- Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More
- Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks – HelpGuide.org
- Do I have an anxiety disorder?
- Signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders
- What is an anxiety attack?
- Symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
- Types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic attacks and panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Phobias and irrational fears
- Social anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Self-help for anxiety
- When to seek professional help for anxiety symptoms
- Treatment for anxiety disorders
- Medication for anxiety disorders
- Essential Reads
- Recent Posts
- Understand the Facts
- Facts and Statistics
- Everyday anxiety or an anxiety disorder?
- Other resources
- All About Anxiety Disorders: From Causes to Treatment and Prevention
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Tests
Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. The first day of school, going to a job interview, or giving a speech may cause most people to feel fearful and nervous.
But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new place, starting a new job, or taking a test. This type of anxiety is unpleasant, but it may motivate you to work harder and to do a better job. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life.
In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating.
This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. In extreme cases, it may prevent you from entering an elevator, crossing the street, or even leaving your home. If left untreated, the anxiety will keep getting worse.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age. According to the American Psychiatric Association, women are more ly than men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety feels different depending on the person experiencing it. Feelings can range from butterflies in your stomach to a racing heart. You might feel control, there’s a disconnect between your mind and body.
Other ways people experience anxiety include nightmares, panic attacks, and painful thoughts or memories that you can’t control. You may have a general feeling of fear and worry, or you may fear a specific place or event.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty falling asleep
Your anxiety symptoms might be totally different from someone else’s. That’s why it’s important to know all the ways anxiety can present itself. Read about the many types of anxiety symptoms you might experience.
An anxiety attack is a feeling of overwhelming apprehension, worry, distress, or fear. For many people, an anxiety attack builds slowly. It may worsen as a stressful event approaches.
Anxiety attacks can vary greatly, and symptoms may differ among individuals. That’s because the many symptoms of anxiety don’t happen to everyone, and they can change over time.
Common symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
- feeling faint or dizzy
- shortness of breath
- dry mouth
- chills or hot flashes
- apprehension and worry
- numbness or tingling
A panic attack and an anxiety attack share some common symptoms, but they’re not the same. Learn more about each so you can decide if your symptoms are the result of either.
Researchers are not sure of the exact cause of anxiety. But, it’s ly a combination of factors play a role. These include genetic and environmental factors, as well as brain chemistry.
In addition, researchers believe that the areas of the brain responsible for controlling fear may be impacted.
Current research of anxiety is taking a deeper look at the parts of the brain that are involved with anxiety. Learn more about what the researchers are finding.
A single test can’t diagnose anxiety. Instead, an anxiety diagnosis requires a lengthy process of physical examinations, mental health evaluations, and psychological questionnaires.
Some doctors may conduct a physical exam, including blood or urine tests to rule out underlying medical conditions that could contribute to symptoms you’re experiencing.
Several anxiety tests and scales are also used to help your doctor assess the level of anxiety you’re experiencing. Reach about each of these tests.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, you can to explore treatment options with your doctor. For some people, medical treatment isn’t necessary. Lifestyle changes may be enough to cope with the symptoms.
In moderate or severe cases, however, treatment can help you overcome the symptoms and lead a more manageable day-to-day life.
Treatment for anxiety falls into two categories: psychotherapy and medication. Meeting with a therapist or psychologist can help you learn tools to use and strategies to cope with anxiety when it occurs.
Medications typically used to treat anxiety include antidepressants and sedatives. They work to balance brain chemistry, prevent episodes of anxiety, and ward off the most severe symptoms of the disorder. Read more about anxiety medicines and the benefits and advantages of each type.
Lifestyle changes can be an effective way to relive some of the stress and anxiety you may cope with every day. Most of the natural “remedies” consist of caring for your body, participating in healthy activities, and eliminating unhealthy ones.
- getting enough sleep
- staying active and exercising
- eating a healthy diet
- staying active and working out
- avoiding alcohol
- avoiding caffeine
- quitting smoking cigarettes
If these lifestyle changes seem a positive way to help you eliminate some anxiety, read about how each one works—plus, get more great ideas for treating anxiety.
