How Do You Know If You Have Anxiety? Signs, Symptoms, And When To Get Help

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated November 22, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety can be a natural response to stress, pressure, or a threat. But depending on the level of anxiety and how often it occurs, anxiety could also signal something more significant, such as generalized anxiety disorder. If mental and physical anxiety symptoms disrupt your everyday life, it may be time to seek help from a professional. You might schedule a session with a therapist in your local area or connect with a mental health professional through an online therapy platform. You can also try various self-help strategies to relieve anxiety, such as leaning on your support system, practicing relaxation and stress management techniques, getting plenty of rest, and limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption.

Normal Vs. Problematic Anxiety

Living With Frequent Anxiety Symptoms?

Many life experiences can cause anxiety. The feeling of anxiety is usually related to the body’s fight-or-flight response. That response can get triggered in challenging situations such as test-taking, a job interview, or doing something for the first time, such as going on a date. Such anxiety may be beneficial because it can help you stay focused and motivated. You’re likely to work harder on your test or be on alert when out alone at night if you are anxious and alert. While anxiety in small doses may be helpful, it may become a problem when it occurs frequently and at a level of intensity that isn’t equal to the threat at hand.

Do I have anxiety? When anxiety is a problem, it typically occurs with more vigorous intensity. While normal anxiety is usually expected in certain life situations, problematic anxiety may be irrational or chronic, and it may affect a person’s daily life. A person with an anxiety disorder may worry more than usual, have problems with memory and concentration, and avoid people and situations due to their symptoms.

For example, a person with social anxiety disorder may avoid being around people, even if they know them. Problematic anxiety may include symptoms so intense it can become hard to socialize with people at home and work. A person with excessive worry and anxiety may have generalized anxiety disorder. They may feel anxious about a variety of things for an extended time, or they may experience anxiety for what seems to be no particular reason. They could also experience physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches.

When Anxiety Becomes Too Much

Some forms of anxiety can be helpful to raise awareness or keep you alert. Yet, anxiety may sometimes make things more challenging and can even lead to reduced productivity and excessive worrying. Such symptoms may be common for people with generalized anxiety disorder, but sometimes people may not realize they have a problem with anxiety. Experiencing anxiety doesn’t always mean a disorder is present. Anxiety can impact your life in different ways, including your relationships and how you socialize with others. Here are some examples of a disorder affecting daily activities:

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  • You feel so anxious about work that you decide to stay home.
  • You decide to skip socializing with friends because of anxiety.
  • You find it hard to establish or maintain a relationship because of anxiety.
  • You worry too much about things, sometimes making it hard to focus during the day.
  • You don’t enjoy certain activities like you used to or have trouble engaging.
  • You have trouble sleeping at night because anxiety sometimes keeps you awake.

You may also experience physical side effects. These can include:

  • Restlessness, agitation, or tension
  • Nervousness, irritability, or a feeling of dread
  • Feeling panicked or in danger
  • Heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and increased heart rate
  • Muscle trembling or anxiety twitching
  • Lack of concentration due to worrying
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia, and fatigue
  • Physical discomforts, such as an upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, or gas
  • Avoiding socializing with others

Some symptoms may signal a panic attack or anxiety attack. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by other actions, such as completing an action repetitively, being obsessed with something, or having a strong need to prevent anxiety by avoiding certain things. 

A panic attack typically occurs suddenly and may include some of the previous symptoms mentioned, along with potential chest tightness, dizziness, fear of losing control, or feeling detached from reality.

A person may also have issues with anxiety if it stems from past traumatic experiences (this could potentially point to post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD) or if they have an irrational fear or phobia. 

There can be many different disorders associated with anxiety, with generalized anxiety disorder being a typical example. When anxiety affects the quality of your life, or you find yourself struggling to get basic tasks done, it may be time to talk to your doctor.

When Should You Get Help For Anxiety?

Close to 20% of people in the United States may live with an anxiety disorder every year. While some may not know they have a disorder, it can be important to note that anxiety is usually treatable. 

Some may not get help because they don’t realize they need it. Meanwhile, some may want help but think they can’t get it if they don’t have health insurance. Others might find it challenging to find a therapist, or they may be pushed away by issues surrounding the mental illness stigma.

Sometimes anxiety itself can keep people from getting help. However, there may be many options for accessible anxiety treatment, including online therapy, in-person therapy, and other support through local community health agencies.

Self-Help Methods For Anxiety

Taking control of your anxiety often includes making lifestyle changes and understanding healthy ways to cope with stress, such as the following:

  • Connect with someone. Identify someone you can talk to when you feel alone or isolated. Seek self-help anxiety support groups online to connect with peers and others who relate. You may make new friends or establish another line of support.
  • Practice stress management techniques. Being under high levels of stress may lead to chronic anxiety. Managing your stress may include getting others to help with your workload.
  • Engage in relaxation techniques. Activities like meditation and exercise can be great for reducing and relieving stress. You can take up a hobby like dance or martial arts, or complete simple exercises such as running, walking, or playing with the dog or your kids. A recent study even found that regular meditation could be just as effective as medication in treating anxiety. 
  • Avoid worrying too often. Anxiety tends to be a habit, and habits can often be broken. A popular CBT technique typically includes identifying negative thought patterns that may be causing anxiety and replacing them with healthier ways of thinking. 
  • Get plenty of rest. More sleep can help the body create energy to keep you energized and refreshed during the day. It can also keep anxious thoughts away. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. These substances can fuel anxiety and make it more challenging to calm yourself. 

As you learn more about anxiety and how it affects your life, you may find out which methods to consider and how to integrate them into your daily routine.

When To Get Professional Help

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Living With Frequent Anxiety Symptoms?

Sometimes, self-help strategies can be most effective when used with professional support. When anxiety interferes with daily responsibilities and socialization with others, it may be time to seek professional help. 

You should seek professional support if your anxiety creates symptoms that you experience regularly. Your doctor may ask about your symptoms and rule out any underlying conditions. Your doctor will likely want to learn more about your living habits to get a better idea of what is going on behind your symptoms and how best to treat them.

You may get a referral to a therapist to visit in-person. However, there may also be online therapy options to consider if you are not ready for in-person sessions. Online therapy can be a convenient and affordable alternative to face-to-face therapy, as it can empower you to get the help you deserve from the comfort of your home.

As this study explains, online therapy generally has the same level of efficacy as in-person therapy. No matter which option you choose, you can trust that you’re getting quality care. (Mental health research is constantly evolving, so older sources may contain information or theories that have been reevaluated since their original publication date.)


Anxiety can affect people in different ways, but there may be many self-help options to consider along with working with a licensed mental health professional. For instance, you might cut back on caffeine and alcohol, seek support from loved ones, practice a healthy lifestyle, and try various relaxation and stress management techniques. If anxiety symptoms negatively impact your daily life, it’s generally recommended to seek professional help. An easy way to start may be by joining an online therapy platform such as BetterHelp, where you can be matched with a licensed therapist.

Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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