Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of anxiety is a key component of starting the recovery journey.

Understanding Anxiety

Learn about anxiety

Generally speaking, anxiety is both a psychological and physiological condition that causes an individual to experience feelings of fear and worry. While some anxiety is a normal response to stressful or tense situations, excessive and constant anxiety can transform moments of worrying into full-fledged disorders. In the majority of cases, the worrying associated with anxiety disorders is unwarranted and excessive. For example, those with generalized anxiety disorder always seem to be worried about health, money, family, employment, or a number of other things.

Experts have determined that there are several different types of anxiety disorders, including: panic disorder, agoraphobia, general phobias, posttraumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorders. Additionally, each one of these anxiety disorders has a variety of different symptoms attributed to them. No matter which anxiety disorder an individual may have, eventually it escalates out of control and these unrealistic feelings of worry will dominate every aspect of his or her life. Your quality of life should not suffer as there are a number of different treatment options available for anxiety. Effective treatment in a mental health setting is proven to reduce symptoms and the impact they have on a person’s life. Finally, with appropriate treatment methods put in place, individuals struggling with an anxiety disorder can learn how to manage their symptoms and learn new coping skills that will be beneficial to them for a lifetime.


Anxiety statistics

Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health conditions that affect people of all ages. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 40 million adults meet criteria for an anxiety disorder. Furthermore, some research has suggested that one in five older adults struggle with anxiety symptoms that are severe enough to require treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for anxiety

Feelings associated with anxiety are perfectly normal responses to stressful, unfamiliar circumstances. We come across different, potentially anxiety-provoking situations on a daily basis and everyone responds with a variety of reactions. However, there is not one exact reason that determines whether or not someone will develop an anxiety disorder. Some of the main contributing factors that can play a role in its development include genetics, physical makeup, environmental influences, and other risk factors. Consider the following explanations for the development of anxiety disorders:

Genetic: It has been widely accepted that anxiety disorders are rooted in an individual’s genes and if you have a loved one who has an anxiety disorder, you are at a greater risk for developing one yourself. This is especially true among first-degree relatives.

Physical: Many studies have shown that individuals who have a mental health disorder have imbalances in certain neurochemicals in their brains. Individuals with anxiety disorders also present with these kinds of imbalances and subsequently display symptoms of anxiety. When imbalances in these neurotransmitters occur, it may affect a person’s ability to appropriately respond to stress or effectively regulate their emotions.

Environmental: Exposure to certain environments has also been known to impact whether or not a person will develop anxiety symptoms. Examples of these environments can include chronic stress, exposure to violence or trauma, and growing up in a chaotic atmosphere. Researchers believe that the reason why anxiety manifests in response to a person’s environment is due to not having the appropriate coping skills needed to deal with the stress.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
  • Being female
  • Having a more timid temperament
  • Exposure to chronic stress, violence, or trauma
  • Lack of a strong support system
  • Inept coping skills
  • Low socioeconomic status  

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

While it is completely normal to have short lived moments of anxiety, constant feelings of overwhelming stress and worry are most often signs of an anxiety disorder. The exact symptoms an individual will experience will depend on the type of anxiety disorder he or she is suffering from, as well as certain personal characteristics. Some of the most commonly cited signs and symptoms associated with anxiety may include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Easily scared
  • Inability to relax
  • Problems making it through the day
  • Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors
  • Avoiding certain people, places, or situations
  • Procrastination
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Excessive consumption of drugs or alcohol
  • Pacing back and forth

Physical symptoms:

  • Upset stomach
  • Fatigue
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Tension in muscles
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Shaking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Frequent urination as a result of ongoing nervousness
  • High blood pressure

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive worrying
  • Compulsions
  • Indecisiveness
  • Feeling as if mind has gone blank
  • Ritualistic thinking
  • Fleeting ideas
  • Memory impairment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Unpredictable mood
  • Consistently anticipating the worst
  • Feeling powerless
  • Having a sense of impending danger
  • Pervasive feelings of nervousness
  • Derealization
  • Feeling detached from surroundings
  • Intense feelings of guilt


Effects of anxiety

As time progresses, having an anxiety disorder can do more than just make an individual worry. If the symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder persist, it can create a number of negative effects in a person’s life. Despite the fact that effective treatments are available that can eliminate such adverse effects, the following are known to occur for those who do not seek treatment:

  • Problems concentrating, making it difficult to perform tasks quickly and efficiently
  • Having no energy
  • Development of depression
  • Heart-health issues
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Decline in quality and quantity of interpersonal relationships
  • Divorce
  • Inability to maintain appropriate work performance
  • Loss of employment
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Engagement in self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideations and attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Anxiety and co-occurring disorders

Individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders frequently struggle with other mental health conditions at the same time. The following mental illnesses are frequently diagnosed in those who are already diagnosed with a form of anxiety:

  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline personality disorder