If you have an anxiety disorder, you may also be depressed. While anxiety and depression can occur separately, it’s not unusual for these to mental health disorders to happen together.
Anxiety can be a symptom of clinical or major depression. wise, worsening symptoms of depression can be triggered by an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of both conditions can be managed with many of the same treatments: psychotherapy (counseling), medications, and lifestyle changes.
Anxiety in children is natural and common. In fact, one in eight children will experience anxiety. As children grow up and learn from their parents, friends, and caretakers, they typically develop the skills to calm themselves and cope with feelings of anxiety.
But, anxiety in children can also become chronic and persistent, developing into an anxiety disorder. Uncontrolled anxiety may begin to interfere with daily activities, and children may avoid interacting with their peers or family members.
Symptoms of an anxiety disorder might include:
- feelings of fear
- feelings of isolation
Anxiety treatment for children includes cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy) and medications. Learn more about the signs of an anxiety disorder as well as techniques to help calm your child’s anxiety.
Teenagers may have many reasons to be anxious. Tests, college visits, and first dates all pop up in these important years. But teenagers who feel anxious or experience symptoms of anxiety frequently may have an anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of anxiety in teenagers may include nervousness, shyness, isolationist behaviors, and avoidance. wise, anxiety in teens may lead to unusual behaviors. They may act out, perform poorly in school, skip social events, and even engage in substance or alcohol use.
For some teens, depression may accompany anxiety. Diagnosing both conditions is important so that treatment can address the underlying issues and help relieve symptoms.
The most common treatments for anxiety in teenagers are talk therapy and medication. These treatments also help address depression symptoms.
Stress and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. Stress is the result of demands on your brain or body. It can be the caused by an event or activity that makes you nervous or worrisome. Anxiety is that same worry, fear, or unease.
Anxiety can be a reaction to your stress, but it can also occur in people who have no obvious stressors.
Both anxiety and stress cause physical and mental symptoms. These include:
- fast heartbeat
- muscle tension
- rapid breathing
- difficulty concentrating
- irrational anger or irritability
Neither stress nor anxiety is always bad. Both can actually provide you with a bit of a boost or incentive to accomplish the task or challenge before you. However, if they become persistent, they can begin to interfere with your daily life. In that case, it’s important to seek treatment.
The long-term outlook for untreated depression and anxiety includes chronic health issues, such as heart disease. Learn why anxiety and stress occur and how you can manage the conditions.
If you’re anxious frequently, you may decide you’d a drink to calm your nerves. After all, alcohol is a sedative. It can depress the activity of your central nervous system, which may help you feel more relaxed.
In a social setting, that may feel just the answer you need to let down your guard. Ultimately, it may not be the best solution.
Some people with anxiety disorders end up abusing alcohol or other drugs in an effort to feel better regularly. This can create a dependency and addiction.
It may be necessary to treat an alcohol or drug problem before the anxiety can be addressed. Chronic or long-term use can ultimately make the condition worse, too. Read more to understand how alcohol can make symptoms of anxiety or an anxiety disorder worse.
Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Some people who have a mild anxiety disorder, or a fear of something they can easily avoid, decide to live with the condition and to not seek treatment.
It’s important to understand that anxiety disorders can be treated, even in severe cases. Although, anxiety usually doesn’t go away, you can learn to manage it and live a happy, healthy life.
Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks – HelpGuide.org
Anxiety is a normal reaction to danger, the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a challenging situation, such as a job interview, exam, or first date. In moderation, anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It can help you to stay alert and focused, spur you to action, and motivate you to solve problems.
But when anxiety is constant or overwhelming—when worries and fears interfere with your relationships and daily life—you’ve ly crossed the line from normal anxiety into the territory of an anxiety disorder.
Since anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, symptoms may vary from person to person. One individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another gets panicky at the thought of mingling at a party.
Someone else may struggle with a disabling fear of driving, or uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts. Yet another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.
