing so we can help ourselves or seek help.

1. Face-to-face Communication is Difficult

Anxiety changes the way we communicate with people. Texting and chatting are alright, but face-to-face or phone calls are a no-go. You might have had no issues with talking to people in person but suddenly you might start experiencing reluctance or discomfort and have no idea why, even with people you know and consider close. You might find yourself unable to maintain eye contact, feel tense, sweat, and stumble through your words.

A way to ease the anxiety is to take it bit by bit and never force yourself to the point of an anxiety attack. Try maintaining eye contact for a few seconds and gauge how you feel. Focus on your body and breathing and instead of thinking about the person you’re talking to, try to think about the topic. Visualize your success and go slow.

2. Feeling Like a Spotlight is Constantly Following You

Do you feel uncomfortable when you have to walk into a room that already has many people in it? Do you tense up and try to involuntarily make yourself invisible when you hear people on the street laughing? That’s another way anxiety affects behavior and perception.

Feeling self-conscious and noticed are extremely common in people with anxiety. We feel like every laugh we hear is about us, our appearance, our behavior. We dread walking into a room because we feel like every single pair of eyes will be inevitably upon us. We don’t try new clothing or hairstyles because we fear people will look at us. We feel like everything can be subjected to judgment, from the way we walk to the sound of our voice.

Anxiety monopolizes the mind with fears and worst-case scenarios and we end up unable to notice what is actually happening. When you go out next time or enter a room, try to pay careful attention to your surroundings. You’ll notice no one is actually staring. Turning toward someone entering a room is an instinctual response. People glance for a split second and look away. They rarely even notice who came in.

Notice that reality is nothing like what anxiety says it will be.

5 ways anxiety affects behavior and how to fight them

3. You’re Easily Upset or Irritated

Emotional volatility in people with anxiety is caused by the high-stress levels and overwhelm it causes. The lack of emotional balance takes a toll on us both with and without a direct trigger.

It makes us snap at people when we normally wouldn’t have, say things we wouldn’t have, and feel hurt over things without knowing why. Knowing all that doesn’t stop the emotional response. Feeling guilty or dumb is also common. You might start doubting yourself more and believing your anxiety more when it tells you things that aren’t true.

There isn’t much we can do since we cannot control our emotions but we can take care of ourselves. Do something that soothes your feelings, be it self-care or rationalizing. Don’t admonish yourself over feeling hurt! If you can communicate to the other person that you’re not feeling well, that would also be good. The best way to prevent this from happening is to address the root cause — the anxiety.

4. Feeling on Edge and Startling Easily

Anxiety causes unease and feeling unsafe and strung up. You might find yourself jumping at sounds, cowering away from the sound of cars, feeling on edge because of pings from technology or the ticking of a clock.

These feelings could also be caused by having to do things unexpectedly, receiving unplanned phone calls, or remembering small things that had slipped your mind.

Combat this by eliminating triggering sounds and any negative stimulus. Take yourself away from stressful environments and focus on your breathing. Being on edge quickens the pulse and breathing will help normalize your heartbeat. Recenter yourself before continuing your day. Do this as many times as you need, even if just for a few minutes.

5. Persistent Indecision

Sometimes anxiety manifests itself as analysis paralysis and/or perfectionism. That’s when tiny inconsequential decisions weigh on us and we can make up our minds. That results in stress, further anxiety, and even panic. We make dozens upon dozens of tiny picks and choices throughout the day. If we sweat every single one it becomes a nightmare.

This indecision can be caused by an underlying fear of failure, involuntarily imagining worst-case scenarios, and low self-esteem and self-doubt. This might make you try to decide for hours or walk away altogether to escape the stress response.

Treating the underlying cause is the best thing to do. That, of course, takes a lot of time and you need to still make choices in the meantime. If you can bring yourself to give up control you could either have someone you trust pick for you, or roll a dice. Giving up control over inconsequential choices can bring a sense of freedom as the weight is lifted off your shoulders. This can help you get back to a better state of mind again.

Anxiety affects behavior and habits as it takes over our responses to everyday situations. Those behavioral changes are more difficult to break once they grow into habits but it’s not impossible. It starts with self-awareness and noticing what those habits are. It is possible to get better and as we get the treatment we deserve, it becomes easier to handle.

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