Understanding Anxiety

Updated March 10, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million Americans, or 18% of the population 18 and older. But not everyone experiences anxiety the same way. There are multiple anxiety disorders, and understanding the signs, the various types of anxiety, and treatment options can help you identify and manage your own symptoms.

Anxiety Can Impact Us in Intense Ways

Understanding Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety occasionally, but when you feel anxious most of the time, or it starts to impact your daily life, it can be a sign that something else is going on. In such cases, seeking therapy for reducing anxiety can be beneficial. Some people are more likely to experience anxiety than others, including: 

  • Adults and childhood victims of trauma

  • People who have stress due to a medical illness

  • People who have let stress build-up, up and have no healthy release

  • Individuals with anxious personality types

  • Individuals who also experience anxiety along with

  • Individuals with a familial history of anxiety

  • Individuals who use drugs and alcohol

  • Females are 50% more likely to experience anxiety

Anxiety Symptoms and Signs

Do I have anxiety? You may notice the following symptoms and signs in yourself or others:

Poor Memory, Focus, And Concentration - If you have anxiety, you may find it harder to focus on tasks and struggle to recall information or find it difficult to concentrate on a particular job or item that needs to be done. You are easily distracted and on edge.

Tension, Irritability, And Worry  - You may notice muscle tension and aches and pains or be more easily irritated with people and situations, often "snapping" at people. You worry often and struggle to turn the intrusive and negative thoughts off.

Feeling A Loss Of Control And Nervousness  - People with anxiety might feel as if they have no control over their life and that something bad happening is inevitable. You may find it difficult to leave the house, attend social events or work, and even struggle to relax and sleep at night.

Rapid Heartbeat, Trouble Breathing, And Dizziness - You can become so anxious that your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and you start to breathe rapidly or have difficulty breathing. These factors can make you feel dizzy, a common anxiety symptom.

Sweating - Some people with anxiety become so nervous they begin to sweat, which can be a side effect of rapid heart rate, fast breathing, and shaking.

Shaking  Hands And Body - If you have anxiety, you may start to shake uncontrollably. You might notice tremors in your hands, be unable to make them stop, and might even have anxiety twitching. This reaction may be due to increased adrenaline and the body's response to fear and stress.

Increased Fatigue With Associated Sleep Issues -  Sleep problems may present in many ways: too much sleep, too little sleep, trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, tossing and turning all night, and daytime drowsiness. A common issue is being unable to turn your thoughts off at night and being afraid to fall asleep.

Fearing  The Worst - People with anxiety may constantly fear the worst, like something will go wrong. They are also prone to catastrophizing. But what is catastrophizing? This is where you fear the worst possible case scenario.

Restlessness - You may have trouble relaxing and feel like you can't turn off your body or mind. When you have anxiety, 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 - Whether or not you have a history of migraines and headaches, you may have them more frequently, and they may be more intense in nature. These are often rooted in the constant tension you are experiencing in your body.

Nausea  Or Vomiting - Some people can become so anxious that they become nauseous from the stressful thoughts and physical reactions to the body. Our thoughts have a substantial impact on our bodies. Some people can become so anxious and nauseous that they may vomit.

Types of Anxiety

There are multiple types of anxiety disorders, including the following:

General Anxiety

People with generalized anxiety often feel anxious, many without knowing the root cause. Their symptoms may be more physical than emotional.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder includes panic attacks and fear of having one. It can become a cycle of panic and constant anxiety. These attacks can be so severe that people may feel they are having a heart attack.


Phobias are the fear of objects, people, activities, places, or specific situations. People can go to great lengths to avoid their phobias, which usually has the opposite effect of making them even stronger.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder centers on the belief that no one likes you or no one will like you in new social or work situations. Some people think of this as shyness but do not understand what is happening in the person's mind. Performance anxiety falls into this category.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This type of anxiety affects an individual after they witness or experience a traumatic event. PTSD typically has the additional anxiety symptoms of nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, isolation, and avoiding situations that remind the person of the event.

How Do I Help Someone With Anxiety?

People with fear and anxiety may deal with a great deal of distress during the day, affecting their ability to function. However, being close to someone experiencing a mental health disorder, like anxiety and depression, can also cause strain in the relationship. Therefore, it is crucial to provide as much support as possible so they can overcome their distress and everyday difficulties. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ways you can assist someone with severe anxiety are:

  • Education yourself on health information that is related to their mental health disorder and other related disorders 

  • Encourage them to seek health care treatment such as therapy

  • Help them with breathing techniques if they are experiencing a panic attack

  • Help them set goals for the day that will assist them in their ability to function

  • Show them encouragement and support

  • Provide them with validation

Anxiety Treatments

Common anxiety treatments include prescription medication and psychotherapy, though some research shows that psychotherapy is generally more effective than medication. Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression, so antidepressant medication may help address symptoms.

Anxiety Can Impact Us in Intense Ways

Get Help With Therapy

If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety and are curious about treatment, consider online therapy.

Some people who are dealing with anxiety may find it easier to speak with a therapist from the distance and space of being behind a screen, and you can reach out to your therapist anytime you need to. They may not always respond immediately, but they will get back to you as soon as possible.

Research shows that online therapy for anxiety is effective at treating multiple types of anxiety, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, phobias, and social anxiety. If you want to learn more, reach out to a BetterHelp therapist to get started. Also, an anxiety therapist can cater to your needs and assist you in the comfort of your own home, eliminating the need for you to travel.


Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the US, but everyone experiences it differently. If your anxiety symptoms affect your daily life, online therapy can help you figure out how to cope.

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