But despite their different forms, all anxiety disorders illicit an intense fear or worry proportion to the situation at hand.
While having an anxiety disorder can be disabling, preventing you from living the life you want, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues—and are highly treatable. Once you understand your anxiety disorder, there are steps you can take to reduce the symptoms and regain control of your life.
Do I have an anxiety disorder?
If you identify with any of the following seven signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder:
- Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
- Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
- Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake?
- Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way?
- Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?
- Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
- Do you feel danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
Signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders
In addition to the primary symptom of excessive and irrational fear and worry, other common emotional symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- Feelings of apprehension or dread
- Watching for signs of danger
- Anticipating the worst
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling tense and jumpy
- Feeling your mind’s gone blank
But anxiety is more than just a feeling. As a product of the body’s fight-or-flight response, anxiety also involves a wide range of physical symptoms, including:
- Pounding heart
- Stomach upset
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension or twitches
- Shaking or trembling
Because of these physical symptoms, anxiety sufferers often mistake their disorder for a medical illness. They may visit many doctors and make numerous trips to the hospital before their anxiety disorder is finally recognized.
Many people with anxiety disorders also suffer from depression at some point. Anxiety and depression are believed to stem from the same biological vulnerability, which may explain why they so often go hand-in-hand. Since depression makes anxiety worse (and vice versa), it’s important to seek treatment for both conditions.
What is an anxiety attack?
Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. Anxiety attacks usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger—getting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to give—but in other cases, the attacks come the blue.
Anxiety attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes. But during that short time, you may experience terror so severe that you feel as if you’re about to die or totally lose control.
The physical symptoms of anxiety attacks are themselves so frightening that many people think they’re having a heart attack.
After an anxiety attack is over, you may worry about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isn’t available or you can’t easily escape.
Symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
- Surge of overwhelming panic
- Feeling of losing control or going crazy
- Heart palpitations or chest pain
- Feeling you’re going to pass out
- Trouble breathing or choking sensation
- Hot flashes or chills
- Trembling or shaking
- Nausea or stomach cramps
- Feeling detached or unreal
It’s important to seek help if you’re starting to avoid certain situations because you’re afraid of having a panic attack. The truth is that panic attacks are highly treatable. In fact, many people are panic free within just 5 to 8 treatment sessions.
Types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms
Anxiety disorders and conditions closely related to anxiety disorders include:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
If constant worries and fears distract you from your day-to-day activities, or you’re troubled by a persistent feeling that something bad is going to happen, you may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
People with GAD are chronic worrywarts who feel anxious nearly all of the time, though they may not even know why. Anxiety related to GAD often manifests in physical symptoms insomnia, stomach upset, restlessness, and fatigue.
Panic attacks and panic disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as fear of experiencing another episode.
Agoraphobia, the fear of being somewhere where escape or help would be difficult in the event of a panic attack, may also accompany a panic disorder.
If you have agoraphobia, you are ly to avoid public places such as shopping malls, or confined spaces such as an airplane.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unwanted thoughts or behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control. If you have OCD, you may feel troubled by obsessions, such as a recurring worry that you forgot to turn off the oven or that you might hurt someone. You may also suffer from uncontrollable compulsions, such as washing your hands over and over.
Phobias and irrational fears
A phobia is an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that in reality presents little to no danger.
Common phobias include fear of animals (such as snakes and spiders), fear of flying, and fear of heights. In the case of a severe phobia, you might go to extreme lengths to avoid the object of your fear.
Unfortunately, avoidance only strengthens the phobia.
Social anxiety disorder
If you have a debilitating fear of being viewed negatively by others and humiliated in public, you may have social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia. Social anxiety disorder can be thought of as extreme shyness. In severe cases, social situations are avoided altogether. Performance anxiety (better known as stage fright) is the most common type of social phobia.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an extreme anxiety disorder that can occur in the aftermath of a traumatic or life-threatening event.
PTSD can be thought of as a panic attack that rarely, if ever, lets up.
Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks or nightmares about the incident, hypervigilance, startling easily, withdrawing from others, and avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
Separation anxiety disorder
While separation anxiety is a normal stage of development, if anxieties intensify or are persistent enough to get in the way of school or other activities, your child may have separation anxiety disorder. Children with separation anxiety disorder may become agitated at just the thought of being away from mom or dad and complain of sickness to avoid playing with friends or going to school.
Self-help for anxiety
Not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. You may feel anxious because of an overly demanding schedule, lack of exercise or sleep, pressure at home or work, or even from too much caffeine.
The bottom line is that if your lifestyle is unhealthy and stressful, you’re more ly to feel anxious—whether or not you actually have an anxiety disorder. These tips can help to lower anxiety and manage symptoms of a disorder:
Connect with others.
Loneliness and isolation can trigger or worsen anxiety, while talking about your worries face to face can often make them seem less overwhelming.
Make it a point to regularly meet up with friends, join a self-help or support group, or share your worries and concerns with a trusted loved one. If you don’t have anyone you can reach out to, it’s never too late to build new friendships and a support network.
Manage stress. If your stress levels are through the roof, stress management can help. Look at your responsibilities and see if there are any you can give up, turn down, or delegate to others.
Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.
Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days (broken up into short periods if that’s easier). Rhythmic activities that require moving both your arms and legs are especially effective. Try walking, running, swimming, martial arts, or dancing.
Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep a night.
Be smart about caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. If you struggle with anxiety, you may want to consider reducing your caffeine intake, or cutting it out completely.
Similarly alcohol can also make anxiety worse. And while it may seem cigarettes are calming, nicotine is actually a powerful stimulant that leads to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.
For help kicking the habit, see How to Quit Smoking.
Put a stop to chronic worrying. Worrying is a mental habit you can learn how to break. Strategies such as creating a worry period, challenging anxious thoughts, and learning to accept uncertainty can significantly reduce worry and calm your anxious thoughts.
When to seek professional help for anxiety symptoms
While self-help coping strategies for anxiety can be very effective, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that they’re causing extreme distress or disrupting your daily routine, it’s important to seek professional help.
If you’re experiencing a lot of physical anxiety symptoms, you should start by getting a medical checkup.
Your doctor can check to make sure that your anxiety isn’t caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma.
Since certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, your doctor will also want to know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs you’re taking.
If your physician rules out a medical cause, the next step is to consult with a therapist who has experience treating anxiety disorders. The therapist will work with you to determine the cause and type of your anxiety disorder and devise a course of treatment.
Treatment for anxiety disorders
Anxiety disorders respond very well to therapy—and often in a relatively short amount of time. The specific treatment approach depends on the type of anxiety disorder and its severity.
But in general, most anxiety disorders are treated with therapy, medication, or some combination of the two.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are types of behavioral therapy, meaning they focus on behavior rather than on underlying psychological conflicts or issues from the past. They can help with issues such as panic attacks, generalized anxiety, and phobias.
Cognitive-behavior therapy helps you identify and challenge the negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs that fuel your anxiety.
Exposure therapy encourages you to confront your fears and anxieties in a safe, controlled environment. Through gradual exposure to the feared object or situation, either in your imagination or in reality, you gain a greater sense of control. As you face your fear without being harmed, your anxiety will diminish.
Medication for anxiety disorders
If you have anxiety that’s severe enough to interfere with your ability to function, medication may help relieve some anxiety symptoms.
However, anxiety medications can be habit forming and cause unwanted or even dangerous side effects, so be sure to research your options carefully.
Many people use anti-anxiety medication when therapy, exercise, or self-help strategies would work just as well or better—minus the side effects and safety concerns. It’s important to weigh the benefits and risks of anxiety medication so you can make an informed decision.
Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: October 2019.
Anxiety encompasses feelings of worry, nervousness, or dread. Although unpleasant, occasional bouts of anxiety are natural and sometimes even productive: By signaling that something isn’t quite right, anxiety can help people both avoid danger and make important and meaningful changes.
