Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. However, people with anxiety disorders often experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Anxiety disorders often involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that peak within minutes (panic attacks).
These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger, and can last for a long time. You may want to avoid places or situations to avoid these feelings. Symptoms can begin during childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood.
Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder. You may have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety is the result of a medical condition that needs treatment.
Whatever form of anxiety you have, treatment can help.
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Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling jittery, restless or tense
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
- Have an increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Feel weak or tired
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the current concern
- have trouble sleeping
- Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
- Having difficulty controlling worry
- Having the need to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
There are several types of anxiety disorders:
- Agoraphobia(ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that may cause you to panic and feel trapped, helpless, or ashamed.
- Anxiety disorder due to a medical conditionincludes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.
- generalized anxiety disorderIt includes persistent and excessive anxiety and preoccupation with activities or events, including ordinary and routine problems. Worry is out of proportion to actual circumstances, is difficult to control, and affects how you feel physically. It often occurs along with other anxiety or depression disorders.
- PANIC SyndromeIt involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a racing, pounding, or pounding heart. These panic attacks can lead to worry that they will happen again or to avoid situations in which they occurred.
- selective mutismit is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as at school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can interfere with school, work, and social functioning.
- separation anxiety disorderIt is a childhood disorder characterized by excessive anxiety for the developmental level of the child and related to separation from parents or other people who perform parental functions.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)It involves high levels of anxiety, fear, and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of shame, shyness, and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
- specific phobiasthey are characterized by great anxiety when you are exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias trigger panic attacks in some people.
- substance-induced anxiety disorderIt is characterized by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are the direct result of drug abuse, medication use, exposure to a toxic substance, or drug withdrawal.
- Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorderare terms for anxiety or phobias that don't meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorder, but are significant enough to be distressing and upsetting.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if:
- You feel like you worry too much and it interferes with your work, relationships, or other parts of your life.
- Your fear, worry, or anxiety bothers you and is difficult to control.
- You feel depressed, have problems with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health problems along with anxiety.
- Do you think your anxiety could be related to a physical health problem?
- Has suicidal thoughts or behavior; if so, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Your worries may not go away on their own and may get worse over time if you don't seek help. See your doctor or a mental health professional before your anxiety gets worse. It is easier to treat if you get help early.
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The causes of anxiety disorders are not fully understood. Life experiences, such as traumatic events, seem to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits can also be a factor.
For some people, anxiety may be related to an underlying health problem. In some cases, the signs and symptoms of anxiety are the first indicators of a general medical condition. If your doctor suspects that your anxiety may have a medical cause, he or she may order tests to look for signs of a problem.
Examples of medical problems that may be related to anxiety include:
- Heart disease
- Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
- Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
- Drug abuse or abstinence
- Withdrawal from alcohol, anxiolytics (benzodiazepines), or other medications
- Chronic pain or irritable bowel syndrome
- Rare tumors that produce certain fight or flight hormones
Sometimes anxiety can be a side effect of certain medications.
Your anxiety may be due to an underlying medical condition if:
- You do not have a blood relative (such as a parent or sibling) with an anxiety disorder.
- You did not have an anxiety disorder as a child.
- You do not avoid certain things or situations due to anxiety.
- Has sudden onset of anxiety that appears unrelated to life events and has no history of anxiety.
These factors can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:
- Trauma.Children who have experienced abuse or trauma or have witnessed traumatic events are at increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Adults who experience a traumatic event can also develop anxiety disorders.
- Stress due to illness.Having a serious health problem or illness can cause great concern about things like your treatment and your future.
- Stress accumulation.A major event or an accumulation of minor stressful life situations can trigger excessive anxiety, for example, the death of a family member, stress at work or constant worry about finances.
- Personality.People with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others.
- Other mental health disorders.People with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder.
- Having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder.Anxiety disorders can run in families.
- Drugs or alcohol.The use, abuse, or withdrawal of drugs or alcohol can cause or worsen anxiety.
Having an anxiety disorder does more than worry you. It can also lead to, or worsen, other physical and mental conditions, such as:
- Depression (which often occurs with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders
- Substance abuse
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
- Digestive or intestinal problems
- Headaches and chronic pain
- Social isolation
- Trouble functioning at school or work.
- poor quality of life
There is no way to predict with certainty what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you are feeling anxious:
- Seek help soon.Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
- Keep active.Participate in activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself. Enjoy social interaction and loving relationships, which can lessen your worries.
