The different anxiety disorders that are most common today can leave an individual constantly overwhelmed, uneasy, and nervous. Although some temporary anxiousness can be considered "normal," understanding whether a person has an anxiety disorder can make the difference in getting the needed treatment or not. Anxiety affects your psychology, biology, and your social world. To better understand anxiety in its various forms, below you will find a wide selection of articles that provide information about the signs, causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of different anxiety disorders.
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Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Anxiety Can Get Out of Control
Hopefully, the above articles about how an anxiety disorder might impact an individual were helpful. Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. People get anxious for all sorts of reasons including trouble with their relationships or problems at work. Remember there is a difference between feeling occasionally nervous and having an anxiety disorder.
There are times when you may experience the symptoms of anxiety, such as when you’re about to take a test. It’s natural to feel anxious then. However if you’re regularly experiencing high levels of intense anxiety that are out of proportion to the actual events that are occurring in your daily life - there may be an issue. It’s not normal to experience excessive anxiety with no apparent cause for extended periods of time.
Anxiety disorder symptoms include experiencing intense anxiety that is out of proportion to the actual situation at hand - on a regular basis.
Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders
Common forms of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobia-related disorders. Anxiety disorder symptoms can vary in severity depending on the person who is experiencing it. Anxiety disorder can be a severe condition that impacts your body and mind. It can be challenging to explain it to others who aren’t feeling it. Everyone’s signs and symptoms of anxiety disorder are unique, but remember that your anxiety is real.
Clinical anxiety is one type of anxiety that is far more severe than having jitters. Intense anxiety disorders are persistent and impact an individual’s quality of life, including their relationships, jobs, and physical health. People with a specific phobia and intense anxiety disorders need a treatment plan to manage the symptoms and to develop healthy living routines.
Anxiety disorders can aggravate other existing mental health issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety. Social anxiety can interfere with your daily functioning and can lead to a medical illness if left untreated.
Exposure therapy is one of the best treatments for managing social anxiety. This specific object based therapy helps patients overcome anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety by introducing the anxiety causing stimulus in small doses during exposure therapy sessions.
The purpose of exposure therapy is to mitigate the common anxiety symptoms that keep people from living "normal" lives. Common anxiety symptoms include - rapid heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, and digestive issues.
You’re Not Making It Up
Anxiety is real. It is a close relative to our natural Fight or Flight mechanism. When you have anxiety, there will be people that don’t understand what you’re going through and make judgments. They might believe you’re making your symptoms up or that you just need to “push through” it. But what you’re feeling is real. People living with anxiety can have a variety of different conditions such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, or Social Anxiety.
These are all diagnosed health conditions that you can get more information about from your therapist or counselor. There are many coping techniques for anxiety, and there’s no one right way to manage it. One of the most important things to remember is that you’re allowed to feel your feelings, and your anxiety is valid and real.
As levels of anxiety rise, physical symptoms of anxiety begin to present themselves in the form of increased muscle tension, increased heart rate, and chest pain from what appear to be everyday situations. Family members may not recognize that you’re experiencing anxiety until they notice physical symptoms of anxiety and panic in response to everyday life events.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
With Generalized Anxiety Disorder, worrying is a common symptom. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) impacts a person’s mind to the point where they’re plagued with persistent and excessive worrying about different situations. They might fixate on something terrible happening even though they have no evidence that there is danger.
People with GAD prepare themselves for the worst case scenario and tend to believe that these adverse outcomes are probable. They worry about a variety of issues such as their health, relationships, money problems, or psychological state. People with GAD find it challenging to manage their worries and spend a lot of time in their heads. Even though they don’t want to worry, they can’t seem to stop the behavior. They prepare themselves for a devastating outcome. GAD is a common and highly treatable disorder. Many of our therapists specialize in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.