But persistent, pervasive anxiety that disrupts one’s daily life, whether at school, work, or with friends, can be the mark of an anxiety disorder. Nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. will grapple with one at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health, and the condition strikes more women than men.
Anxiety disorders manifest in different ways, and are often diagnostically distinct. Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic state of severe worry and tension, often without provocation.
Panic disorder refers to sudden and repeated panic attacks—episodes of intense fear and discomfort that peak within a few minutes. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is marked by intrusive thoughts or compulsions to carry out specific behaviors, such as handwashing.
Post-traumatic stress disorder may develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
Anxiety is often accompanied by depression, and the two share an underlying genetic architecture.
Beyond genetics, childhood experiences such as early trauma or parental overprotection can play a role in forming an anxious disposition. In people with anxiety disorders, the brain circuitry that controls the threat response seems to go awry: The amygdala, a structure that detects danger, can become overactive, triggering a threat where none really exists.
Anxiety is often treated successfully using therapy, medication or both. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective options, in which patients learn to identify problematic thought patterns and change how they respond. Mindfulness meditation is another effective technique for some.
For more on causes, symptoms, and treatments of anxiety disorders, see our Diagnosis Dictionary.
Those who fall into the trap of people-pleasing tend to dive deeply into the spirit of being in-tune with the needs of others.
New data on nearly 14,000 dogs demonstrates that anxiety and fearfulness are much more common in some breeds of dogs.
Anxiety is associated with impulse buying, a preference for safe choices, and those that provide us a semblance of control, as well as an urge to splurge.
Research has shown quite convincingly that our default mode is resilience. And resilience can be cultivated.
As you detect physical symptoms attributable to rising panic but mistake them for the flu, you get more panicky and descend into a spiral of ever-increasing mental distress.
With life turned upside down for everyone, staying emotionally centered is pretty much a universal task. But some will find it more difficult than others.
Those who fall into the trap of people-pleasing tend to dive deeply into the spirit of being in-tune with the needs of others.
New data on nearly 14,000 dogs demonstrates that anxiety and fearfulness are much more common in some breeds of dogs.
While we are living in the Age of Anxiety and may be standing on the precipice of the Next Great Depression, we are, more poignantly, in the midst of the Great Grieving.
Science fiction has served as the primary launching pad of twisted tomorrows over the past century and a half.
You can't fix your emotions with food. Change happens when you find the root cause of your emotional eating.
Healthcare workers facing COVID-19 are doing their jobs under extraordinary levels of stress. Critical shortages of masks mean they are performing while afraid.
Anxiety is associated with impulse buying, a preference for safe choices, and those that provide us a semblance of control, as well as an urge to splurge.
Online gaming has helped people cope in the past, and it may be helping people cope now.
Understand the Facts
But you may experience anxiety that is persistent, seemingly uncontrollable, and overwhelming. If it’s an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it can be disabling. When anxiety interferes with daily activities, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions – just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.
The term “anxiety disorder” refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are closely related to anxiety disorders, which some may experience at the same time as depression.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also called IBS, is characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea. Click here to learn more about IBS and its connection to stress and anxiety.
What is Anxiety? (from ADAA's partner organization Anxiety.org) is an in-depth analysis and explanation of key anxiety disorders written by ADAA member experts.
Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general for more than two weeks and when the feelings interfere with daily activities.
Major depression is a treatable illness that affects the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and functions.
At any point in time, 3 to 5 percent of people suffer from major depression; the lifetime risk is about 17 percent.
Facts and Statistics
- National prevalence data indicate that nearly 40 million people in the United States (18%) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year.
- Approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder with most people developing symptoms before age 21.
- Only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment, even though the disorders are highly treatable.
- In addition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 globally suffers from anxiety. The WHO reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide with specific phobia, major depressive disorder and social phobia being the most common anxiety disorders.
Find more facts about anxiety disorders.
Read this important and helpful article “What is Anxiety?” from our partner Anxiety.org.
See what people with anxiety disorders are saying about how they manage.
