Anxiety Articles

Anxiety is everywhere. It can be beneficial, and it can also be harmful. It is the force that wakes us up in the morning to go to work, but it is also the force that keeps us awake at night. Someone once defined anxiety as the “fear of the future.” Anxiety can become crippling if left untreated. Read below to find out more about how this condition can affect your life and your relationships.

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Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA

Anxiety

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a medical condition wherein a person experiences worries that are persistent and sometimes come out of the blue. It is a type of emotion that is often characterized by an anticipation of a future concern, feelings of worried thoughts, avoidance behavior, tension, and may come with some physical changes like increased blood pressure. There are many types of anxiety and anxiety disorders. Anxiety is a common medical condition that affects many people, although not a lot of people may seek medical help for it. Anxiety risk factors may involve a combination of environmental, psychological, developmental, as well as genetic factors. For example, children who had unhealthy or unstable attachment with their parents or caregivers may likely develop anxiety disorders like social anxiety, separation anxiety disorder, or phobias. Knowing the difference between an anxiety disorder which may require medical help and normal feelings of anxiety is a great way to help a person identify the condition and get the treatment needed. 

People who have anxiety disorders may experience frequent intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may also have physical symptoms which includes feeling dizzy, trembling, sweating, rapid heartbeat, etc. When a person experiences a situation that naturally causes worry triggers or is potentially harmful, not only is it normal for feelings of anxiety to creep in, it is also necessary for survival. The sense of impending danger or a predator approaching would tick off alarms in the body which leads to evasive actions. These alarms are obvious, in forms of sweating, increase in heartbeat, increase in sensitivity to their surroundings, etc. The sense of danger causes them to have a rush of adrenalin, a hormone that sends chemical messages to the brain, and this then triggers the anxious reactions, producing the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. This is what prepares people to either confront the potential threat physically, or flee to safety. For a lot of people, some of the things that raise feelings of anxiety include their work, family life, health issues, finance, and other crucial areas of their lives which demand a person’s attention without necessarily requiring the fight-or-flight response. The feeling of nervousness which a person may have during a difficult situation or before an important life event is a natural reverberation of the original fight-or-flight reaction. This feeling or reaction can be very critical for survival. For instance, the anxious feeling of the possibility of being hit by a car while crossing the road will make a person instinctively look both ways to avoid danger. 

If you have anxiety, there are ways that you can get help. Here are some different types of anxiety and anxiety disorders. In this section, you will read about common anxiety disorders and various different issues that can affect your relationship when you or your partner have anxiety. 

Generalized Anxiety or GAD

Generalized anxiety disorder basically has to do with persistent and excessive worry which affects your daily activities. People who have GAD usually experience chronic worry and feelings of anxiety almost all the time, and they may not know why they are having these anxious feelings. When you suffer from GAD, you feel a pervasive sense of worry. You feel like something bad is going to happen and you may ruminate about these things for many days. It feels like something’s not right when you experience GAD. Living with an anxiety disorder can make you feel like you’re constantly out of control. Your adrenaline runs high in a way that is uncomfortable and can cloud your thinking. The sort of worry and tension may come with obvious physical symptoms like feeling on edge, easily fatigued, restlessness, loss of concentration, stomach upset, having trouble sleeping (insomnia), and muscle tension. Imagine that you’re driving a car and there aren’t any brakes. That is the feeling that someone has when they experience Generalized Anxiety Disorder. More often than not, these worries are usually brought up in everyday situations like family health, work responsibilities, or even minor things like repairing a car, appointments or even chores in the house.

Specific phobias

A phobia is an intense, excessive, persistent, and highly specific fear of a situation, activity, or object which is generally not harmful. Sometimes, phobias can be initiated by a past trauma. They are called triggers, and these triggers may range from situations, to animals and even everyday objects. For example, let’s say that you had a car accident and now experience a pervasive fear of getting in a car because you’re worried that you’ll get in a crash. This fear and anxiety causes a high level of distress and prevents you from doing things that you’d like to be able to do, like to drive yourself to work or school. This is an example of a phobia affiliated with trauma. A person who has phobia for something may acknowledge that what they feel is extreme or illogical, but they may still find it difficult to control their feelings of anxiety around the trigger.

