The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found details that suggest that anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting about 40 million Americans, or 18% of the population 18 and older.
However, not everyone experiences anxiety disorders in the same way. There are multiple types of anxiety disorders, and understanding the signs, the various types and treatment options can help you identify and manage your own symptoms—or support others in your life who may be experiencing the disorder’s effects.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders (And Their Many Possible Appearances)
Everyone might experience nervousness occasionally, but when you feel the effects of anxiety disorders most of the time, or it starts to impact your daily life, it can be a sign that you might be living with an anxiety disorder—and that you may benefit from mental health support.
Some people may be more likely to experience anxiety disorders than others, including:
Adults and childhood survivors of trauma
People who have experienced acute or chronic stress due to a medical illness
People who have let stress build up and have no healthy release
Individuals who might align with anxious personality types
Individuals with a family history of anxiety
Individuals who use drugs and alcohol
Anxiety Signs And Symptoms
There are many different types of anxiety disorders, all of which can present with a range of manifestations. You may notice the following symptoms and signs in yourself or others:
Poor memory, focus and concentration - If you have an anxiety disorder, you may find it harder to focus on tasks. You might also find yourself to be distracted or overwhelmed.
Tension, irritability and worry – If you’re living with anxiety disorder, you may notice muscle tension and aches and pains—or you might be more easily irritated with people and situations. You might also worry often, possibly finding it difficult to turn the intrusive or negative thoughts “off.”
Feeling a loss of control and nervousness - People who live with an anxiety disorder might feel as if they have no control over their life, or they might feel that something bad happening is inevitable. As a result, they might find it difficult to leave the house, attend social events, work or sleep at night.
Rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing and dizziness – Many who live with an anxiety disorder might find that they can become so nervous that their heart rate and blood pressure increase. This can lead to a range of symptoms as a result, including rapid breathing or difficulty breathing. Dizziness and vision changes might follow, depending on the severity of the symptoms experienced.
Sweating - Some people who live with anxiety disorders might become so nervous they begin to sweat, which can be a side effect of other physical changes (such as rapid heart rate, fast breathing and shaking).
Shaking hands and body - If you are experiencing nervousness as a result of an
anxiety disorder, you may start to shake. This reaction can occur as a result of increased adrenaline flowing through your system due to nervousness, which can trigger the body's response to fear and stress.
Increased fatigue with associated sleep issues - Sleep problems that can be related to anxiety disorders may present in many ways: such as too much sleep, too little sleep, trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, tossing and turning all night and daytime drowsiness.
Fearing the worst - People who live with anxiety disorders may constantly fear the worst—possibly worrying that something will go wrong, even if there is no obvious reason for this fear. This is generally known as catastrophizing, in which one might fear the worst possible case scenario.
Restlessness – If you’re living with the effects of an anxiety disorder, you may have trouble relaxing and feel like you can't turn off your body or mind. As a result, your mind may race, and your body may not be able to settle down and get comfortable, as it fears it will need to flee or move.
Headaches and migraines - If you have a history of migraines and headaches (and even if you don’t), anxiety disorders can prompt them to come on more frequently, and they may be more intense in nature. These symptoms might be rooted in the constant tension you are experiencing in your body.
Nausea or vomiting - Some people can become so nervous due to anxiety disorders that they become nauseous from the stressful thoughts and physical reactions happening in the body. This can cause chronic, low-grade or high-grade nausea that may or may not be accompanied by vomiting.
The Many Types Of Anxiety Disorders: A Brief Overview
There are many types of anxiety disorders, including:
Generalized anxiety disorder
People who live with generalized anxiety disorder might often feel nervous, many times without knowing the root cause in a definitive, concrete way. Their symptoms may be more physical than emotional, ranging from shakes to chest pain (angina). Some might also experience an emotional component to the condition, which can cause mood swings and intense feelings of nervousness.
Panic disorder can take many forms, and generally includes symptoms such as physical panic attacks and fear of having a panic attack. As a result, many might experience a cycle of panic and constant nervousness, which can cause more intense attacks. These attacks can be so severe that some people may feel they are having a heart attack when they aren’t.