Watch or download videos on how to manage and overcome stress and anxiety, including how to reduce stress, the differences between normal everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder, how to recognize symptoms, and what to do if you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or OCD.
Everyday anxiety or an anxiety disorder?
Researchers are learning that anxiety disorders run in families, and that they have a biological basis, much allergies or diabetes and other disorders. Anxiety disorders may develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Continue to learn more about anxiety in all its forms on the free BetterHelp resource.
All About Anxiety Disorders: From Causes to Treatment and Prevention
- Types of Disorders
- Managing Symptoms
Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion. For example, you may feel nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.
Anxiety disorders are different, though. They are a group of mental illnesses, and the distress they cause can keep you from carrying on with your life normally.
For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.
Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that includes different conditions:
- Panic disorder. You feel terror that strikes at random. During a panic attack, you may also sweat, have chest pain, and feel palpitations (unusually strong or irregular heartbeats). Sometimes you may feel you’re choking or having a heart attack.
- Social anxiety disorder. Also called social phobia, this is when you feel overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. You fixate about others judging you or on being embarrassed or ridiculed.
- Specific phobias. You feel intense fear of a specific object or situation, such as heights or flying. The fear goes beyond what’s appropriate and may cause you to avoid ordinary situations.
- Generalized anxiety disorder. You feel excessive, unrealistic worry and tension with little or no reason.
All anxiety disorders share some general symptoms:
- Panic, fear, and uneasiness
- Sleep problems
- Not being able to stay calm and still
- Cold, sweaty, numb or tingling hands or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Tense muscles
Researchers don’t know exactly what brings on anxiety disorders. other forms of mental illness, they stem from a combination of things, including changes in your brain and environmental stress, and even your genes. The disorders can run in families and could be linked to faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and other emotions.
If you have symptoms, your doctor will examine you and ask for your medical history. She may run tests to rule out medical illnesses that might be causing your symptoms. No lab tests can specifically diagnose anxiety disorders.
If your doctor doesn’t find any medical reason for how you’re feeling, she may send you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health specialist. Those doctors will ask you questions and use tools and testing to find out if you may have an anxiety disorder.
Your doctor will consider how long and how intense your symptoms are when diagnosing you. She’ll also check to see if the symptoms keep you from carrying out your normal activities.
Most people with the condition try one or more of these therapies:
- Medication: Many antidepressants can work for anxiety disorders. They include escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluoxetine (Prozac). Certain anticonvulsant medicines (typically taken for epilepsy) and low-dose antipsychotic drugs can be added to help make other treatments work better. Anxiolytics are also drugs that help lower anxiety. Examples are alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin). They’re prescribed for social or generalized anxiety disorder as well as for panic attacks.
- Psychotherapy: This is a type of counseling that addresses the emotional response to mental illness. A mental health specialist helps you by talking about how to understand and deal with your anxiety disorder.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This is a certain type of psychotherapy that teaches you how to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that trigger deep anxiety or panic.
These tips may help you control or lessen your symptoms:
- Cut down on foods and drinks that have caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine is a mood-altering drug, and it may make symptoms of anxiety disorders worse.
- Eat right, exercise, and get better sleep. Brisk aerobic exercises jogging and biking help release brain chemicals that cut stress and improve your mood.
- Sleep problems and anxiety disorder often go hand in hand. Make getting good rest a priority. Follow a relaxing bedtime routine. Talk to your doctor if you still have trouble sleeping.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter meds or herbal remedies. Many contain chemicals that can make anxiety symptoms worse.
American Psychological Association.
National Institute of Mental Health.
Anxiety Disorders Association of America: “Medications.”
Mayo Clinic: “Anxiety.”
Twin Research and Human Genetics: “Common Psychiatric Disorders and Caffeine Use, Tolerance, and Withdrawal: An Examination of Shared Genetic and Environmental Effects.”
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Physical Activity Reduces Stress.”
Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia (Brazil): “Effects of physical exercise on serum levels of serotonin and its metabolite in fibromyalgia: a randomized pilot study.”
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. What Are Panic Disorders?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Tests
Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2018
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.