On the other hand, some phobias develop without any pointed reason or trauma. Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. You may have heard of common phobias like arachnophobia or claustrophobia. People are afraid of different things, and if the symptoms of this anxiety disorder are causing you significant distress, it’s essential to seek the help of a mental health provider.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder where someone has physical and mental symptoms that seemingly come out of the blue. This type of disorder is usually characterized by unexpected and repeated panic attacks, as well as the fear of experiencing another episode of panic. When experiencing a panic attack, you could experience a rapid heartbeat (hyperventilating), shortness of breath, racing thoughts, or sweating. When you have a panic attack, you might feel like you’re having a heart attack and experience symptoms that lead to a genuine worry that this is happening. That’s how terrifying living with panic disorder can be. A panic attack may also be accompanied by Agoraphobia, which is a fear of being in a situation where help may not be available or escape may be difficult in the event that things go wrong or out of hand. People who experience this may be scared of leaving their house, traveling on public transport, or even visiting a shopping mall. Such people would always try to avoid situations that may cause them anxiety. They’ll only choose to go out in the company of a friend or partner or rather shop for their groceries online instead of going to a physical store, etc. This is referred to as avoidance. To be diagnosed with a panic disorder, you would have experienced these attacks for more than a month. Panic disorder can overlap with symptoms of PTSD or other diagnoses and can also result in symptoms that are pervasive in anxiety disorders such as OCD or GAD. 

Social anxiety

Social anxiety is when you’re afraid that you’ll do something embarrassing when you’re with a group of people. It comes in the form of fear of public criticisms, negative judgement, public embarrassments in social situations. You might be fearful of being around others because you are concerned that they won’t like you, or you’re afraid of being awkward. Alternatively, it might cause you anxiety to be in the presence of others, and you aren’t sure why. You might have a fear of public speaking or having to eat in a public place. You may also experience other feelings like stage fright, fear of intimacy, and high levels of anxiety which are centered around rejection or humiliation. Maybe, you’re afraid that you can’t make small talk or can’t even think of the words you want to say when you’re around other people. Social anxiety is one of the most common children anxiety disorders; children who did not enjoy healthy attachment with their parents or caregivers may grow up with some form of anxiety- become shy, timid, and socially withdrawn. Social anxiety can be extremely detrimental to your mental health and can impact your life dramatically if left untreated.

The universal nature of anxiety disorders

As mentioned above, anxiety disorders are extremely common. According to the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 2% of the population in the United States has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, between 2-3% have panic disorder, 7% have social anxiety disorder, and between 7-9% have specific phobias. Statistics show that women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men are. It’s important to note that being afraid or anxious is a natural response to a perceived threat. However, when someone has an anxiety disorder, their feelings of anxiousness or anxiety is overwhelming to the point where it can impact their daily life. Whether it’s you, your partner, or someone else that’s suffering from an anxiety disorder or is concerned that they might be living with one of the anxiety disorders mentioned above, remember that anxiety is a manageable condition. Help for anxiety or any similar mental health problem is available and obtainable in a variety of ways.

Get help

You can get help for anxiety from a mental health provider online or in your local area. If you’re interested in online counseling, whether that’s individual counseling or couples counseling, you can search the network of counselors at ReGain and find someone that works for you. Living with anxiety can be hard, but there is hope, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety can be caused by a number of different stimuli, but whatever the trigger is, anxiety stems from a person’s basic instinct. Anxiety risk factors or symptoms, which can include feeling an increased heart rate to anxiety or panic attacks, are a response to humans’ fight or flight instinct. An anxiety disorder includes unexpected symptoms at times, too, such as irritability or GI issues. People experience feelings of anxiety when they are confronted with unknown or threatening stimuli. This threatening stimulus doesn’t necessarily have to be terrifying. It just has to challenge any aspect of a person’s perceived sense of security.