Panic Disorder is a condition where a person gets a feeling of heaviness or dread and experiences a panic attack. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, shaking, sweating and a sense of impending disaster or doom. Panic attacks come on without warning and can happen anywhere. They might occur on the job, while taking public transportation, driving, or while spending a day with a friend. Some people have unexpected panic attacks occasionally, while others experience frequent episodes of panic.
Those who suffer from recurring panic attacks may have Panic Disorder. It’s important to get evaluated by a mental health professional to find out the severity of your panic attacks. If you’re having a panic attack and feeling scared, remember that they always end. Panic typically peaks around 20 minutes and then the feelings subside. The old adage “take a deep breath” can help break the attack and offer you a quick and easy solution.
Coping Techniques for Anxiety
There are many different coping strategies and treatment methods that can successfully reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders. This is where CBT can help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the more common treatments used for anxiety disorders. It teaches you methods of balancing the logical side of your brain with the emotional side. By logically thinking through your situation, you can better control your behaviors.
The anxious person often lets their feelings be in control of their mind. For example, a person with Panic Disorder might feel like their friends don’t really like them and react when they are in a group. When they take the time to examine the evidence, they might realize that they have several good friends but that they are subtly pushing them away by their behaviors. This can cause a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One of the more common treatment options for managing anxiety is meditation or mindfulness.
People who have a history of anxiety may have trouble staying in the present moment even when they aren’t in actual danger. Difficulty concentrating on the here and now can aggravate underlying medical issues related to anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, feelings of anxiety can wreak havoc on mental and physical health.
Mindfulness meditation is about practicing awareness in your mind and body. It helps the individual to stay in the present, rather than focusing on the past or the future. A person who practices mindfulness turns inward and focuses on how their body feels. Mindfulness derives from Eastern medicine, but it’s been adopted by Western culture, and become quite popular in treating anxiety disorders. It was first introduced to The United States by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., who works at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It’s gained recognition over the past 30 years. Kabat-Zinn founded a stress reduction clinic, and because of his efforts, mindfulness is recognized as a very effective treatment for anxiety.
Some frequently asked questions about anxiety include:
- What are 5 signs you have anxiety?
- How do I know if I'm anxiety?
- What causes an anxiety?
- What anxiety feels like?
- How can I stop my anxiety?
- Can anxiety be cured?
- Do I have anxiety or am I just stressed?
- Do I have anxiety or am I just nervous?
- What anxiety can do to your body?
- What happens if I don't treat my anxiety?
Get Help for Anxiety
Anxiety is treatable, and there are mental health professionals who understand what you’re going through. You don’t have to suffer alone with your anxious thoughts and feelings. Anxiety can amplify your feelings, and make you believe that your problems are insurmountable. That’s not true, and you CAN find support and you CAN feel better. You’re entitled to live a fulfilling life, and part of that is learning to cope with anxiety. Online counseling is an excellent option for people who are struggling with anxiety. If you would like more personalized assistance, you might want to speak with one of our licensed counselors that can help you today. Not only do we have a growing list of more than 10,000 online mental health therapists, but we've had more than 1 million people sign up to use our online counseling services. Get the help you need to manage anxiety.
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Selective mutism
- Heart palpitations
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Trouble staying asleep
- Unexplained weight gain/loss
- Irrational fear
According to the American Psychiatric Association, there is more than one type of anxiety disorder. Common anxiety disorders include the following:
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Phobia
- Clinical Anxiety
Research conducted by the American Psychiatric Association suggests that there are a few easily identifiable risk factors for developing anxiety. One of these risk factors is experiencing excessive anxiety inducing situations as a child. A common example would be child abuse. Another risk factor is a predisposition to mental illness, as anxiety disorders can run in the family.
Physicians must also rule out the possibility that another underlying medical condition (including other mental health disorders) is aggravating or causing your anxiety disorder as a component of seeking treatment.
