Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a medical condition where a person experiences worries that are persistent and sometimes come out of the blue. There are many types of anxiety and anxiety disorders. Anxiety is a common condition that effects many people. 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 issues that affect your relationship when you or your partner have anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety or GAD
When you suffer from GAD, you feel a pervasive sense of worry. You may ruminate about 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. 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.
A phobia is an intense and highly specific fear. Sometimes, phobias can be initiated by a past trauma. 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 prevents you from doing things that you’d like to be able to do, like to drive yourself to work or school. That is a phobia affiliated with trauma.
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 is a type of anxiety disorder where someone has physical and mental symptoms that seemingly come out of the blue. When experiencing a panic attack, you could experience a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, racing thoughts, or sweating. When you have a panic attack, you might feel like you’re dying or 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. 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. You might have panic attacks because you’re triggered by something from your past. There are panic attacks that also result in symptoms that are pervasive in anxiety disorders such as OCD or GAD.
Social anxiety is when you’re afraid that you’ll do something embarrassing when you’re with a group of people. 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. 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 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 considered extremely common. Approximately 2% of the population in the United States has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and between 7-9% have specific phobias. It ends up being millions of people. Statistics show that women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders than men are. It’s important to note that being afraid is a natural response to a perceived threat. Someone with an anxiety disorder experiences their symptoms in a way that is extremely real. 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 is available and obtainable in a variety of ways.
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.
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 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.
It is also worth noting that anxiety is a medical condition that can run in families. If any of your family members have anxiety, 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; it is just one of them. 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 increase the risk for someone to develop anxiety, 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Panic Disorder: A panic disorder results in panic attacks that interfere with a person’s day to day life. 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 symptoms include sweating, trembling, and an increased heart rate.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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?
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.
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.
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. When it comes to social anxiety disorder GAD panic disorder or phobias, your symptoms can improve substantially with therapy.
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. Therapy modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT are known as highly effective ways to treat anxiety disorders, and anxiety medication is another option. Some people with anxiety disorders treat anxiety with a combination of medication and therapy, where many others find success in therapy alone. For all guidance regarding treatment and medication, 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 anti anxiety medications. For all guidance regarding medication, please consult a licensed medical professional.
Why does my body shake with anxiety?
Anxiety disorders involve a number of symptoms, including shaking or trembling. 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, 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. 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.
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?
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.