Everyone experiences occasional anxiety as a reaction to everyday situations. For example, a student might have sweaty hands and a nervous attitude before an exam, despite doing well on all of their school work. Or, a business person might have a pounding heart and a dry throat just before giving a big presentation, even though they are well prepared. These anxiety symptoms are just a part of life. Additionally, anxiety is a normal response when there is a genuine threat. When someone has an anxiety disorder, they experience the physical and psychological responses affiliated with a genuine threat when there is not one. 

Excessive anxiety, intense anxiety, or anxiety that doesn’t pass with time as circumstances change, can be a sign of anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders aren’t uncommon; many adults suffer from a panic or anxiety disorder. In fact, when it comes to mental health conditions anxiety disorders are among the most common, but that doesn’t mean that they are easy to live with. An anxiety disorder is defined by intense anxiety that can interfere with daily life. This means that anxiety disorders prevent people from doing their daily activities. This is because, with an anxiety disorder, the anxious reaction that a person gives is out of proportion to the actual trigger. Basically, the brain of a person suffering from an anxiety disorder thinks and reacts out of fear and excessive anxiety, even if the person is not in any actual danger.

If any of your family members have anxiety, that is a risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder, meaning that you are at an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Having a close family member with anxiety is not the only thing that can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder; while it can run in families, that’s just one risk factor. Other things that can increase the risk include trauma, stress, certain personality traits like perfectionism, physical health conditions, and having another mental health condition. While these things act as risk factors and increase the risk for someone to develop an anxiety disorder, they may also worsen anxiety. For example, if someone already has an anxiety disorder and they undergo a traumatic experience, it may worsen anxiety.

What are the 6 types of anxiety disorders?

There are six main types of anxiety disorders. The main types of anxiety disorders include:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is brought on when a person worries or is anxious about a wide variety of different things in their life. For them, anything from job performance to their relationship status to natural disasters and world politics could trigger anxiety. It’s hard for them to control their worries and anxieties, which makes it difficult to focus on daily activities. Other symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include frequent stomach aches, frequent headaches, muscle tension, trouble sleeping, and feeling irritable. 
  2. Phobias: A phobia is an extreme fear that is targeted at one specific object or situation. This object or situation is avoided at all costs, whether or not the fear of it is rational. The fearful reaction to the person towards this object or situation is often way out of proportion to the threat the object or situation actually poses. For it to be considered a phobia as a mental health condition, the fear must persist in its intense form for at least six months.
  3. Panic Disorder: A panic disorder results in recurrent panic attacks that interfere with a person’s day to day life. It is usually with an overwhelming combination of both psychological and physical distress. These panic attacks usually come on without much warning when a person comes in contact with a trigger for their anxiety. This causes an intense feeling of anxiety that also has quick and often extreme physical reactions. These physical reactions are panic attacks, whose core symptoms include feeling dizzy, sweating, trembling, and an increased heart rate. Other symptoms which may occur are shortness of breath, hot flashes or chills, abdominal pains, nausea, fear of losing control, feeling numb, feeling choked, chest pains, feeling detached, etc. Because the symptoms are severe, a lot of people who experience panic attacks may think they are having a heart attack and may go to a hospital emergency room. Panic attacks may be expected in some cases as a reaction to a feared object or person, or unexpected, when there really is no specific reason to panic. Panic attacks may also be accompanied with some other mental disorders like PTSD or depression.
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia: Social anxiety disorder (an anxiety disorder previously called social phobia) is characterized by a constant fear of rejection or judgment from other people in social situations, which leads to severe discomfort and worry when it comes to interacting with other people. People who suffer from this anxiety disorder often express a fear of saying the wrong thing, being judged by their peers, or feeling embarrassed. This leads them to avoid social interaction, except with people that they feel comfortable with or close to. Other symptoms can include trouble sleeping and selective mutism in social situations. 
  5. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): These two anxiety disorders are grouped together simply because they’re so unique. In the case of OCD, the patient relies on things proceeding exactly as expected in order to avoid the panic and anxiety brought on by facing unknown circumstances. With PTSD, the patient has strong or extreme reactions to a traumatic event in their past. This traumatic event continues to trigger anxiety and panic even after the danger of the situation has passed. These traumatic life events continue to trigger anxiety in the patient. Note that in the latest version of the DSM, both OCD and PTSD are now categorized separately from anxiety disorders. They are still recognized as mental illnesses that are closely linked to anxiety disorders.
  6. Separation Anxiety Disorder: Separation anxiety disorder is most common in children, although adults can also suffer from this anxiety disorder. It is characterized by the patient’s intense worry about being separated or removed from a caregiver (such as a parent) or another closely attached figure in their life. Separation anxiety is a pretty common part of a child’s natural development, but it can stand in the way of their emotional growth if it becomes too intense or excessive. Separation can be triggered in older children or even adults by the loss of a loved one or a huge shift in the roles of those that they’re emotionally attached to.