Anxiety Treatment options
Behavioral therapy helps people suffering from anxiety disorders to identify the object or situation that is triggering symptoms of anxiety. This behavior based therapy introduces stress management techniques that help mitigate the physical symptoms of anxiety. Behavioral therapy sessions can be conducted as individual or group sessions. You should try to find support group sessions with others who have an anxiety disorder to learn real-life coping strategies.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the treatment of mental health disorders including substance abuse and anxiety disorders. Behavioral therapy provides behavior modification treatments for anxiety disorders by reframing thoughts and behaviors.
Stress management is one of the most important treatments for anxiety and is a component of cognitive-behavioral therapy. People with anxiety disorders can discuss important health topics and learn how to manage the symptoms of anxiety by joining a support group where they can discuss stress management techniques for specific phobias. For example, support groups can act as a forum for members who share a common phobia to learn new ways to interact with their environment. Since there are other people who share this common trait, you can learn from each other and share a common wealth of knowledge.
Clinical trials operate like a support group and focus on finding new treatments, talk therapy, and medication for treating anxiety disorders and related medical conditions. Patients who agree to participate in clinical trials have agreed to help doctors find new treatments for anxiety disorders. Participants in clinical trials are made aware of any potential side-effects of treatments provided during the trial.
Developing an Anxiety Disorder
Developing an anxiety disorder is normally an unconscious process. Having flashbacks of past traumatic events can trigger high levels of anxiety and contribute to mental illness. These thoughts can trigger our Fight or Flight system and result in the release of adrenalin. Adrenalin is the body’s natural way to defend ourselves and prepare for a fight. It causes our capillaries to constrict, our digestion to slow down, our heart rate to increase and our breathing to quicken.
Children who have witnessed or experienced abuse are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Left untreated, bouts of intense anxiety can develop into an even more severe mental illness or medical illness. Some adults have even developed thyroid problems as a side effect of untreated anxiety.
Lack of proper health care and not taking care of your physical health can be a component of developing an anxiety disorder. Lack of a healthy diet, exercise, and sleeping habits can make you more susceptible to mental and physical health issues.
Combat anxiety and panic attacks by introducing components of healthy living into your everyday routine. Activities like practicing mindfulness, meditation, and eating fresh foods are great ways to introduce new healthy living strategies into your life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Living with Anxiety
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety disorder is different than the general anxiety someone might feel when standing in line for their coffee order while running late for work. If your symptoms of anxiety start to disrupt your relationships or work, it is time to see a doctor. At that moment, you may be experiencing anxiety depression, and you do not want to take any chances.
A number of factors can increase one’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder such as trauma, chronic illness, or dealing with other mental health disorders. People with anxiety may have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and can also face irrational and extreme fears such as the fear of flying or open spaces. Some people with social anxiety, also called social phobia, experience an intense fear of being judged or watched by others.
Managing this health condition can be difficult. But reaching out for professional and having anxiety disorders overview can allow you to take back your life again.
What does an anxiety attack feel like?
During an anxiety attack, you may experience symptoms like intense fear, worry, sweating, trembling, and a pounding heart. You may also feel that you are losing control or are going crazy. People with an anxiety risk panic or anxiety attacks when facing an extremely stressful life situation or dealing with a chronic illness.
When they develop, they could last from ten to twenty minutes. Usually, they don't go beyond an hour. An anxiety attack also makes the victim feel like he or she can't breathe. It follows a choking sensation that can be very alarming. Anxiety attacks could also surface due to certain conditions like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
You may be able to recognize this when constant worries and fears distract you from completing daily tasks or going through your normal day to day activities. GAD is one of the major types of anxiety disorders, and symptoms also include a constant feeling that something bad may happen. People with this condition normally don't know the reasons they feel that way most of the time. Anxiety closely related to GAD often causes symptoms like stomach upset, restlessness, insomnia, and fatigue.
What is the difference between a fear and a phobia?
People feel fear when they encounter a threat. Fear of a perceived threat can be worked out through logic and reason. Extreme fear toward a specific object or situation is often indicative of a phobia. In fact, this fear is so strong that it interferes with their ability to function or lead a normal life.