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder generally centers on the belief that no one likes you or no one will like you in new social or work situations. Some people might think of this as shyness, but it is generally much more for many people. Rather than just discomfort in crowds, the disorder can manifest in other experiences—generally appearing with both physical and mental symptoms.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
This type of anxiety disorder generally affects an individual after they witness or experience a traumatic event. PTSD can manifest with additional anxiety disorder symptoms, along with others—such as nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, isolation and avoidance of situations that remind the person of the event.
How Do I Help Someone Who Lives With An Anxiety Disorder?
People who live with anxiety disorders might live with a great deal of distress during the day, which possibly affects their ability to function. It can be helpful for many when partners take the time to learn about the condition and the possible ways that they can help, empowering them to provide as much support as possible as they work through feelings of distress and nervousness.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, some of the most impactful ways that you can assist someone living with severe anxiety disorder symptoms can include :
Educating yourself regarding health information that can be related to anxiety as a mental health disorder (or other related disorders)
Encouraging them to seek health care treatment, such as therapy
Helping them with breathing techniques if they are experiencing difficulty breathing
Helping them to set goals for the day that can support their overall ability to function
Showing them encouragement and support
Providing them with validation
Anxiety Treatments And Supportive Strategies
Common anxiety disorder treatments generally include prescription medication and psychotherapy, though some research shows that psychotherapy can be more or as effective than medication. It can also be more available to many.
Find Support Via Online Therapy
If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorders and are curious about treatment, you might consider online therapy. Online therapy can be more available than traditional methods for many who live with anxiety disorders. This can be for several reasons and generally depends on the needs of the patient in question. For example, Some people who live with anxiety disorders may find it easier to speak with a therapist from the distance and namelessness of being behind a screen. They might also appreciate the flexibility you can get with an online therapy option compared to an in-person setting.
Is Online Therapy Effective?
Multiple sources have found details that support the hypothesis that online therapy can be effective at treating multiple types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, and social anxiety.
Ready to learn more? Consider reaching out to a BetterHelp therapist to get started.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety problems can be influenced by a variety of factors. People with anxiety disorders such as separation anxiety disorder, social phobia, other anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions with anxiety components such as obsessive-compulsive disorder may share the following traits and experiences:
- A large number of stressful events in one’s day-to-day life
- Substance use (formerly known as substance abuse)
- Traumatic experiences in childhood or adulthood
- Family history of anxiety or other mental health disorders
What are the 5 stages of anxiety?
While there are no formal clinical stages of anxiety, informal analyses of anxious feelings have determined that anxiety typically fits into one of four stages, not five. These stages include mild anxiety, moderate anxiety, severe anxiety, and panic-level anxiety.
How do I break my anxiety cycle?
The anxiety cycle refers to a vicious cycle in which noticing anxiety symptoms causes more anxiety. One of the more effective ways to break your anxiety cycle is exposure to situations that provoke anxiety. You can practice exposure through formal exposure therapy with a counselor, in which you will gradually expose yourself to anxiety-inducing situations and, through recognition that the situations are typically not as bad as you think they are going to be, learn to calm your nervous system and prevent anxious reactions to situations in the future.
What are the 3 P's of anxiety?
There are no three P’s of anxiety specifically, but there are three P’s in a model for understanding psychological influence on disease progression for a variety of different medical conditions, both physical and mental. These three P’s are predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors - what increases the likelihood that someone will develop a condition, what leads the condition to actually develop, and what causes the condition to continue.
When is anxiety at its peak?
Anxiety peaks for different people at different points in their lives, but generally speaking, most people in the US with generalized anxiety disorder receive their diagnosis in their early 30’s.
What food helps with anxiety?
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked in preliminary studies to lower anxiety levels. Fish, nuts, seeds, oysters, caviar, soybeans, and seaweed are all foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
What is the most severe form of anxiety?
While all anxiety disorders can result in severe mental and physical symptoms, excessive anxiety symptoms may manifest in panic attacks, which can lead a person to develop panic disorder.
How do I relax my mind from overthinking?
Stress is a common cause of overthinking and can make a person feel anxious. Stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and practicing mindfulness can help to relax your mind and may even relieve anxiety symptoms. Talk therapy with a licensed professional counselor can also be beneficial, as sometimes talking to a neutral third party can help improve one’s perspective on stressors.
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