These types and examples of anxiety disorders all qualify as mental disorders according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The National Institute of Mental Health has devoted tons of time, money, and resources to researching anxiety disorders and their associated risk factors, as well as running clinical trials for several different anti anxiety treatments. Selective mutism is another known anxiety disorder. However, selective mutism is generally diagnosed in kids. Anxiety and fear are two different things. Nervousness also differs from an anxiety disorder. It’s important to know the facts about anxiety disorders so that you can identify symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or other conditions in yourself and seek the appropriate care if applicable. 

What does an anxiety attack feel like?

Most of the time, anxiety disorders include cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms. People who have had anxiety or panic attacks usually report some very similar experiences. In most general cases of an anxiety attack, the onset is sudden and is the direct result of a trigger for anxiety. People generally report feeling lightheaded or woozy, experiencing an increased or pounding heart rate, and shortness of breath. Other common indicators of a panic or anxiety attack include chest pain, perspiration, and shaking or trembling. 

Anxiety or panic attacks come as episodes of panic or fear. Usually, they occur suddenly and without warning. Usually, anxiety attacks may peak within 10 minutes, and rarely lasts for more than 30 minutes. During that short time, however, the person may experience such severe terror or that they are totally losing control of themselves or their emotions.

In some cases, a panic or anxiety attack can look a lot like a heart attack or cardiac arrest. However, heart disease runs in families and you’ll know if you have a medical condition that makes you susceptible to heart palpitations or heart attack. If you don’t have a history of heart-related health conditions but you do have a past with anxiety disorders, then the chances are that the chest pain is related to a panic or anxiety attack and not to a heart attack. After the attack is over, you may have worries or fears about another attack happening. For instance, someone who may have experienced social anxiety disorder previously may become withdrawn out of fear of saying the wrong thing, rejection or criticism.

Can anxiety be cured?

Despite several clinical trials in the top research labs around the world, there is not a single agreed-upon cure for anxiety disorders. Instead, treatment of anxiety disorders focuses largely on managing and reducing the physical symptoms of the anxiety disorder, while trying at the same time to work through the underlying psychological issues that are often seen with anxiety disorders. 

According to the national alliance on mental illness, of all mental health conditions anxiety disorders are the most commonly experienced mental health conditions for those 18 and older in the United States at this time. The national alliance on mental illness website has extensive mental health information regarding anxiety disorders, statistics, and treatment options, as well as information regarding other mental health topics. As with any mental health conditions anxiety isn’t something to be ashamed of. Whether it’s social anxiety disorder GAD panic disorder or OCD, there are treatments available that can help. 

Looking at health information regarding anxiety online is where many people start when they first begin identifying anxiety symptoms. Reading basic information is a great idea to get an anxiety disorders overview, but it isn’t a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice. If you identify with the health information you have read about anxiety, it is important to see a licensed mental health provider who can assess and help treat your symptoms. 

