anxiety disorder
Here is a quick checklist of 6 signs and symptoms to help determine whether your anxiety is a disorder or not.

Anxiety is a natural way for the body to prepare for an important event. One may have observed that during or after the event, they began to relax and breathe more easily.

  • Anxiety helps people perform better because it increases alertness.
  • Some people, however, experience anxiety or panic attacks for no apparent reason.

Here is a quick checklist that can help determine whether your anxiety is a disorder or not.

6 signs and symptoms of anxiety disorder

  1. Worrying incessantly and excessively for no apparent reason, making daily activities difficult.
  2. Fear of any social or performance-related situations in which one may be subjected to scrutiny from others. A person may be worried that they will act in a humiliating or embarrassing manner.
  3. Irrational fear of an object or location, such as entering an elevator, and believing that there is no way out.
  4. Flashbacks, nightmares, and subsequent anxiety due to exposure to a highly traumatic event in the past.
  5. Cleaning and rearranging things and objects around excessively and repetitively.
  6. Repeated panic attacks, accompanied by nervous feelings for no apparent reason and the constant fear of another attack.

Anxiety disorders have an impact on one's behavior, thoughts, emotions, and physical health.

Other common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders

Here are other common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders:

9 behavioral symptoms of anxiety disorders

  1. Restlessness and agitation
  2. Inability to sit still and remain calm
  3. Social withdrawal and isolation
  4. Agoraphobia
  5. Inability to fulfill obligations at home, work, or school
  6. Irritability
  7. Exaggerated startle reflex
  8. Reduced ability to carry out normal daily activities
  9. Self-medication with drugs or alcohol to alleviate symptoms

15 physical symptoms of anxiety disorders

  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Fatigue and exhaustion
  3. Insomnia
  4. Changes in patterns of eating or sleeping
  5. Excessive perspiration
  6. Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  7. Muscle tension and pain
  8. Frequent headaches
  9. Nightmares and night terrors
  10. Pounding heart
  11. Fine muscle tremors
  12. Syncope
  13. Cold or sweaty hands or feet
  14. Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  15. Dry mouth

15 cognitive symptoms of anxiety disorders

  1. Difficulties concentrating
  2. Anticipating the worst outcomes
  3. The mind often goes blank
  4. Irrational fears and dread
  5. Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts
  6. Feeling as though one is going crazy
  7. Psychosocial symptoms
  8. Feeling helpless
  9. Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  10. Mood swings
  11. Feeling worthless
  12. Hopelessness and despair
  13. Feeling in danger
  14. Flashbacks
  15. Feelings of dissociation

8 fewer known symptoms of anxiety disorders

  1. Perfectionism
  2. Indecisiveness
  3. Brain fog
  4. Depersonalization
  5. Low-stress tolerance
  6. Reduced concentration
  7. Overplanning
  8. Constant headaches

When dealing with daily stresses and problems, anxiety is a common emotion.

Anxiety becomes a disorder when these emotions are persistent, excessive, and irrational and interfere with a person's ability to function.

  • People who suffer from anxiety disorders experience long periods of intense fear or distress that are out of proportion to actual events.
  • Their brains interpret real or imagined events as far more dangerous than they are. 
  • Their lives are filled with anxiety and fear, which wreaks havoc on their personal and professional relationships.


A Visual Guide to Generalized Anxiety Disorder See Slideshow

5 causes of anxiety disorders

Researchers generally agree that anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and physical risk factors that act together to cause the disorder.

  1. Genetic
    • Having a first-degree relative with an anxiety disorder, such as a parent or sibling, increases the chances of developing this disorder.
    • People who have a family history of mental health issues are more likely to struggle with anxiety.
    • However, not all people with anxiety disorders have a family history, and not all people with a family history develop an anxiety disorder.
  2. Physical
    • Neuroimaging studies (such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scans) of people with anxiety disorders reveal subtle differences in brain areas.
    • Furthermore, abnormal levels of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, may play a role in the development of anxiety disorders.
    • Anxiety can be caused by medical conditions, such as thyroid issues, asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
  3. Environmental
    • Anxiety disorders can develop because of several significant life events and stressors that overwhelm an individual's ability to cope.
    • Anxiety symptoms can be triggered by workplace stress, the loss of a loved one, or troubled relationships.
  4. Substance use
    • When the effects of drugs, alcohol, and other substances begin to wear off, heavy users experience anxiety problems as part of the withdrawal symptoms.
  5. Personality factors
    • Anxiety-related issues can arise in people who have certain personality traits, such as perfectionists or people who like to be in control.

