One Step at a Time
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Ongoing anxiety, though, may be the result of a disorder such as generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety. Anxiety disorders are commonplace in socity affecting nearly millions of adults.
Anxiety manifests itself in multiple ways and does not discriminate by age, gender, or race.
Stressful events such as a test or a job interview can make anyone feel a bit anxious. And sometimes, a little worry or anxiety is helpful. It can help you get ready for an upcoming situation.
For instance, if you’re preparing for a job interview, a little worry or anxiety may push you to find out more about the position. Then you can present yourself more professionally to the potential employer. Worrying about a test may help you study more and be more prepared on test day.
But excessive worriers react quickly and intensely to these stressful situations or triggers. Even thinking about the situation can cause chronic worriers great distress and disability.
Excessive worry or ongoing fear or anxiety is harmful when it becomes so irrational that you can’t focus on reality or think clearly. People with high anxiety have difficulty shaking their worries. When that happens, they may experience actual physical symptoms.
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Several types of anxiety disorders exist:
Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition includes symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are directly caused by a physical health problem.
Generalized anxiety disorder includes persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about activities or events — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is out of proportion to the actual circumstance, is difficult to control and affects how you feel physically. It often occurs along with other anxiety disorders or depression.
Panic disorder involves repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a rapid, fluttering or pounding heart (heart palpitations). These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations in which they've occurred.
Selective mutism is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as 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 disorder is a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that's excessive for the child's developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves high levels of anxiety, fear and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
Specific phobias are characterized by major anxiety when you're exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias provoke panic attacks in some people.
Substance-induced anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are a direct result of abusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance or withdrawal from drugs.
Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder are terms for anxiety or phobias that don't meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorders but are significant enough to be distressing and disruptive.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if:
You feel like you're worrying too much and it's interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life
Your fear, worry or anxiety is upsetting to you and difficult to control
You feel depressed, have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors — if this is the case, seek emergency treatment immediately
Your worries may not go away on their own, and they may get worse over time if you don't seek help. See your doctor or a mental health provider before your anxiety gets worse. It's easier to treat if you get help early.