Can anxiety go away with time?

Anxiety can go away with time, especially as your life changes and if circumstances become more reliable and easier to predict. If you have less in your life to worry and be anxious about, the feelings of anxiety naturally go away. This is likely going to be the case of the anxiety you’re experiencing is situational anxiety rather than an anxiety disorder. Situational anxiety, which refers to anxiety is the result of the situation and not a mental health diagnosis, can go away over time. When it comes to social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder GAD, selective mutism, panic disorder, phobias, and closely linked disorders such as PTSD or OCD, your symptoms can improve substantially with therapy or treatment. 

However, an anxiety disorder probably won’t just disappear with time. Instead, as you learn to manage and control the symptoms of the anxiety disorder, you’ll become more effective at living with the anxiety disorder. Many people do get to a point where their anxiety disorder is no longer something that will interfere with daily activities on a regular basis. 

As stated before, anxiety symptoms can be managed and treated. It's not something that typically has a finish line. For most people with diagnosable anxiety disorders, symptoms can get better or worse depending on different factors that are currently present in their life. If you start to notice worsening signs and symptoms, it is important to reach out to a mental health provider. Treatment for anxiety is out there, and it is well researched. You can see a counselor or therapist for talk therapy. Again, cognitive behavioral therapy CBT is one of the leading treatments for anxiety disorders. It's a form of psychotherapy that is known to help a variety of mental health conditions. If you have anxiety, it is certainly something that may be beneficial to you. Stress management is another thing that's very important for people with anxiety disorders. Stress can worsen anxiety, regardless of what kind of anxiety you have.

Therapy modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT (a type of psychotherapy) are known as highly effective ways to treat anxiety disorders. Some people with anxiety disorders treat anxiety with a combination of therapy and other treatment modalities, where many others find success in therapy alone. For all guidance regarding treatment of anxiety, please consult a licensed professional. 

If you have a trauma induced anxiety disorder, you’ll likely find the most success in treatment for trauma. Identifying the root of the problem, whether it’s perfectionism, trauma, or something else, is helpful for those who find that their anxiety symptoms stem from a specific cause because it allows you to work through the cause itself. For example, if your anxiety pairs with perfectionism and it’s something you struggle with, working on perfectionism in therapy will likely help you to manage your symptoms. 

Is anxiety a mental illness?

Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions included and described in the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM). Feeling a normal amount of anxiety in your day to day life does not constitute mental health disorders or mental health concerns. Anxiety and fear are something we all experience from time to time, but an anxiety disorder is marked by anxiety that is out of proportion to the actual trigger or situation causing symptoms to heighten. If you’re feeling intense anxiety more often than not, you could have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety, social phobia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. These anxiety disorders fall on a large spectrum of severity. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, which is a less severe type of anxiety disorder. From the more intense anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder definitely falls within the bounds of mental health concerns.

All anxiety disorders are considered mental health disorders, but some are more disruptive than other anxiety disorders. Anxiety is something that can interfere with daily activities, and if this is true for you, it’s important to reach out to a medical or mental health professional. Your general doctor will be able to give you a referral to a mental health professional in most cases, though you can also find a mental health provider by calling your insurance company or searching the web. In order to assess the mental health conditions impact on your life and general health condition, you should speak with a mental health specialist. Only by treating anxiety disorders as a mental illness to be treated will you be able to overcome the anxiety disorder’s negative or disruptive effects on your day to day life. 

It is also important to note that other conditions can be linked to anxiety at times. According to Mayo Clinic, anxiety can be linked to physical health conditions such as IBS. Also, according to Mayo Clinic anxiety can co-occur with mental health conditions such as depression. It is common for those with anxiety to struggle with an additional comorbid or co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, eating disorders, substance use disorder, or anxiety.  

How do I get tested for anxiety?

