Anxiety is a common and normal feeling of stress or fear. You can feel stressed about work or feel afraid of flying on an airplane. These instances of anxious feelings are part of being human. However, when these feelings are overwhelming and prevent you from doing everyday activities, it may be due to an anxiety disorder.
What does an anxiety disorder look like?
Anxiety likely affects how you function in your day-to-day life, but symptoms vary with each person. Common symptoms may include:
- Restlessness or irritability
- Feeling like something awful might happen or anticipating worst-case-scenarios
- Feeling dread or apprehension
- Racing heart or shortness of breath
- Stomach pain, diarrhea and/or frequent urination
- Excessive sweating
- Tremors or twitches
- Headache, fatigue and/or trouble sleeping
Types of anxiety disorders
There are many types of anxiety disorders, each with their own set of symptoms. Common anxiety disorders include:
- Panic disorder. Characterized by sudden, extreme feelings of fear called panic attacks. Physical symptoms are severe and include chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and an upset stomach.
- Phobias. A phobia is an extreme and irrational fear or aversion to a certain trigger. People may work hard or behave erratically to avoid a phobia trigger. Being fearful and trying to stay in control of a trigger can take over a person’s day-to-day life.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by chronic, extreme worry in day-to-day life due to perceived threats. This constant worry can make it hard to concentrate or complete daily tasks. It can also make a person fatigued and experience headaches, tension and/or nausea.
- Social Anxiety Disorder. Social anxiety is characterized by intense fear about social interactions or social humiliation. This fear can lead to behaviors like isolation or not participating in conversations. Symptoms of panic attacks are a common reaction with social anxiety.
What causes anxiety?
Many factors can lead to anxiety. Common factors are:
- Genetics. Anxiety disorders can run in families.
- Stress. A stressful or traumatic situation is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder.
How do I know if I have an anxiety disorder?
If you have noticed symptoms of anxiety in your everyday life, reach out to your doctor. They can determine your diagnosis and help you get connected to treatment options.
How is anxiety treated?
Anxiety disorder treatment plans differ for each person. It is important to build a treatment plan with your doctor that fits your lifestyle. A treatment plan might include:
- Psychotherapy or counseling
- Relaxation techniques
- Self-care strategies