How Anxiety Can Affect You

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feelings of stress, fear, and dread are typically what is being referred to when we talk about anxiety. For many of us, anxiety seems to permeate our lives regardless of our situation or environment.

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults every year.

In this article, we will explore the most common anxiety symptoms, as well as the major types of anxiety disorders, how their negative effects can spread throughout your life, and what you can do to stop them in their tracks. 

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Anxiety can be managed

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder

When it comes to the general concept of anxiety, you are probably familiar with its emotional manifestations. For example, you may feel nervous or worried in the weeks leading up to an exam. You may avoid making stressful phone calls, or have difficulty focusing on your task at hand. 

These feelings, while very common, may indicate the presence of a disorder if they tend to persist. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, but their symptoms tend to overlap. The most common symptoms may include: 

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal challenges or other physical health problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger you

Along with these common symptoms, an article published by AmeriDisability calls attention to some of the more rare symptoms that anxiety may lead to. These other symptoms can include: 

  • Indigestion
  • Phantom ringing, or tinnitus
  • Burning sensation on the skin, lips, tongue or eyes
  • Excessive yawning
  • Derealization, or the feeling of not being in reality
  • Blurred vision, dilated pupils, or watery eyes
  • Skin rashes
  • Cold hands or feet

Anxiety disorder types

While a certain amount of occasional stress or nervousness is to be expected in everyday life, persistent anxiety that doesn’t seem to go away, or seems to worsen over time, could potentially indicate a mental health disorder. 

The following are a few common anxiety disorders:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is a disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke these symptoms.

Panic disorder

This disorder is often characterized by unexpected and repeated panic attacks, which are episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, trouble breathing, dizziness, or abdominal distress. People with panic disorder tend to experience fear for future attacks. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This disorder can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events may include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.

Social phobia or social anxiety disorder: an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

Separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder often leads people to experience excessive distress at the thought of being away from home or attachment figures. People with separation anxiety disorder may also experience fear when they are alone. 

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

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While each anxiety disorders will present in different ways, leaving symptoms untreated may result in long term consequences that have the potential to spread throughout a person’s life in several ways. 

The long-term effects

When addressing anxiety symptoms, it is fairly easy to see how some of these can spread throughout a person’s life on a day-to-day basis. For example, the emotional manifestations of anxiety can easily cause disruptions at work or amid relationships, often leading to additional anxiety. 

Along with the psychological effects, recent studies show a strong link between anxiety and physical pain. An article published by Harvard Health details the overlap of anxiety and pain, noting it is particularly evident in chronic and sometimes disabling pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, low back pain, headaches, and nerve pain.

The article cites an example, stating that nearly two-thirds of patients with irritable bowel syndrome who are referred for follow-up care have psychological distress symptoms, typically related to anxiety. 

Thankfully, there are various types of effective treatments available for anxiety and other mental health disorders. Oftentimes, psychotherapy alone can be effective in treating both the psychological and physiological symptoms of anxiety. The most common types of psychotherapy utilized in anxiety treatment are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and relaxation training. 

Online therapy

According to Harvard Health, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) serves as more than established treatment for anxiety. It is also the best studied psychotherapy for treating pain, as CBT is based on the premise that thoughts, feelings, and sensations are all related. 

Due to the nature of anxiety, it is not uncommon to feel its symptoms when it comes to reaching out for help. Because of this, online therapy may offer a more comfortable and convenient option, giving participants the ability to receive therapy from the comfort of their own home.

Based on research, cognitive behavioral therapy serves as an effective treatment for anxiety symptoms and other mental health conditions. Additional research shows that the recent uptick in digital mental health intervention has been shown to have significant positive effects on the well-being of participants, resulting in the conclusion that online therapy is equally as effective as in-person therapy. 

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Anxiety can be managed

Takeaway

Living with symptoms of anxiety can not only be challenging in the short term, but also create long-term physical health challenges as well. If you feel symptoms of anxiety are spreading throughout your life, it is important to know you are not alone and that help is available. Reaching out to a therapist or mental health professional can serve as a great place to start in seeking effective treatment. If you feel anxious about seeing a therapist in person, you might consider online therapy. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience treating anxiety. Take the first step toward mitigating the effects of anxiety and contact BetterHelp today.
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