If you suspect that you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, you should talk with a mental health specialist such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Even if you can pinpoint the situation that is causing you to feel anxious, you should talk to a professional. The mental health specialist will talk you through a test to determine your anxiety disorders and your levels of anxiety. They are able to help you find clear and effective treatment options that will help you work through the anxiety disorders in a professional way. This is a great way to find support and legitimate treatments for anxiety disorders you might be feeling. 

Due to the fact that symptoms of anxiety can peak within minutes, anxiety symptoms can be very scary at times. For example, if symptoms of panic disorder peak within minutes and you have a panic attack, you might experience difficulty controlling symptoms and may not know what to do. Especially if you’ve never had a panic attack before and don’t know what’s going on, you might feel like you are dying or as though you’re having a heart attack. The good news is that anxiety disorders are manageable. 

You should talk to a mental health care professional even if – and especially if – you don’t know what is causing or triggering your anxiety disorders. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist can diagnose an anxiety disorder by running a series of tests with you. Even if you don’t know what triggers anxiety, the specialist will be able to help you manage the symptoms while you find support and explore treatments for anxiety disorders. 

How are you diagnosed with anxiety?

Mental health professionals, such as therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, are responsible for diagnosing people with anxiety disorders. The process of diagnosing an anxiety disorder is pretty similar to the diagnosis process for other health conditions or mental health disorders. First, the patient talks with a professional about their mental health concerns. The therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist might have them complete a test and ask about any existing mental health conditions. The specialist might also ask about family history of anxiety or anxiety disorders, since anxiety disorders can run in the family according to recent research. Once they’ve gathered all of the information, the specialist will be prepared to diagnose the anxiety disorder. From there, they can recommend different courses of treatment, which range from a support group to one-on-one therapy.

Why does my body shake with anxiety?

Anxiety disorders involve a number of symptoms, including shaking or trembling. When you experience anxiety fear is also commonly present. Many people experience shaking or trembling when they suffer from an anxiety attack. In most cases, the trembling stops once the anxiety or panic attack is over. If you are shaking for a long period of time, or after a specific incident or anxiety attack has passed and feel as though these symptoms interfere with your daily life, you should consult a medical professional. Again, symptoms of anxiety including shaking can be scary and disorienting. It’s important to give yourself compassion if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety.

Can anxiety go away naturally?

While it may not be possible for time to naturally heal all of the underlying causes of your anxiety disorder, it is possible to get better at managing symptoms over time and feel as though anxiety is just a normal part of life. Just like any skill, managing the symptoms of anxiety disorders can be practiced and improved. And, since all experiences and circumstances in life are bound to change, it’s likely that you’ll face times in life with fewer anxiety triggers. You can make use of these naturally calmer and more predictable times to reflect on and hone your skills and tools for dealing with your anxiety disorder. That way, when triggers pop up again in your life, you’ll be better prepared to face them and work through them in a healthy and productive way!

If you have someone in your life with generalized anxiety disorder social phobia or another anxiety disorder, it’s likely that you want to know how to support them best. You can support anxiety disorder sufferers by asking what is the most beneficial for them personally. Generalized anxiety disorder social phobia, OCD, PTSD, and other mental health conditions display somewhat differently in different people. Ask your loved one what anxiety looks like for them and how you can help when they experience symptoms. Unanimously, one thing that is helpful for people living with anxiety disorders is compassion. You don’t want to get angry with them for their symptoms. Instead, speak in a calm tone, use kindness, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. 

Therapy is one of the best and most well-researched methods of natural or non-pharmaceutical treatments for anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy CBT in particular, as you know, helps many people with anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder GAD or social anxiety disorder. Stress management is another very important part of managing an anxiety disorder; it's important for everyone, but for those with anxiety disorders, it's a natural way to help manage symptoms. Since anxiety disorders are complex, stress management isn't a "cure," but it is something that can help tremendously in many cases, especially paired with therapies such as CBT. CBT and subsets of CBT like DBT can be helpful in learning realistic stress management and anxiety management strategies. Some people, in fact, attend counseling or therapy to talk about stress in absence of a diagnosable disorder. 

