Anxiety Symptoms

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that make it hard for you to get through your day. They consist of feelings of panic, fear, nervousness, and more. While some anxiety is normal, a disorder is a whole other matter. More often than not, it goes beyond regular fear and nervousness [1].

Types of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders fall into various categories. Some of them include the following:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobia-related disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves constant feelings of dread or anxiety [2]. These feelings are not the same as occasional worry. They often interfere with our daily functioning and can even go on for months.

Social anxiety appears as an intense fear of other people judging or watching you. Those with this disorder have an extreme fear of social situations. It may even hinder their ability to go to school or work.

People with panic disorder experience unexpected but frequent panic attacks. They are usually sudden. They often consist of discomfort, intense fear, and a feeling of losing control. Sometimes they occur even without a clear trigger. It's important to note that not all panic attacks develop into panic disorders.

A phobia represents extreme fear of certain situations or objects. People with certain phobias experience disproportionate anxiety in the face of danger.

How is Anxiety Diagnosed?

Most doctors perform a physical exam first. They may ask about your symptoms. They may also recommend blood tests. Blood tests help rule out physical causes of your symptoms. They may also inquire about any medications you’re taking. Medications such as levodopa and cyclosporine can cause symptoms of anxiety [3].

Anxiety Staging

Anxiety stages range from mild to severe and panic levels.

Mild anxiety isn’t as clinically significant as severe anxiety. But it still impacts social, emotional, and professional functioning. If you leave it unaddressed for long, it may lead to severe consequences over time.

People with moderate anxiety experience more persistent symptoms. Their daily functioning also suffers but not as much as those with severe anxiety.

They're often unable to relax for many days in a week. The symptoms are disruptive. But people with moderate anxiety can manage their symptoms with a professional's help.

Severe anxiety can be debilitating. It is also clinically significant. People who have it experience heightened distress and low functioning ability.

Sometimes, the symptoms may also co-occur with major depression. Severe anxiety symptoms are not only persistent but also very serious. They may cause an elevated heart rate, social withdrawal, and feelings of panic. Patients may even turn to drugs or alcohol for relief.

Panic disorder is often the last and the most serious type of disorder in the category. It consists of frequent panic attacks consisting of:

  • Fear of death
  • Nausea
  • Heart palpitations, etc.

Is Anxiety Hereditary?

There is considerable research to show that anxiety can be a result of genetics. If you have a relative with anxiety, you might have a 2 to 6 times higher chance of developing it [4]. If you have an identical twin with the disorder, your chances of developing it may be even higher.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a heritable condition with approximately a 30% heritability rate. In the anxiety spectrum, this disorder can also be a result of childhood experiences such as:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Panic, etc.

In the later developmental stages, other disorders, such as MDD, also start appearing.

Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety symptoms may be hard to identify in the beginning. People often confuse them with regular stress. But, if you experience the following in your daily life, consult a doctor immediately.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Common anxiety symptoms include [5]:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness or nervousness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Extreme tiredness or weakness
  • Difficulty thinking about anything else
  • Having a lot of trouble sleeping
  • Going through gastrointestinal problems
  • Having a sense of doom or panic
  • Feeling the urge to avoid anything that might trigger anxiety

What Are Some Signs of Anxiety?

As mentioned before, signs of anxiety include:

  • Feeling fatigued
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Feeling on edge or restless
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having stomachaches, muscle aches, and headaches
  • Having sleep problems

Symptoms of Anxiety in Women vs Symptoms of Anxiety in Men*

Generalized anxiety affects more women than men in the US. 3.4% of women experience it as compared to 1.9% of men [6].

According to information in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, women experience anxiety differently. For one, women with one type of anxiety were also more likely to have another type of anxiety. They were also more likely to have a major depressive disorder and/or bulimia nervosa.

Hispanic and white women also experienced a greater burden of the illness than men. More men turn to substance abuse. Women turn to agoraphobic avoidance to deal with their symptoms [7].

Risk Factors for Anxiety

The following risk factors may increase your chances of developing an anxiety disorder.

A buildup of stress: Big life events can trigger anxiety. Sometimes even smaller, unresolved issues can do the same.

Childhood trauma: This one is at the forefront of most mental illness onsets in adulthood. Children who endure trauma or abuse are at a higher risk of developing anxiety in adulthood. But, the risk isn't only limited to childhood trauma. Adults who experience something traumatic can also develop it.

The stress of serious illness: People with serious health issues tend to worry about:

  • Their health
  • Treatment
  • Future, etc.

The stress of serious illness: People with serious health conditions can harbor extreme worry about their health, treatment, and future.

Hereditary factors: Anxiety disorders can, unfortunately, have genetic roots. If you have blood relatives with the disorders, you may be more likely to develop them.

Alcohol or drugs: Using or misusing drugs or alcohol can worsen your anxiety.

Anxiety Prevention

There are many ways to reduce anxiety, but preventing it is even better. Here are some ways to ensure that you tackle your symptoms in time or avoid them completely:

Take time out for yourself on a daily basis. It is easy to get carried away by daily stressors. But allotting some time to yourself can help you rejuvenate.

Eating a well-balanced diet can also do wonders for your physical and mental health. Taking care of your body is just the first step to taking care of other aspects of your life and overall health.

This brings us to another point. Limit your sugar, caffeine, and alcohol consumption. Feed your body a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet.

If a hectic schedule demands too much of your time, trim it away. Try your best to avoid anything that isn’t completely necessary or doesn’t help you relax.

Last but not least, practice journaling. Release your thoughts in a safe place and start anew every day. There is no standard way to prevent anxiety. This is because your symptoms are most likely a result of your unique experiences.

Anxiety Prognosis and Treatment

As with everything else, the prognosis for GAD also depends on certain factors. For one, it depends on how severe the disorder is [8]. In some cases, it may be chronic. This means it might be even more difficult than usual to treat. Most people experience improvement in their symptoms with talk therapy and/or medicine.

Anxiety Survival Rate

The mortality rate of those with one anxiety disorder is lesser than those with two or more anxiety disorders. For the former, the mortality rate ratio is 1.56 for natural causes. For the latter, it is 2.18 for natural causes [9].

Anxiety Treatment Options

Treating and managing anxiety is possible, no matter how severe it is. Here are some of the best ways to do it.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy works by changing thinking and belief patterns [10]. The core belief of this approach is that beliefs trigger thoughts. Thoughts trigger feelings, and feelings produce behaviors.

The strategies of this therapy include:

  • Attention training
  • Reality testing
  • Rational self-talk
  • Cognitive restructuring, and much more.

Behavior therapy

The biggest component of this therapy is exposure. Exposure therapy is all about confronting your fears and practicing desensitization. It allows you to redefine the fear or danger aspect of a trigger or situation for yourself. The standard steps of exposure therapy are:

  • Ranking your fears from the most to least threatening ones
  • Working on the least threatening ones first
  • Thinking about the triggering situation
  • Imagining yourself in that situation and then questioning yourself about those fears
  • Gradually decrease the distance between the feared object/situation and yourself
  • Gradually spending more time in the feared situation
  • Using relaxation techniques to resist any avoidance urge
  • Repeating the exposure until you have enough confidence to cope



There are many ways to treat anxiety. But, the treatment approach depends on factors such as:

  • The type of anxiety
  • The severity of symptoms, and much more.

Understanding your triggers can help you make significant progress when dealing with anxiety.