How can I calm my anxiety and prevent it from growing worse over time? When you are feeling stressed or anxious, there are a number of stress management techniques you can employ to calm yourself down. Sometimes, you need to get some more sleep or incorporate a fun workout class in your daily life to help you feel good. When placed in stressful situations, learning to take deep breaths and following a mantra can help you calm yourself down.
If you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, mental health counseling may also be beneficial for you. Medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are sometimes prescribed for the treatment of anxiety as well.
Fear has very unhealthy results in one's physical and mental health. It does more than just make us scared and panic all over the place. Study shows that fear can affect the human immune system and can go as far as to cause cardiovascular damage and gastrointestinal problems. However, it's totally okay to be scared of certain issues.
If you think your fear is tending towards an extreme side, you may think out of finding a therapist. Phobia, on the other hand, is a kind of fear. It's an excessive and extreme reaction to fear. A person with a phobia is liable to experience a very deep sense of panic when encountered with the 'source' of fear.
How do you know it's an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety disorders — generalized anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, and social phobia, for instance — are serious mental illnesses that can have a severe impact on your life. Some symptoms of an anxiety disorder include feeling an intense fear of social situations, panic attacks, disrupted sleeping patterns, and tense muscles. You should schedule an appointment with your physician if your anxiety is starting to impact your life.
Out of the many symptoms of anxiety disorder, the commonest symptom is excessive worrying. The worrying related to anxiety disorders is not proportionate to the activities that triggered it and normally occur as a reaction to normal daily life. Please note that the worrying must occur a lot within the space of six months to know if it's an anxiety disorder.
Also, the worrying may be severe, hard to suppress. A sign that it may be an anxiety disorder also includes the inability to focus on daily tasks. Agitation is another symptom of an anxiety disorder. When a person feels agitated, and it results in increased sweating, heartbeat, shaking, and a dry mouth, then that individual may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders involve tiredness. When tiredness is accompanied by excessive worrying, there may be a severe case of anxiety disorder or some other medical conditions.
What is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder include:
- Persistent and excessive worry about different events or activities
- Inability to control this worry
- At least three of the following symptoms:
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased muscle soreness
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
Please note that generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can vary from one person to the other. A big part of anxiety consists of family history and prolonged exposure to stressful situations.
What are signs of behavioral inhibition in children?
Behavioral inhibition in children shows up as fear or anxiety toward unfamiliar situations, acting withdrawn around strangers, and showing vigilance in these uncomfortable situations. These characteristics are typically used to determine a child’s chances of developing anxiety when they grow older. Overprotective caregiving can end up increasing this behavioral inhibition. Typically, children with behavioral inhibition may show signs of fear often, and they may feel very uncomfortable in very unfamiliar situations.
Study shows that children that show behavioral inhibition in childhood have the tendency of showing the symptoms through their entire childhood. There are a few factors that help with behavioral inhibition in children. One of the major factors that influence behavioral inhibition is caregiving strategies. When the appropriate strategy is applied in caregiving, children will be encouraged to develop independence and confidence to assist them in reducing anxiety or distress in a new social environment.
For instance, in caregiving, the caregivers should allow children to participate in social activities that will benefit them to a very large extent. Also, they should try to ensure that they excel in these social activities. Please, caregivers may also need to be watchful in the strategies they employ. For example, if a caregiver is over-responsive or imposes control when it's not needed, then this may increase the child's anxiety in new situations. Generally, anxiety in children is unhealthy. A common instance of child anxiety is the separation anxiety disorder in which a person experiences high levels of anxiety regarding separation from home or certain people.
What should I do if I think I have substance induced anxiety disorder?
People with substance induced anxiety disorder experience anxiety as a result of abusing a particular substance. Substance induced anxiety disorder can be treated with individual or group therapy. Sometimes, your physician might prescribe a medication for you to help you manage this anxiety disorder. Fundamentally, the first step to take when you have a substance-induced anxiety disorder is to take a bold step to get support.