If you are looking to treat a specific phobia, exposure therapy will typically be part of your treatment. Exposure therapy occurs when someone is exposed to the feared object and works with a mental health provider to overcome their fear of that feared object. Facing a feared object in exposure therapy can seem very frightening to those with a specific phobia, but note that your exposure will be supervised and controlled. 

For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a licensed medical professional. 

What helps anxiety naturally?

Some steps that you can take to help manage an anxiety disorder while also managing the physical and psychological symptoms of the anxiety disorder include exercising regularly, not drinking alcohol or using other controlled substances, meditating, keeping a regular sleep schedule, ensuring that you get the nutrients you need, discontinuing the consumption of or limiting caffeine, and practicing deep breathing or mindfulness exercises. That said, these things will not cure anxiety. Again, anxiety disorders such as trauma induced anxiety disorders generalized anxiety disorder social anxiety disorder or panic disorder are mental health conditions that can be helped substantially but that have no known cure. Therapy is another way to help anxiety naturally. Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms are proven to improve in many people who undergo CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. Even for those with chronic anxiety symptoms, therapy can help. Different anxiety disorder treatments work for different people, so if it takes some trial and error to determine what works for you, it’s okay. You will get through this, and it is very possible for those with anxiety to live a fulfilling life. 

How do you calm down anxiety?

According to American Psychiatric Association, an anxiety disorder is one of the most mental disorders which affects close to 30% of adults at some point or the other in their lives. However, anxiety disorders can be treated, and people who have anxiety disorders can lead normal, productive lives. There are a number of treatments which are effective for managing and treating anxiety. One of the best natural ways to calm down control anxiety is to practice controlled breathing and mindfulness. This technique works for other mental health conditions as well, but it is particularly useful for calming down anxiety because controlled breathing helps to manage many of the physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Taking several measured, deep breaths is an effective way to lower your heart rate, which is one of the most persistent symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Feelings of impending doom, shaking or trembling, excessive worry, and irritability are other common anxiety symptoms. Breathing exercises, self-talk, and working through cognitive distortions are often helpful for those facing these symptoms. However, anxiety isn't something you need to face on your own. With the help of a mental health professional, you can work through anxiety triggers and get the support you need.

What are specific ways can I use to calm my anxiety?

There are a lot of things which may trigger worries, but not everyone who worries a lot has an anxiety disorder. Some people may feel anxious because of lack of exercise or sleep, an overly demanding schedule, pressure at work or in the family, or even as a result of consuming too much caffeine. Bottom line is that an unhealthy or stressful lifestyle can cause one to feel anxious- whether or not they have an existing anxiety disorder. Here are some self-help tips which can help you to reduce anxiety and manage symptoms of disorder if you do have an anxiety disorder:

  • Stress management. If your stress levels are high, you may need to find effective ways to manage your stress and avoid it leading to disorders. What are your anxiety triggers? Carefully examine your routines- restrategize, rearrange, reprioritize; see which ones you can do away with or give up, those you can turn down, or delegate responsibilities. 
  • Reach out and connect with others. Isolation and loneliness can trigger anxiety or worsen it, but opening up and talking about your worries can, oftentimes, make them feel lighter and less overwhelming. Hook up with friends, join a support group, or get a loved one who you trust and can share your worries and concerns with. If you do not have someone to talk to, it is not too late to begin to build new friendships or a network of support.
  • Regular exercises. Exercises are a natural and very effective stress buster and anxiety reliever. You can aim for about 30 minutes of aerobics on most days (you can break them into shorter sessions/timings if that’s much easier for you). Activities that target moving both your hands and legs are usually more effective. Taking walks, running, swimming, martial arts, or dancing can go a long way to help you relax your muscles.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques like mindfulness meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, etc., can be very effective in reducing anxiety symptoms when they are practiced regularly. They help to increase emotional wellbeing and feelings of relaxation.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep or insufficient sleep can exacerbate thoughts and feelings of anxiety, so getting between seven to nine hours of good quality sleep at night can help you relax your muscles and reduce your anxiety level.
  • Watch your caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake. You may want to consider reducing your intake of caffeine or cut it out completely if you find yourself frequently struggling with anxiety. Alcohol consumption can also make anxiety worse for a lot of people. Likewise, research suggests that although a lot of people consider cigarettes calming, nicotine is actually a powerful stimulant which can lead to higher levels of anxiety. So, cutting down on these things or doing away with them can be very helpful in reducing your anxiety level.

