Do I Have Anxiety?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated June 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article outlining anxiety disorders and signs you may have an anxiety disorder might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

If you feel anxious from time to time, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder. The nervousness you might feel before an exam, interview, or presentation, for instance, is generally considered to be normal, as it tends to dissipate once the event is over. However, if you have chronic anxiety that isn’t always based on specific scenarios and causes disruptions to your daily life, it may qualify as a disorder.

A diagnosis of a clinical anxiety disorder should only be made by a qualified healthcare professional, but there are certain mental and physical symptoms you can look out for to understand whether it may be time to connect with one for an evaluation.

Coping with anxiety is possible with therapy

Overview of anxiety disorders

As discussed above, most of us feel anxious occasionally, whether your anxiety is due to career challenges, a medical condition you may have, or conflicts you're experiencing with family members. If you’re experiencing feelings of nervousness, apprehension, or distress that are persistent or intense, though, you may have an anxiety disorder. A class of mental health disorders characterized by excessive fear and worry, anxiety disorders can significantly impact several aspects of your everyday life. 

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder. While the exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, it is thought that traumatic events, high levels of stress, certain personality traits, and genetic factors can contribute to their development. Additionally, the existence of certain physical health concerns—such as thyroid problems, heart disease, and gastrointestinal illness—can trigger anxiety symptoms. 

The following are three of the most common anxiety disorders and symptoms that may help you identify how to find treatment. 

Generalized anxiety disorder

As its name suggests, generalized anxiety disorder (sometimes styled generalized anxiety disorder) is marked by symptoms that are not necessarily related to a specific fear or occurrence. To be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, an individual must exhibit anxiety signs that are present for most days over a six-month period. 

Social anxiety disorder

People who experience excessive fear of judgment or negative evaluation may be living with social anxiety disorder. To be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, an individual must experience elevated levels of nervousness and apprehension in social scenarios or situations in which they may be perceived by others. 

Panic disorder

Characterized by panic attacks—sudden periods of extreme distress and fear—panic disorder can produce symptoms that, though brief, feel more intense than those of other anxiety disorders. To be diagnosed with panic disorder, an individual must experience repeated panic attacks that cause ongoing concern. 

10 common symptoms

Again, although only a licensed healthcare provider can properly diagnose a clinical mental health condition, you may be able to better understand how to recognize how anxiety feels to you, which may encourage you to seek professional evaluation and support. 

Symptoms of various anxiety disorders can manifest in different ways. However, the following ten symptoms are associated with anxiety disorders in general, and the manifestation of several at once may indicate the need for evaluation by a mental health professional.
Excessive worry
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with anxiety disorders often worry excessively, usually with regularity for six months or longer. This hallmark symptom can impact how you function with work, school, relationships, and/or daily functioning, as it may manifest as extreme self-consciousness, difficulty trusting others, a frequent need for validation or control, and/or avoidance of certain anxiety-producing situations. 
Sleep disturbances 
As one study on the topic relates, sleep disturbances are “highly prevalent” in those with anxiety disorders—so much so that insomnia or nightmares have even been incorporated into the clinical definitions of some conditions like generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Racing thoughts or the fear of having a nightmare can make it difficult for an individual to fall asleep, and actual nightmares can interrupt sleep. As a result, anxiety symptoms may worsen because a lack of sleep can contribute to increased difficulty with continuing to try to control emotions. 


As mentioned, sleep disturbances are common in those with anxiety, which can result in fatigue during the day. However, even if an individual sleeps well at night, they may still experience fatigue during their waking hours as a result of anxiety. Coping with near-constant anxious feelings can be mentally and even physically draining, which can potentially make how you get through the day more difficult. 
Difficulty concentrating
Difficulty concentrating is another common symptom of some anxiety disorders. It can be a result of persistent worry or sleep problems, or it can appear independent of these. It may manifest as trouble completing projects or assignments, difficulty staying present in conversations, or blanking out when trying to remember something. Plus, if someone is unable to meet deadlines or finish tasks that they need to as a result of this symptom, their levels of anxiety may increase even further.


