Is It Just Nerves—Or an Anxiety Disorder?

Everyone gets stressed. So how do you know if it's everyday anxiety or a sign you need help?

If worry has been interfering with your work (you can't focus on the task at hand), affecting your relationships (you need constant reassurance or don't trust your partner), or limiting your ability to go about your life day to day (maybe you're afraid to drive on a highway or you avoid stressful situations by staying home) for several months, then you may have an anxiety disorder.

Though very common—in a given year, 40 million American adults have one—a disorder can wreak havoc on your life if left unchecked; many undiagnosed sufferers turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.

So make an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety and can determine whether you need treatment. Anxiety sufferers often respond well to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches you to reframe your anxious thoughts, or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which focuses on defusing the fear your anxieties evoke.

If anxiety is high, medication may be prescribed to ease symptoms. The good news is that anxiety disorders are very treatable, so you don't have to suffer in silence.

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