Put an end to the cycle of constant worrying. Worrying can become a psychological habit, and one that you can deliberately work on, and learn how to break it. You are more at risk of anxiety disorder when worry is a natural or constant reaction to any situation. Creating a set worry period to give yourself a time limit on the worry, learning coping strategies and how to accept uncertainties, and challenging thoughts and situations that get you anxious are some of the strategies that you can use to significantly reduce worrying and calm your anxious thoughts.

While self-care routines and strategies can be quite effective for dealing with anxiety, if these fears, worries, or anxiety attacks begin to get too frequent or out of hand, you may need to consider seeking professional help. Although there is no definite cure for anxiety disorders, therapies such as CBT are proven to be beneficial and effective for people with anxiety disorders. 

Anxiety treatments can help with physical symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as trembling or shaking, as well as the psychological signs and symptoms. Anxiety panic and phobias aren't easy to live with, but symptom management is possible.

If you believe that you may have an anxiety disorder and are wondering how to get properly diagnosed, a psychiatrist is someone who is able to diagnose and treat mental health conditions, whereas mental health counselors are able to provide counseling, but cannot diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Many people see both a therapist or counselor and/or a psychiatrist for anxiety treatment. Remember that you aren't weird or broken. Different forms of treatment help different people, and it's okay if you need to try a couple of different things before you find what works. 

For all guidance regarding treatment options, please consult a licensed medical professional.

Why is my anxiety so bad?

Everyone experiences fear responses when met with a threat. However, people with anxiety disorders including social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder GAD, panic disorder, and so on, experience disproportionately intense fear or anxiety to their circumstances. This includes physical symptoms of anxiety and intense fear in addition to psychological symptoms. There are common risk factors for anxiety disorders including trauma, personality, and substance abuse or substance use disorder. It isn't your fault that you have anxiety. 

How long can anxiety last?

The national institute of mental health website states that, "For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time." Anxiety disorders don't disappear. Anxiety disorders including GAD, SAD, and panic disorder are common mental illnesses or mental health conditions, however, that can be managed and treated through therapy or other treatment modalities.

How do you know if you have anxiety?

The best way to know if you have anxiety is to go to a healthcare professional who is licensed to diagnose conditions. A psychiatrist, for example, is able to conduct the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. There are specific criteria for different anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder GAD, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, specific phobias, and panic disorder. There is information on each anxiety disorder on the national institute of mental health (NIMH) website alongside warning signs and symptoms for disorders such as anxiety disorders and information about treatment, including anxiety treatment. Other websites you can use for information on mental health topics include the national alliance on mental illness (NAMI) website and the department of health and human services website. 

The department of health and human services has information about anxiety disorders and many other mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia etc.) as well as physical health conditions. Most people will suspect that they have anxiety if they notice the signs of anxiety disorders in themselves. In that case, you can go to your primary care provider or a psychiatrist and express that you believe you may have an anxiety disorder. For example, you might say, "I think I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Can I please get an evaluation for that?" Then, express the ways it's impacting your life and the symptoms you see. Diagnosing most anxiety disorders, especially common mental illnesses or conditions like GAD or social anxiety disorder, is generally pretty easy for providers who are qualified to engage in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. In some cases, someone who has thyroid problems may develop acute anxiety or other mental health conditions like depression. Again, anxiety disorders are common. Whether you suspect that you have an anxiety disorder or simply need someone to talk to, don't be afraid to reach out for support. 

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