Many individuals with anxiety report feeling restless or “on edge”. If they’re lost in anxious thought, they might become easily startled or annoyed when disturbed, as their brain is telling them that they need to focus on a perceived threat. In addition, as described previously, constantly being absorbed in a state of worry can be stressful and exhausting. As a result, an individual may have more difficulty with emotional control since so much of their energy is being spent on feelings of anxiety.
Increased heart rate
When faced with a situation that induces stress, a person may notice that their heart rate goes up or begins to feel irregular. They may also experience heart palpitations—feeling that the heart is fluttering, thumping, or skipping a beat. This is because the body enters “fight-or-flight” mode, a natural response to dealing with a threat. When this response is triggered frequently or for prolonged periods over time, such as in those with anxiety, it can lead to negative health effects because of the extended release of hormones. 
Sweating and hot flashes
A person may also experience an increase in body temperature as a result of the fight-or-flight response that anxiety can trigger. They may notice that they sweat more or overheat more often because their body is preparing them to respond to what their mind has labeled as a threat.
Trembling and shaking
There are several different reasons a person may experience physical tremors, such as neurological conditions like Parkinson’s Disease. However, the tremors associated with anxiety are usually caused by adrenaline as a result of the fight-or-flight response. They’re typically temporary, but the experience of one’s hands shaking uncontrollably can still be distressing and may contribute to even more anxiety in the moment.
Feelings of impending doom
This sensation is especially common and may be more extreme in those with panic disorder, because it’s a typical symptom of panic attacks. However, a person with another type of anxiety disorder may also experience a frequent feeling that something terrible is going to happen. This symptom is likely a result of the body and brain’s anticipation of an impending perceived threat.

Avoidance of situations that may induce anxiety

Finally, it’s not uncommon for those with anxiety disorders to begin to avoid certain situations that may trigger symptoms. For example, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may avoid people or places that remind them of a traumatic event they experienced in the past. Those with social anxiety disorder may avoid social situations altogether due to an intense fear of being judged or embarrassed. This is one way in which an untreated anxiety disorder can negatively impact a person’s work, school, relationships, and/or daily functioning.

iStock/Pheelings Media

Treatment for anxiety disorders

The most effective treatment plan for an individual with anxiety typically depends on the specific disorder they have, the symptoms they’re experiencing as well as their severity, and any co-occurring health conditions they may have. That’s why it’s usually important to meet with a mental health professional for evaluation and treatment options, because they can tailor their recommendations to your unique situation. That said, the following are common treatment approaches for those with anxiety disorders. A healthcare professional may recommend one, two, or all three for a given individual.
Lifestyle changes
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, there are various lifestyle changes that an individual can make to assist in their management of anxiety symptoms. These include exercising daily, limiting alcohol and caffeine, eating balanced meals, engaging in breathing exercises, and others. Lifestyle changes can positively impact not only the mental and emotional symptoms of anxiety but also the physical effects, such as chronic pain. Note that these do not represent a replacement for professional treatment of a clinical mental health disorder. Remember that you should consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet or routines.
Medication options
Different types of medication (such as anti-anxiety medications, beta blockers, and antidepressants) may be prescribed by a healthcare professional to help reduce anxiety symptoms in an individual. Keep in mind that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to medication for treating anxiety; dosages can vary as well as the type of drug used, and medication in general may not be right for every person or every case. Make sure to consult a qualified provider before starting, stopping, or changing any medication regimen. 


One of the most effective methods for managing an anxiety disorder is psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is a method that’s often used for individuals experiencing symptoms of anxiety. A cognitive behavioral therapist can help a person learn to recognize distorted thoughts that may be causing anxious feelings and behaviors and learn to shift them in a more realistic direction. They can also help them develop healthy coping mechanisms for when symptoms of anxiety do occur so they can manage them with minimal disruption to their lives.
Coping with anxiety is possible with therapy
Some people experiencing anxiety symptoms may find meeting with a provider in person to be intimidating. In a case like this, online therapy may represent an effective alternative. One recent study, for example, suggests that online and in-person CBT “created equivalent overall effects” in the treatment of anxiety disorders, which means that you can generally choose the format that feels most comfortable and convenient for you. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging, all from the comfort of home.


There are several different types of anxiety disorders an individual can experience, each of which may manifest somewhat differently. That said, the symptoms on this list represent common symptoms of anxiety disorders in general, which could mean it’s time to seek professional support.
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