10 Signs You Have Anxiety Without Knowing It

January 13, 2021

you are not your anxiety by dr. carly crewe

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I'm Carly - an MD Psychotherapist specializing in women's mental health. I help women feel like themselves again.

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the sled by carly crewe, md

“Do I have anxiety and not know it?” 

It’s common for patients to end up in my clinic with one (or more) of these complaints. Looking for support or a solution, without realizing that it could likely be anxiety. Today I’m sharing the 10 signs you have anxiety without knowing it.

Now, first things first: Everyone has anxiety. I mean, everyone.

Anxiety has been built into our brain and has been essential for human survival.

Therefore, the question is not “Do I have anxiety?” but rather, “How severe is your anxiety and how is it affecting your life?

This blog will break down the 10 signs you might have anxiety without knowing it. You can also listen to the corresponding episode of the Mind Over Motherhood Podcast to learn more.

The truth is every single human being has anxiety to some degree. It’s an evolutionary adaptation. 

The process of evolution selects for traits that contribute to species survival. If a trait keeps someone alive, then it gets passed on to the next generation. 

Having anxiety kept your ancestors alive and allowed them to pass on these genes to you! So you can thank your ancestors for your anxiety. 

The point is having anxiety doesn’t make you broken. In fact, it means your brain is actually functioning how it is supposed to.

However, that doesn’t mean you need to struggle with it or like it.  

The goal is to drop the shame around having anxiety and learn to manage it. Let’s dive in, here are the most common signs you have anxiety without knowing it.



Sign #1: You are a human being

The first sign you might have anxiety and not know it is very simple.

You’re a human. All human beings have anxiety.

So if you are a human, you likely have anxiety to some degree. It’s that degree that varies between person to person. No matter what, your job is not to eliminate it but to learn how to manage it.

Sign #2: You are indecisive

One of the most common signs you have anxiety without knowing it is if you tend to be chronically indecisive. When you make a decision, it’s normal to feel confident and empowered for a short period of time. Often though, if you struggle with anxiety, you may find yourself second-guessing.

This second-guessing causes distress – it feels uncomfortable to be unsure.

In this situation, your anxiety often steps in to reduce your distress, causing you to backtrack on your initial decision. You may change your mind, hoping that choice will lessen your distress.

While it may temporarily ease the disomfort, this constant indecisiveness only creates more indecisiveness.  If you find you are indecisive, you might have anxiety without realizing it.

Sign #3: You can’t concentrate

Many women assume that you either “can” or “cannot” concentrate, rather than realizing it’s something that needs to be learned and practiced.

Rather than assuming you’re “bad” at concentrating, it could be a sign of anxiety.

The truth is anxiety causes a lot of “cognitive noise” in the brain. Anxious, intrusive thoughts can cause you to become distracted frequently and lose concentration. 

Take heart though, by taking steps to manage your anxiety, your concentration can improve also. 

Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. If you want to release all that control and perfectionism out of your mind, I invite you to download my 10-Minute Meditation for Releasing Perfectionism. It is a free audio meditation, and you can listen to it whenever, wherever, and however you like. Download it here!

Sign #4: You can’t sleep

If you struggle with sleep and find yourself with spiralling thoughts at night, this may be a sign you have anxiety without knowing it.

I often refer to anxiety like a sort of sentry or security guard in your brain. 

If your anxiety is high (or you don’t realize you have it), your sentry is likely constantly on alert for threats. This goes on all day long.

If it’s hyperactive all day long, chances are it’s not settling down at night. Instead, your brain sentry remains hyper vigilant for new threats. This causes you to struggle to fall asleep and may contribute to frequent or prolonged night wakings. If you have anxiety, you may struggle with a racing mind, be a light sleeper and struggle to get deep, restorative sleep.

Taking steps to manage your anxiety might be exactly what you need to improve your sleep.

 Sign #5: You feel overwhelmed, no matter the circumstances

Regardless of the number of days off, holidays or kid-free evenings, women with anxiety always feel overwhelmed.

While most of us look outside of ourselves to combat overwhelm, sometimes it’s what’s going on in our minds that is the problem (ie. undiagnosed anxiety.)

Here’s why: I often describe your ability to respond to life’s events and demands as your cognitive resources. We each have a tank of cognitive resources to deal with life, and anxiety depletes that tank quicker.