- Avoid the use of alcohol or drugs.Alcohol and drug use can cause or worsen anxiety. If you are addicted to any of these substances, stopping using them can make you anxious. If you can't stop on your own, see your doctor or find a support group to help you.
By Mayo Clinic staff
What is anxiety symptoms and causes? ›
Anxiety disorders are a type of mental health condition. Anxiety makes it difficult to get through your day. Symptoms include feelings of nervousness, panic and fear as well as sweating and a rapid heartbeat. Treatments include medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.What are the 3 main causes of anxiety disorders? ›
- past or childhood experiences.
- your current life situation.
- physical and mental health problems.
- drugs and medication.
To diagnose an anxiety disorder, a doctor performs a physical exam, asks about your symptoms, and recommends a blood test, which helps the doctor determine if another condition, such as hypothyroidism, may be causing your symptoms. The doctor may also ask about any medications you are taking.What foods reduce anxiety? ›
Foods naturally rich in magnesium may, therefore, help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.How do anxiety disorders start? ›
The causes of anxiety disorders are currently unknown but likely involve a combination of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental. Anxiety disorders can run in families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorders.How do I know if my anxiety is a disorder? ›
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
your worrying is uncontrollable and causes distress. your worrying affects your daily life, including school, your job and your social life. you cannot let go of your worries. you worry about all sorts of things, such as your job or health, and minor concerns, such as household chores.
Anxiety disorders are very treatable. Most patients who suffer from anxiety are able to reduce or eliminate symptoms after several (or fewer) months of psychotherapy, and many patients notice improvement after just a few sessions.What problems can anxiety cause? ›
- Digestive or bowel problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Chronic pain and illness.
- Sleep problems and insomnia.
- Heart-health issues.
Anxiety happens when a part of the brain, the amygdala, senses trouble. When it senses threat, real or imagined, it surges the body with hormones (including cortisol, the stress hormone) and adrenaline to make the body strong, fast and powerful.What is the difference between anxiety and anxiety disorder? ›
Anxiety is a problem when it becomes overwhelming or unmanageable and it comes up unexpectedly. Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses that have a big impact your life. People may avoid going about their daily lives in order to avoid anxiety.
How to fix anxiety? ›
- Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. ...
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
- Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
- Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
- Make sleep a priority. ...
- Eat healthy.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder. The main symptom of GAD is excessive worrying about different activities and events. You may feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD.
Chemical imbalances and anxiety
They are also closely tied to emotions and mental health (Chand, 2022). Since brain chemistry is linked to our mental well-being, it's not surprising that a chemical imbalance can contribute to anxiety and other mood disorder.
After reviewing the psychiatric history of 461 volunteers, researchers found that by checking for high levels of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), a blood protein people release when under stress, they could identify anxiety disorders 90% of the time.Should I take medication for anxiety? ›
Anxiety medications don't cure anxiety, but they can provide relief from symptoms. Depending on the type of medication, people may take them on an as-needed basis for the specific situation that causes anxiety or panic, for relief from physical symptoms, or on a daily basis.What is the first line treatment for anxiety? ›
Antidepressants are the first-line medications in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Anxiolytics may be used for a brief duration, but only if needed while an antidepressant is being initiated and titrated up. Atypical antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants are used mainly to augment antidepressants.What's good to drink for anxiety? ›
- A glass of red wine.
- A sip of scotch or whiskey.
- Chamomile tea.
- Peppermint tea.
- Hot chocolate, not too sweet.
- Warm milk.
B-complex, vitamin E, vitamin C, GABA, and 5-HTP are 5 vitamins commonly used to help with anxiety and stress.What foods make anxiety worse? ›
- Sugary drinks and foods.
- Processed foods, such as chips, cookies, frozen foods and ready-made meals.
- Foods high in trans fats and excessive saturated fats, such as fried foods, red meat, full-fat dairy, butter and baked goods.
- The average age of onset is 19, with 25% of cases occurring by age 14. One-third of affected adults first experienced symptoms in childhood.
Are you born with anxiety disorder or do you develop it? ›
Most researchers conclude that anxiety is genetic but can also be influenced by environmental factors. In other words, it's possible to have anxiety without it running in your family. There is a lot about the link between genes and anxiety disorders that we don't understand, and more research is needed.What does severe anxiety look like? ›
Recognize the Signs
Physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heart rate, increased breathing rate, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath. Extreme feelings of fear or anxiety that are out of proportion to the actual threat. Irrational fear or worry about different objects or situations.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mental illness refers to “conditions that affect a person's thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior.” These can include but aren't limited to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.What does anxiety feel like in your head? ›
Some common mental symptoms of anxiety include:
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom. Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry. Having difficulty controlling worry. Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety.