Amir N, Beard C, Cobb M, Bomyea J. Attention modification program in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 2009 February; 118(1): 28-33.
Arehart-Treichel J. Anxiety symptoms linked to women's cardiac events. Psychiatric News 2009 December; 44(24): 26-37.
Arehart-Treichel J. Extended GAD treatment keeps relapse rates low. Psychiatric News 2011 February; 46(3): 24.
Baldwin D, Woods R, Lawson R, Taylor D. Efficacy of drug treatments for generalized anxiety disorder: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal 2011 March; 342.
Ballenger JC, Davidson JRT, Lecrubier Y, Nutt DJ, et al. Consensus statement on generalized anxiety disorder from the international consensus group on depression and anxiety. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2001; 62(suppl 11): 53-58.
Beesdo K, Knappe S, Pine DS. Anxiety and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: developmental issues and implications for DSM-V. Psychiatric Clinics of North America 2009 September; 32(3): 483-524.
Blumenthal H, Leen-Feldner EW, Babson KA, Gahr JL, Trainor CD, Frala JL. Elevated social anxiety among early maturing girls. Developmental Psychology 2011 July; 47(4): 1133-1140.
Bystritsky A, Kerwin L, Feusner JD, Vapnik T. A pilot controlled trial of buproprion XL vs. escitalopram in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Pscychopharmacology Bulletin 2008; 41(1): 1-9.
Cuthbert B. Early prevention in childhood anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry 2010; 167:1428-1430.
Fava M, Asnis GM, Shrivastava R, Lydiard B, et al. Zolpidem extended-release improves sleep and next-day symptoms in comorbid insomnia and generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 2009 June; 29(3): 222-230.
Flint A, Peasley-Miklus C, Papademetriou E, et al. Effect of age on the frequency of anxiety disorders in major depression with psychotic features. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2010 May; 18 (5): 404-412.
Grant BF, Hasin DS, Blanco C, Stinson FS, et al. The epidemiology of social anxiety disorder in the United States: results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2005 November; 66(11): 1351-1361.
Hammond DC. Hypnosis in the treatment of anxiety- and stress-related disorders. Expert Review of Neurotherapy 2010 February; 10(2): 263-273.
Herring MP, O'Connor PJ, Dishman RK. The effect of exercise training on anxiety symptoms among patients: a systemic review. Archives of Internal Medicine 2010 February; 170(4): 321-331.
Johnson JG, Cohen P, Pine DS, et al. Association between cigarette smoking and anxiety disorders during adolescence and early adulthood. Journal of the American Medical Association 2000; 284: 2348-2351.
Kalra SK, Swedo SE. Children with obsessive-compulsive disorder: are they just “little adults?” Journal of Clinical Investigation 2009; 119(4): 737-746.
Merikangas KR, He JP, Brody D, Fisher PW, et al. Prevalence and treatment of mental disorders among U.S. children in the 2001-2004 NHANES. Pediatrics 2010 January; 125(1): 75-81.
McLaughlin KA, Hatzenbuehler ML. Stressful life events, anxiety sensitivity, and internalizing symptoms in adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 2009 August; 118(3): 659-669.
Nasreen HE, Kabir ZN, Forsell Y, Edhborg M. Low birth weight in offspring of women with depressive and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy: results from a population based study in Bangladesh. Biomed Central Public Health 2010; 10: 515.
Pande AC, Pollack MH, Crockatt J, Greiner M, Chouinard G, et al. Placebo-controlled study of gabapentin treatment of panic disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 2000 August; 20(4): 467-471.
Piacentini J, Roblek T. Recognizing and treating childhood anxiety disorders. Western Journal of Medicine 2002 May; 176(3): 149-151.
Pincus DB, May JE, Whitton SW, Mattis SG, Barlow DH. Cognitive-behavioral treatment of panic disorder in adolescence. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 2010 Sep; 39(5): 638-49.
Rapee RM. The development and modification of temperamental risk for anxiety disorders: prevention of a lifetime of anxiety? Biological Psychiatry 2002 November; 52(10): 947-957.