7 risk factors of anxiety disorders

  1. The female gender is more susceptible
  2. Former or active military duty
  3. Chronic, unremitting stress
  4. Childhood history of abuse, trauma, or neglect
  5. Chronic physical health disorder
  6. Certain personality types
  7. Substance use and abuse

Anxiety disorders affect both children and adults.

People frequently misinterpret these disorders to be mental weakness or instability. The social stigma associated with mental illness frequently prevents people suffering from anxiety disorders from seeking help.

People frequently suffer from more than one anxiety disorder, and those who suffer from anxiety disorders frequently suffer from depression, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

7 common types of anxiety disorders

Here are 7 common types of anxiety disorders:

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder: Excessive, uncontrollable anxiety about everyday issues, such as health, work, or finances.
  2. Social phobia or social anxiety disorder: A condition in which people avoid social or performance situations out of fear of being embarrassed or rejected.
  3. Panic disorder: Sudden Panic attacks intense episodes of irrational fear, shortness of breath, dizziness, and other physical symptoms, occur regularly.
  4. Agoraphobia: Avoid certain situations due to apprehension of having a panic attack (agoraphobia is often associated with panic disorder).
  5. Specific phobias: Fears that are irrational and only apply to a specific situation, such as a fear of animals, insects, places, or people. Claustrophobia, for example, is a specific fear of enclosed or confined spaces.
  6. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): As a way of coping with anxiety, unwanted thoughts and impulses (obsessions) cause repetitive, routine behaviors (compulsions).
  7. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): When fear or avoidance feelings persist after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic life event. It is characterized by distressing memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and sleeping difficulties.

Anxiety disorders, if left untreated, can lead to social isolation, stifled career growth, or even co-occurring substance abuse. For these reasons, if a person experiences anxiety in a way that is similar to the common types of anxiety listed, they should seek professional help.


Panic attacks are repeated attacks of fear that can last for several minutes. See Answer

What are the treatment options for anxiety disorder?

Despite the negative impact an anxiety disorder can have on a person’s life, it is a treatable condition, especially with the right medications and therapy.

Therapy for anxiety symptoms

According to the American Psychological Association, several different therapeutic approaches are considered when treating an anxiety disorder.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

  • CBT can help recognize and change the way a person thinks about or reacts to certain thoughts, which can help change the feelings and behaviors associated with their anxiety.
  • There are subtypes of CBT that are more effective depending on the anxiety disorder.

Other therapeutic approaches

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy: Focuses on living in the moment.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy: Focuses on the acceptance of a situation without judgment.

Medications for anxiety symptoms

  • Antidepressants are frequently regarded as one of the most effective medication options for people suffering from anxiety disorders. Because of their track record of treatment success, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are frequently recommended first.
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) function similarly to SSRIs and are a potential treatment option for people who cannot tolerate SSRIs.
  • Benzodiazepines have traditionally been used to treat acute anxiety symptoms. However, because using benzodiazepine increases the risk of a substance use disorder, other options, such as beta-blockers and antihistamines, should be considered.

Besides therapies and medications, simple strategies, such as relaxation techniques, positive thinking, stress management, leading a healthy lifestyle, and regular exercise, can effectively reduce anxiety and contribute to emotional well-being.

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Medically Reviewed on 1/7/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

WebMD. Anxiety Disorders.

National Institutes of Health. Anxiety Disorders.

Rethink Mental Illness. Anxiety disorders.

American Psychiatric Association. What Are Anxiety Disorders?