Mild anxiety can get worse — here’s why you shouldn’t ignore it

mild anxiety symptoms
When mild anxiety is ignored, experts say it can become severe. Getty Images

It’s completely common for everyone to feel some form of anxiety, whether it’s worried about work or stressed about relationships. But for many Canadians, at least five per cent of the household population, all live with anxiety disorders.

Dr. Maneet Bhatia, a registered clinical psychologist based in Toronto, says when we hear the word “mild” in front of a mental health disorder, people may not take their symptoms seriously.

“Anxiety is something we all experience,” he tells Global News. “But if your mild anxiety is causing you distress and impeding you from doing something, it can become severe.”

READ MORE: Dating someone with social anxiety isn’t easy — here’s how to make it work

Bhatia says people with mild anxiety may feel anxious over things like relationships, work, or school, but still manage to “forget” about the anxieties and move on.

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What is it?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people with mild generalized anxiety disorder often function socially and are generally employed.

“Although they may avoid some situations because they have the disorder, some people can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities when their anxiety is severe,” the site notes.

READ MORE: Fear of flying: how to get over the anxiety of being on a plane

The CalmClinic, a resource-based website for people with anxiety, notes the symptoms don’t usually control you.

Constant worrying and nausea can be common, but they are not debilitating, the site adds. People don’t have panic attacks or become overwhelmed or fearful of their anxiety.

Managing the anxiety

Bhatia adds when it comes to managing mild anxiety, it’s important to keep track of how frequent it is. “If it is persistent, it can get in your way of [daily function].” He adds, mild anxiety is often situational — think of stress before a big exam or a first date — but it often isn’t a character trait.
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But if you only have anxiety in one part of your life, you shouldn’t classify this as just “mild,” he says. If you are constantly anxious about the same thing, you should talk to a medical professional to see if your anxiety is severe.

When it becomes severe

Bhatia says there are also signs your anxiety is become more severe. If your anxiety stops you from finishing a task or you are too overwhelmed to do something, seek help. He adds, ignoring it won’t make it go away.

“It grows and grows into other areas and you can alienate yourself,” he explains.

The CalmClinic adds anxiety is also treatable. “Anxiety is a negative emotion. If you were always sad or angry you would seek help, so there is no reason not to seek the same amount of help if you live with mild anxiety,” the site notes.

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Is everyone just anxious?

And with terms like anxiety used so often in this social media age, Bhatia says this does nothing but help lower the stigma attached to the mental health disorder.

“The fact we are talking about it is good,” he says. “We are educating ourselves about worrying excessively and fearing panic attacks, for example, these can be detrimental.”

READ MORE: ‘High-functioning’ anxiety: it’s not a diagnosis, but many say it’s real

“But it doesn’t have to define you,” he adds. “Anxiety can be both a ‘normal’ experience we all have that shouldn’t be judged or stigmatized. But it can also be unhealthy… we need to recognize both.”