What Are The Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorder?

Updated January 12, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Affecting around 40 million adults in the United States every year, or roughly 19% of the population, anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. However, only about 37% of those individuals get treatment. 

In this article, we’ll outline some of the types and symptoms of anxiety disorders, as well as some of the available treatment options. If you see yourself in these symptoms, keep in mind that you are not alone, and help is available. A visit to a licensed mental health professional, whether online or in person, can help you understand your symptoms and identify what steps to take next to find relief.

Is Anxiety Interfering With Your Life?

What Is An Anxiety Disorder?

An anxiety disorder is characterized by frequent feelings of anxiety, worry, or fear, demonstrated through a variety of symptoms that will be explored later in this article. While most people experience a little bit of anxiety at various points in their lives, individuals with an anxiety disorder experience persistent and intense anxiety that interferes with their daily lives. 

Common Types Of Anxiety Disorders

There are actually a few different types of anxiety disorders. While these types may have some similarities, the manifestation of the anxiety in each type of disorder may be somewhat different. Included below are a few of the most common types of anxiety disorders:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders. It is characterized by a generalized fear, concern, or worry surrounding everyday activities and occurrences such as work, school, family life, social interaction, and more. People with GAD can manifest symptoms of anxiety in many situations in their lives; feelings of anxiety are not limited to specific scenarios or activities.

  1. Panic Disorder

This type of anxiety disorder involves relatively frequent and unexpected panic attacks, which involve sudden episodes of intense fear or terror that may bring shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and feelings of impending doom, among other things. 

  1. Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder involves having intense fear or anxiety surrounding social situations. Individuals with social anxiety may fear that they will be judged by others and may feel embarrassed or ashamed in the social situation, or they may avoid it entirely.

  1. Specific Phobias

Individuals who have a specific phobia may have intense anxiety around specific situations or objects. Anxiety symptoms in individuals with this type of anxiety disorder may only occur when the person is face-to-face with a particular fear. Some examples of phobias could include the fear of blood, spiders, heights, or flying.

  1. Separation Anxiety Disorder

While this anxiety disorder is often thought to primarily occur in children, it also manifests and/or continues 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 families 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 a few of the most common types of anxiety disorders, there are also several other types, such as agoraphobia and selective mutism. 

Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders

One of the main symptoms of an anxiety disorder is an intense feeling of anxiety, but there are also other symptoms that can manifest in individuals with different types of anxiety disorders. Below are some of the possible symptoms experienced in the common types of anxiety disorder that were listed in the above section:

Symptoms Of 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

Symptoms Of Panic Disorder

  • During a panic attack, someone may experience heart palpitations and/or a loud heartbeat, shaking, sweating, shortness of breath and/or a feeling of being suffocated, and a sensation that one is not in control of oneself or the surroundings

  • Worry about when the next panic attack will occur

  • Avoidance of places or situations that they may associate with panic attacks

Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder 

  • Feelings of self-consciousness 

  • Blushing, sweating, stomach aches, or racing heart 

  • Difficulty being around new people

Symptoms Of Specific Phobias

  • Active avoidance of the situation or object that the person fears

  • Worry and concern about encountering the feared situation or object

  • When the phobia is encountered, the individual may experience extreme feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry

Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety 

  • Avoidance of being alone or being separated from the people they are attached to 

  • Fear that something bad will happen to the people they are attached to while they’re apart

  • Nightmares about being separated from the people they are attached to

Keep in mind that everyone shows and experiences anxiety differently and may respond differently in various situations. This list of symptoms is not exhaustive, and individuals with anxiety disorders may not experience all of these symptoms.  

Treatment Options For Anxiety Disorders

There are a variety of treatments available for anxiety disorder, but be sure to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment approach for you. Included below are some common treatments for anxiety disorders. For some people, a combination of approaches may be beneficial.

Is Anxiety Interfering With Your Life?

Therapy

Therapy is often used to help people with anxiety disorders, and one type of therapy that is commonly used for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy has been shown to be particularly effective in helping people manage and overcome anxiety disorders. With CBT, a therapist may help the patient to identify, challenge, and change unwanted thoughts and thought patterns. One CBT method that is frequently used in the treatment of anxiety disorders is exposure therapy, which involves the active confrontation of fears or anxieties.

For some individuals with an anxiety disorder, some aspects of seeking therapy in person may feel stressful, such as commuting to a new place, waiting in an office, and talking with a stranger face-to-face. For some, online therapy may feel less intimidating, as it allows you to speak with a therapist online from wherever you are most comfortable. 

Research has shown that online therapy can be an effective option for individuals with anxiety. One research study examined the efficacy of internet-delivered CBT compared with face-to-face CBT for anxiety disorders. The study found that “ICBT and face-to-face CBT created equivalent overall effects” in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Medication

In some cases, medication is used in treating an anxiety disorder. If you are interested in considering medication for anxiety, consult with your doctor to discuss your options and determine what might work best for you. Medication for anxiety disorder is not designed to cure the disorder, but rather to help manage symptoms in some cases. Some of the medications that are commonly used to help individuals with anxiety include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and beta-blockers.

Lifestyle Techniques For Stress Management

While they may not be sufficient on their own for some people, learning techniques for stress management can also be a helpful tool in managing anxiety, especially in combination with other approaches. There are many techniques that can be used, including establishing an exercise routine, meditating, or practicing deep breathing. You can ask your therapist for help to decide what techniques may be right for you.

Takeaway

Anxiety disorders affect many people, so if this is something you’re experiencing, remember that you are not alone. To learn more about anxiety disorders, you can explore some of the common types and possible symptoms detailed in this article. And for additional support with anxiety, you may consider connecting with your doctor or an online therapist for help. 

For additional help & support with your concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started