You can try seeking a therapist to help with the situation. Also, you may also join a support group to help you get better. Since stress can be a major cause of anxiety disorder, try to manage stress. Managing stress is not difficult. You may start by keeping a positive attitude to what you do. When you work, try to find a way to stay happy.
The better you feel, the lesser the tendency to get stressed out quickly. When you know you cannot control events, accept the fact that you can't control them. Most importantly, try your best to be assertive in any way you can and not aggressive. Your physical health is very important, so try as much as you can to take care of it.
Why does anxiety come out of nowhere?
Anxiety doesn’t tend to come from an empty source. Usually, there is something behind it. A number of factors can induce anxiety in people, such as a traumatic event, genetics, or chronic stress. Medication such as birth control and cough medications can also trigger anxiety in people. Caffeine and missed meals can also make you feel jittery, so make sure you are following a healthy diet to help you manage your mental health.
The most important thing is to find helpful ways to suppress it once you notice the symptoms. You may need to be aware of the anxiety triggers and how you can effectively manage them. One of the anxiety triggers is health issues. At times when someone gets a specific diagnosis like cancer or any other related condition, it may immediately trigger anxiety. However, a helpful way of reducing this is by having engaging conversations with your doctor. Therapy can be useful as well in situations like this; a therapist will help you in managing your emotions as they do not support anxiety.
Does anxiety cause high blood pressure?
Research suggests that anxiety doesn’t cause long-term high blood pressure. However, episodes can cause temporary spikes in your blood pressure. Once the anxiety episode subsides, your blood pressure will go back to normal. However, regular anxiety episodes can have a negative impact on your heart health.
Generally, there's no specific proof that infers stress or anxiety can be a major cause of long-term high blood pressure, but they can be linked to anxiety. Although, there are healthy ways to react to stress that should be adopted because reacting to stress in unhealthy ways can increase the risk of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks.
Please note that anxiety may only contribute to factors that could lead to high blood pressure or hypertension. Some of the common activities that may lead to an increased probability of hypertension are uncontrolled usage of alcohol, poor dietary plans, use of tobacco, and lack of exercise.
What is acute anxiety?
When it comes to different mental health topics, anxiety is often misunderstood. For instance, some people have trouble understanding what acute anxiety is. In short, acute anxiety is characterized by intense panic and anxiety attacks. In most cases, acute anxiety is referred to as a panic attack. It is an abrupt episode that is known for the sudden or intense feeling of fear or discomfort.
An acute anxiety attack is normally followed with increased heart rate, pounding heart, palpitations, sweating, shaking, or trembling. Other symptoms of anxiety include choking sensation, paresthesia, chest pain or discomfort, and the likes. Individuals may face acute anxiety due to psychological disorders in some cases. These feeling is totally uncomfortable and painful and can be very scary. People with panic attacks normally try hard to prevent another from happening due to the level of discomfort they may have experienced.
What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder is one of the examples of anxiety disorders, which is also called social phobia, which is characterized by an intense fear of being watched or judged by others. This mental health condition can affect normal day-to-day activities such as attending class or going to work. One of the most challenging parts of the social anxiety disorder is the inability to request for help or assistance.
Social anxiety disorder has a way of affecting the way a person speaks to strangers, makes eye contact, eats in front of people, and much more. Anxiety disorder, social interactions may be extremely difficult. Usually, people with a social anxiety disorder avoid any of those activities; they prefer staying alone in their comfort zone. This occurs because they are scared of being judged by other people, being embarrassed or humiliated and showing it, being the center of attraction, and in most cases, accidentally offending anyone.
A person with this disorder may feel muscle tension, inability to catch a breath, rapid heartbeat, and diarrhea. People that feel this way are highly advised to consult a therapist. It's important to take steps to cure anxiety. However, please do not take any anti anxiety medications or supplements, except if they are exclusively recommended to you by your doctor.