For example, when your anxiety is well managed, you likely still have a good amount of resources to use to respond to whatever happens in your life. Perhaps you would still have 30% of your cognitive resources to give to the unexpected things in your life.

However, unmanaged anxiety demands a much higher percentage of your cognitive resources all day, every day. In this situation, you might be functioning at 90% of your cognitive capacity. So when something unexpected comes up, you only have 10% to give. This limited resource capacity causes even the slightest thing to overwhelm us.

We just don’t have much left to give.

It’s important to address both the demands on you that make you feel overwhelmed, but also ensure you’re increasing your resources by keeping your anxiety under control.


Sign #6: You’re very irritable

If you’re quick to snap at a loved one or find yourself to be more easily angered than usual, you might have anxiety without realizing it. Your fuse is short.

Recall that anxiety takes away a lot of our cognitive resources, and we have nothing left to use to respond calmly when something overwhelms us.

If you’re irritable all the time, ask yourself why that is? Is there something you need to address in your life or is it because you have uncontrolled anxiety?

If you struggle with mood changes, you may want to download my 3 Natural Ways to Improve Your Mood That May Surprise You! free guide. Download it here!

Sign #7: Chronic neck pain and tension headaches

Physical symptoms are very common in many of my patients with anxiety.

Many of them do not realize that their physical symptoms are related to anxiety, or that they even have anxiety.

Neck pain and tension headaches are very common complaints in women with anxiety. When you’re chronically anxious, your body releases stress hormones at a high level.  This is essentially preparing your muscles to react at any moment. This leads to chronic muscle tension, especially in the neck and shoulders.

There are lots of other physical symptoms that may related to anxiety as well, such as fatigue, muscle aches, or GI symptoms (IBS symptoms). If you have some of these symptoms, they may be signs you have anxiety without knowing it.


Sign #8: You fixate on physical symptoms

Anxiety leads you to be hyper aware of sensations in your body.

When you are hyper vigilant to every little symptom, it is very hard to ignore them. Before you know it, you’re visiting your friend Dr. Google and worrying about the worst case scenario.

Many symptoms are not only a result of anxiety, but also intensify due to anxiety. When we worry about symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain or chest pain, these symptoms can sometimes increase.

It becomes a vicious cycle of symptom -> anxiety about symptoms -> more or worse symptoms.

It is important to note that this is not always the case. Please ALWAYS address your health concerns and physical symptoms with a health professional for an appropriate assessment + treatment.

Once physical illness is ruled out by your provider, it might be time to explore if it’s anxiety. Physical symptoms without an identifiable cause may be a sign you have anxiety without realizing it.

Sign #9: You can never relax

If you have anxiety without realizing it, you may feel like you can never relax.

You may have a perpetual need to always be moving, doing something or producing. You have a hard time sitting still, and always feel keyed up or “on edge.”

For example, if you find after a restful vacation that you still feel wound up like a top, it might be time to consider if anxiety is impacting you.

Sign #10: You’re passive

Many of the women I work with behave very passively in their relationships. They fear conflict and will do anything they can to avoid it, including sacrificing their own needs for others.

In this case, anxiety becomes a behavioural director. When you anticipate a conflict arising, your anxiety encourages you to comply and be passive to avoid the conflict. The issue with this habit is that chronic passive behaviour leads to resentment, overhwelm and usually…worse anxiety.

It’s important to recognize the connection between passive behaviour and anxiety. Assertiveness and anxiety cannot coexist. Assertiveness allows you to feel more confident in your relationships and your responsibilities.


BONUS Sign #11: Tune into the podcast to find out!

So now what?

If some of these signs you might have anxiety without knowing are resonating with you, this is OK. Anxiety is not something we need to be afraid of or panic about (see what I did there?)

If you’re wondering if you have anxiety, and are not sure where to go next, I can help.

In my monthly mental health membership The Eunoia Collective, I help women learn about mental health symptoms and how to manage them in a holistic and comprehensive way.

With monthly mini courses, access to hot seat coaching, guest expert trainings and a supportive community of like-minded women all working towards improved mental health, The Eunoia Collective is a revolution in how women take care of themselves.

Want to learn more? Click here.





  •  Why every single person has anxiety and why you shouldn’t feel ashamed about it.
  • The 10 most common signs of anxiety that get mislabeled as “something else.”
  • A surprising BONUS sign that has an interested relationship with anxiety

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