Rickels K, Pollack MH, Sheehan DV, Haskins JT. Efficacy of extended-release venlafaxine in nondepressed outpatients with generalized anxiety disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 2000; 157: 968-974.
Saeed SA, Bloch RM, Antonacci DJ. Herbal and dietary supplements for treatment of anxiety disorders. American Family Physician 2007 Aug 15; 76(4): 549-56.
Soto JA, Dawson-Andoh NA, BeLue R. The relationship between perceived discrimination and generalized anxiety disorder among African Americans, Afro Caribbeans and non-Hispanic Whites. Journal of Anxiety Disorders 2011 March; 25(2): 258-265.
Trivedi JK, Gupta PK. An overview of Indian research in anxiety disorders. Indian Journal of Psychiatry 2010; 52(7): 210-218.
White SW, Ollendick T, Scahill L, Oswald D, Albano AM. Preliminary efficacy of a cognitive-behavioral treatment program for anxious youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 2009 June.
Coronavirus COVID-19: Latest News and Information
Insomnia is a condition characterized by difficulty falling or staying asleep. There is no set definition of insomnia in terms of hours of sleep, and insomnia can have many forms.
Some people with insomnia may have no trouble falling asleep but wake up too soon. Other people may have the opposite problem, or they have problems with falling asleep as well as staying asleep.
The common factor is poor-quality sleep that doesn't leave you feeling refreshed when you wake up.
Temporary insomnia lasts anywhere from one night to a few weeks. This can involve a single episode of poor-quality or unrefreshing sleep or recurring episodes of insomnia separated by periods of normal sleep.
On the following slides, we offer some suggestions and tips intended to help overcome temporary insomnia and maximize your chance for getting a healthy night's sleep:
Keep the room pleasant, comfortable, and get rid of clutter and distractions. Be sure to select the right bed and mattress for your needs. An old mattress or the wrong mattress for you can contribute to musculoskeletal problems and sleep disturbances.
Avoid use of the bed for TV, working, eating, or any other activities; use the bed only for sleeping and sex. If you to use the bed for a bit of nighttime reading, read only books in bed that promote relaxation and enjoyment.
“Reconditioning” is often recommended as part of the treatment plan for insomnia. This means that you are “reconditioned” to associate the bed with sleep. If you are not able to sleep at all, get bed and move to another room, so that you do not associate the bed with wakefulness.
Typically, if you are not sleeping after 20-30 minutes in bed, you should get bed and return when you are tired. During the time bed, you should not do anything that may stimulate or increase your wakefulness and you should avoid turning on the TV, computer, cell phone, or bright lights and avoid looking at the clock.
Return to bed when you feel drowsy.
Establishing a regular sleep-wake cycle can help people who suffer from insomnia. By doing so, the body will learn to set its internal clock to your schedule, eventually responding to internal cues to become sleepy at a given time and to awaken at a given time. Getting up at the same time every morning, even on weekends, is a good way to establish this regular cycle.
An afternoon nap can make falling asleep at night even harder, no matter how tired you may be. “Extra” sleep on weekends can also throw off your sleep schedule and make midweek insomnia even worse. Naps in the afternoon should be limited and short (around 20 minutes).
Limit your consumption of caffeine in the afternoon and evening. Don’t forget that chocolate, hot cocoa, and colas also are sources of caffeine.
Excessive consumption of of alcohol at any time in the day can also disrupt sleep patterns and lead to unsatisfying sleep. Don't drink any alcoholic beverages in the few hours prior to going to bed. Cigarette smoking can also worsen insomnia.
Try to fit in some exercise during the day, but avoid strenuous exercise right before bedtime. Exercise 4-5 hours before bed is preferred.
Heavy eating in the evening or eating just prior to bedtime can disrupt your sleep.
It can be helpful to establish a “winding down” ritual just prior to bedtime. The goal is to free your mind of distracting or troublesome thoughts and engage in a relaxing, enjoyable activity reading, watching a pleasant film, or listening to music.