Serotonin Serotonin may be the most well-known neurotransmitter. Low levels of serotonin are linked to both anxiety and depression. Like most neurotransmitters, low or unbalanced serotonin levels can occur genetically/naturally, and can also be created by your emotions.What does the Bible say about anxiety? ›
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective in the treatment of anxiety. During CBT treatment, your psychologist will help you learn different ways to identify and manage the factors that contribute to your anxiety.What can untreated anxiety lead to? ›
- Chronic Stress. One side effect of untreated anxiety is chronic stress. ...
- Depression. ...
- Insomnia and Fatigue. ...
- Heart Issues. ...
- Inability to Focus. ...
- Substance Abuse.
Summary: Pathological anxiety and chronic stress lead to structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the PFC, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.Can anxiety damage your health? ›
Anxiety can impact physical and mental health. It can affect the cardiovascular, urinary, digestive, and respiratory systems, and it can increase the risk of infection. While many people know about the effects of anxiety on mental health, fewer people are aware of the physical side effects.
Is anxiety a mental imbalance in the brain? ›
Thus ended the “chemical imbalance” theory cause for mental illness, including anxiety disorder. So, no, anxiety disorder is not caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.What does anxiety feel like mentally? ›
Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, or unease, usually about a stressful situation, an uncertain outcome, or an imminent event that can make it difficult to go about your day. Anxiety is your body's normal reaction to danger. It's a fight-or-flight response in response to a perceived threat.Who is most likely to have illness anxiety disorder? ›
- Childhood trauma, such as child abuse or neglect.
- Extreme stress.
- Health anxieties or other anxiety disorders in your family.
- Childhood illness or serious illness in your family during childhood.
- Try to confront feared situations without the help of “safety behavior” situations (or unhealthy coping mechanisms).
- Allow yourself to experience a short-term or slight increase in anxiety, followed by a decrease in physical symptoms.
- Feelings of apprehension or dread.
- Feeling tense or jumpy.
- Restlessness or irritability.
- Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger.
If you eat lots of processed meat, fried food, refined cereals, candy, pastries, and high-fat dairy products, you're more likely to be anxious and depressed. A diet full of whole fiber-rich grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish can help keep you on a more even keel.What are the 6 major symptoms of anxiety disorders? ›
- Panic, fear, and uneasiness.
- Feelings of panic, doom, or danger.
- Sleep problems.
- Not being able to stay calm and still.
- Cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling hands or feet.
- Shortness of breath.
- Breathing faster and more quickly than normal (hyperventilation)
- Heart palpitations.
Anxiety is a normal response to stress.
Women are more than twice as likely as men to get an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety disorders are often treated with counseling, medicine, or a combination of both.
Research has indicated that individuals with high emotional reactivity (high neuroticism) and introverted tendencies (low extroversion) are more likely to experience anxiety than other personality types .What drinks are good for anxiety? ›
- A glass of red wine.
- A sip of scotch or whiskey.
- Chamomile tea.
- Peppermint tea.
- Hot chocolate, not too sweet.
- Warm milk.
Is water good for anxiety? ›
A recent tweet by federal health authorities suggesting water could help reduce anxiety was received with some online scepticism. In fact, the evidence shows water and hydration can play a role in preventing and managing the symptoms of anxiety.What vitamins help with anxiety and panic attacks? ›
Vitamin B Complex
The eight B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 (folic acid) and B12, are essential for the proper function of the nervous system and can help to calm the nerves and reduce mental stress and fatigue. For these reasons, they are often referred to as anti-stress nutrients.
The most common physical symptoms of anxiety include fatigue, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle aches, muscle weakness, headaches, digestion, discomfort and tingling sensations.How does anxiety affect the body? ›
When you feel anxious you might have racing thoughts but also physical symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, tense muscles, trembling, a rapid heartbeat, and pain and bloating in your abdomen. These are all the results of the stress response when the body releases cortisol as it prepares for “fight or flight.”Is having anxiety a disability? ›
Is Anxiety a Disability? Anxiety, such as OCD, panic disorders, PTSD, etc. is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA). In order for the SSA to consider your anxiety a disability, you need to be able to show that you can no longer work full time because of it.