What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorder?

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Maria Abada, LPC

Anxiety disorder is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in the United States, with over 18% of the population being affected every year. Unfortunately, though, only about 37% of those individuals get treatment. This article outlines some of the most common types and symptoms of anxiety disorder; if you see yourself in these symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out for help and information! A visit to a licensed mental health professional will help you understand your situation and know what steps to take next.

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Although anxiety disorder can feel impossible to treat, it is actually quite prevalent and there are many different techniques and methods that can be used to manage the symptoms over time. Most people are affected by anxiety from time to time, but if you believe that your anxiety is chronic or otherwise abnormal, be aware that there are plenty of options available to you so that you can start living a healthier and more peaceful life.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

An anxiety disorder is a disorder that is characterized by constant or near-constant feelings of anxiety (demonstrated through a variety of symptoms that will be explored later in this article). Anxiety disorders involve higher-than-average levels of anxiety; although it’s normal for most people to experience a bit of anxiety in their day to day lives, high levels or perpetual feelings of anxiety are abnormal and uncomfortable.

Common Types of Anxiety Disorders

While colloquially this type of high-level anxiety is simply referred to as “anxiety disorder”, there are actually a few different types of anxiety disorder to be aware of. The symptoms are all similar or related although the manifestation of the anxiety in each type of disorder may be somewhat different. Here are a few of the most common types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Abbreviated as GAD, this is one of the most common types of anxiety disorder. It’s characterized by a generalized fear, concern, or worry surrounding everyday activities and occurrences including work, school, family life, social interaction, and other health-related issues. People with GAD can manifest symptoms of anxiety disorder in many situations in their lives; feelings of anxiety are not limited to specific scenarios or activities, but rather are broadened to extend into all areas of life.
  • Panic Disorder – This type of anxiety disorder involves relatively frequent and unexpected panic attacks in response to certain, specific stimuli.
  • Phobia-Related Anxiety Disorder – Anxiety symptoms in individuals with this particular type of anxiety disorder only occur when the person is face-to-face with a particular fear. While the fear can be almost anything from spiders or heights to small spaces or blood, there are some common phobia-related anxiety disorders listed below.
    • Social Anxiety Disorder – Social anxiety disorder occurs when a person has a powerful, all-consuming fear of or anxiety surrounding performance or social situations in general. Often the fear is that they will somehow feel embarrassed or ashamed while in the social situation, although there may be other fears too.
    • Separation Anxiety Disorder – Although this anxiety disorder is generally thought to primarily occur in children, it also manifests and/or continues onward into adulthood. Adults with a separation anxiety disorder may experience fear or anxiety combined with physical symptoms of fear when faced with separation from someone they’re attached to (such as a family member or close friend). This disorder may involve nightmares about separation from loved ones or a general and unwarranted fear of harm being done to these loved ones.

Keep in mind that these are only the most common types of anxiety disorder. There are other kinds of anxiety disorders that also can manifest. If you are experiencing severe problems with anxiety or if you often feel fearful for no apparent reason, contact your therapist or another licensed mental health professional for an assessment and assistance with managing your individual situation. Everyone is different and getting help is the first step toward living a happy, healthy life!

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Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder

Of course, one of the main symptoms of anxiety disorder is anxiety, but there are also other symptoms that manifest in individuals with different types of anxiety disorder. Below are some of the symptoms experienced in the most common types of anxiety disorder that were listed in the above section:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
    • Insomnia and/or other sleep issues such as difficulty staying asleep or a feeling of exhaustion in the morning despite having been asleep the whole night
    • Restlessness or a feeling of being “wired”
    • Trouble focusing
    • Irritability
    • Fatigue
    • Inability to control feelings of fear or worry
    • Inexplicable tension in the muscles
  • Panic Disorder
    • Symptoms of panic attacks, including heart palpitations and/or a loud heartbeat, shaking, sweating, shortness of breath and/or a feeling of being suffocated
    • Regular feelings of fear
    • A sensation that one is not in control of oneself or the surroundings
  • Phobia disorders
    • Active avoidance of the situation or object that’s the subject of the phobia
    • Worry and concern about encountering the object of the phobia
    • When the phobia is encountered, the individual experiences extreme and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry

Remember that everyone shows and experiences anxiety differently and responds differently in various situations. If you see yourself in any of these descriptions, seek the opinion and advice of a licensed mental health professional so that you can understand and manage your personal situation. Anxiety disorders can be successfully treated in a number of ways with the assistance of a good therapist, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help!

How to Treat Anxiety Disorder

There are a wide variety of treatments available to treat anxiety disorder. However, despite the diversity of these treatments, it’s still extremely important to consult with a healthcare practitioner before implementing any methods or taking any medication. This ensures that you stay safe and also that you can achieve the best results possible.

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Here are some common treatments for an anxiety disorder:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT is a popular form of psychotherapy, otherwise known as “talk therapy”, used to specifically treat anxiety disorders, phobias, and other stimuli-oriented disorders. This type of therapy has been shown to be particularly effective in helping people manage and overcome anxiety disorders, no matter the severity. During a cognitive behavioral therapy session, the patient can expect to experience both cognitive and exposure therapy techniques; cognitive therapy is designed to help the patient identify, challenge, and neutralize toxic or unwanted thought and thought patterns while exposure therapy is geared toward active confrontation of fears or anxieties.
  • Medication – If you visit a therapist or doctor regarding an anxiety disorder, in some cases you may be prescribed a medication. Otherwise, if you believe that medication may be helpful in the treatment and recovery process you can consult directly with a trusted professional for advice. Remember that medication for anxiety disorder is not designed to cure the disorder, but rather to manage symptoms in more severe cases while another treatment is also being done.
    • Anti-anxiety medications – Anti-anxiety medications are the most popularly prescribed type of medication for anxiety disorders. The most common anti-anxiety medications are benzodiazepines. Buspirone may also be prescribed in some cases.
    • Antidepressants – Although this may seem counterintuitive, antidepressants can actually be quite effective in treating anxiety disorders. The reason is that these medications are specifically designed to improve the brain’s ability to use chemicals and to control stress or mood, thus minimizing the symptoms of anxiety disorder. The most popular antidepressants currently used are SSRIs or SNRIs, both of which work specifically to improve serotonin uptake.
    • Beta-blockers – Beta-blockers are most commonly used to treat high blood pressure, but they can be effective in treating anxiety disorders primarily because they are able to reduce some of the symptoms, such as shaking, trembling, or increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Support Groups – Anxiety disorder support groups are a great way for individuals with an anxiety disorder to seek out the stories and experiences of other people in the same situation. These stories can help people with anxiety feel less unusual or isolated from their normal communities and can also yield potential new friendships or uncover new ways to manage stress and anxiety in all kinds of situations. Many therapists recommend support groups for this reason.
  • Techniques for Stress Management – Because most often the root of anxiety disorder is some kind of increased stress, learning techniques for stress management can be essential in the process toward recovery. There are many techniques that can be used, including establishing an exercise/movement routine, doing guided visualizations, or practicing deep breathing. Ask your therapist for help to decide what techniques may be right for you.
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Anxiety disorders afflict a large proportion of the population, and there’s certainly nothing to feel embarrassed about if you’re looking for help and assistance. Anxiety happens to everyone! Some people are simply more sensitive to anxiety and need extra support to overcome their fears and stressors.

Our therapists at BetterHelp are highly qualified and experts in their field and they’re more than happy to talk to you to help you overcome your anxiety! So if you or someone you know is struggling with an anxiety disorder, reach out to one of our licensed therapists today.


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