Anxiety: The Stress That Never Stops

Updated March 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Do you frequently feel on edge and unable to relax, worried about some unnamable threat lurking out of sight? If so, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a typical human emotion, but for approximately a third of Americans, it lingers longer than it should and negatively influences thoughts and behaviors. Read on to learn about anxiety disorders and how therapy can help you cope with never-ending anxiety. 

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion that encompasses feelings of worry, fear, and dread. While these are standard human feelings that everyone experiences, they should be temporary to warn you of potential danger. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), when your feelings of anxiety persist to the point that they interfere with your daily life and cause functional impairment, you may have an anxiety disorder.

Does It Feel Like Your Anxiety Never Goes Away?

“Many people worry about things such as health, money, or family problems. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For people with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, schoolwork, and relationships.” — NIMH Overview of Anxiety Disorders

How Anxiety Disorders Can Affect Your Life

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America said anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition among adults in the US, with roughly 40 million people living with anxiety. Though the organization called the disorders “highly treatable,” only 36.9% of those with an anxiety disorder receive treatment. 

Anxiety disorders can affect your emotional, cognitive, and even physical health, with effects often worsening as the condition persists. Anxiety is meant to serve as your body’s early warning system, helping you evaluate immediate threats. However, for people with anxiety disorders, the brain doesn’t process the signals as it should, and their bodies can get stuck in fight or flight mode, convinced there is an imminent threat even when they’re perfectly safe. 

What Does Anxiety Look Like?

Like many mental health conditions, how anxiety presents can be as unique as the individual experiencing it. While symptoms can vary significantly from one person to another, mental health professionals use some common signs to help diagnose anxiety disorders

Anxiety Symptoms

  • Physical—Your anxiety may cause symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches, gastrointestinal issues, hyperventilation or shortness of breath, racing pulse, muscle tension, neck pain, and fatigue. 

  • Psychological— You may feel a powerful sense of impending doom, be unusually irritable, experience disorientation or extreme nervousness, have trouble concentrating or your mind goes blank, and may have difficulty controlling your feelings of worry and fear.

  • Behavioral—You might change your behavioral patterns due to anxiety, like avoiding people or places likely to cause stress or changing your sleep habits. 

Exploring The Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety can present in multiple ways, often influencing your life in ways you may never have imagined. According to NIMH researchers, approximately 30% of American adults will experience a type of anxiety disorder during their lives. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Persistent worry, fear, or dread related to multiple subjects or areas of your life rather than anxiety focused on a single topic. You may overthink situations, fixate on the worst-case scenario, constantly perceive threats when you are safe, have trouble handling uncertainty, and show worry that’s not proportionate to the circumstances. 

Panic Disorder

Sudden onset of extreme, debilitating anxiety symptoms lasting several minutes and causing severe interference with your functional capability. Panic attacks can occur without warning—with or without an apparent cause—and often trigger increased anxiety about future episodes. 

Separation Anxiety Disorder

While it is customary to worry about your loved ones when you’re not together, some people with anxiety demonstrate intense worry and distress when separated from their emotional attachment figures. You may have separation-themed nightmares and intensely dislike being alone. 

Social Anxiety Disorder

Many people feel anxious in unfamiliar social situations, but you may have a social anxiety disorder if your worries are so severe that you can’t speak or perform at all. Fears generally center on embarrassment, judgment, rejection, and ridicule in social situations. 

Phobia-Related Disorders

The intense fear of a specific object or situation is called a phobia, which many people experience. For example, phobias of heights, spiders, or public speaking are common. However, with a phobia-related disorder, you may exhibit extreme reactions when encountering the subject of your fears, often disproportionate to the actual danger you face. 

How Are Anxiety Disorders Treated?

According to a recent study, people with anxiety disorders generally respond best to a treatment plan involving medication and psychotherapy.


Anxiety disorders are typically treated with three categories of pharmaceuticals: antidepressants, beta-blockers, and anti-anxiety medications. While medicine will not cure an anxiety disorder, it can help reduce the comfort caused by symptoms and help reduce their effect on your daily life and functional ability. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is the most common treatment for anxiety disorders. It focuses on identifying negative or maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns, shifting them toward more positive, productive habits, so you are better prepared to cope with stressors. While working with the support and guidance of a mental healthcare provider, you may also learn practical coping strategies to help you manage your symptoms and stress reactions. 

Exposure Therapy

Develop a new way to confront your fears and control your reactions to them through systematic exposure to the subject of your phobia. Repeated controlled exposures will help you build an emotional tolerance, so you can better direct your reactions. 

Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Mindfulness and goal-setting exercises help reduce the discomfort associated with your anxiety symptoms. 

Group Therapy

Gain a community of others who likely experience similar anxiety symptoms while benefitting from the knowledge and expertise of a mental health professional. 

Recognizing Anxiety Disorders In Children

While children and adolescents can and do experience anxiety disorders, they don’t always present the same way they do in adults. Young children may be unable to understand or express their emotions and anxiety symptoms adequately. Physical symptoms, such as headache or stomachache, are often more common in younger children. Teenagers experiencing anxiety disorders may display increased behavioral symptoms, such as moodiness, social isolation, or poor school performance.

Helpful Tips To Cope With Anxiety

  • Identify anxiety triggers.

  • Establish a healthy, regular sleep hygiene routine.

  • Evaluate whether you are facing a legitimate threat.

  • Assess and assign the appropriate level of concern to the circumstances.

  • Challenge your anxious thoughts.

  • Set a timer for your anxiety.

  • Balance negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

  • Practice relaxation techniques.

  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise habits.

  • Track your anxiety triggers and coping skills with a daily journal.

How Poor Sleep Can Affect Anxiety

According to Harvard Medical School researchers, there is a strong link between a lack of adequate sleep and negative shifts in mood and outlook. The research shows that even temporary disturbances in your regular sleep pattern can cause a drastic change in your overall attitude and mindset. However, the effects dissipate when you resume healthy sleep habits. Just as you need good oral hygiene to care for your teeth and good personal hygiene to care for your body, you need good sleep hygiene to care for your mental well-being. Maintaining poor sleep hygiene for an extended period can negatively affect your mental and physical health. 

When To Reach Out For Help

While anxiety is a standard part of life and something everyone experiences occasionally, it can become problematic when it interferes with your life and causes functional impairment. If your anxiety feels like it never goes away, consider speaking to your physician or mental healthcare provider to ask about an assessment for an anxiety disorder. 

Does It Feel Like Your Anxiety Never Goes Away?

How Therapy Can Help You Cope With Anxiety

If you or your child is experiencing anxiety that never stops, consider working with a licensed therapist online through a virtual therapy platform such as BetterHelp, or for children from 12 to 19, TeenCounseling. A qualified therapist can help you identify and replace harmful behaviors and thought patterns, shifting toward adaptive, positive habits. Flexible appointment formats through phone, video calls, or asynchronous online chat make it simple to fit therapy into your busy schedule. 

According to a recent study, patients with anxiety disorders demonstrated the same results with online CBT as in-person treatments. Online therapy is often much less expensive and involves shorter wait times than traditional sessions. The convenience of attending from home made it possible for patients to make it to more appointments, further increasing the effectiveness of the outcomes. Many also said the added physical distance helped them open up emotionally to their therapist. 


Anxiety disorders are part of life for nearly a quarter of the adult American population, but effective treatments are available and accessible online. The information presented in this article may offer insight into anxiety disorders and how therapy can help you or your child manage symptoms, so they don’t interfere with the ability to function. 

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