Anxiety is a mental and physical reaction to a perceived threat. It is a normal biological and psychological reaction to danger [fight or flight response] and can help to protect us and to focus our attention on problems and solutions. However, when anxiety becomes more than just a temporary reaction to stress and becomes a dominant force or habit, it can affect daily life and can become debilitating.

Anxiety symptoms may include:

  • Sweating
  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • Fear or panic
  • Worry
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping or falling asleep

When these symptoms become prolonged, extreme, and/or debilitating, they typically fit into a category/diagnosis. Examples include: 

  • Phobias – fear of situations or objects that may cause panic or embarrassment, many times resulting in extreme actions to avoid something. This may result in people withdrawing from society altogether to avoid these situations or fears. 
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Typically a person with General Anxiety Disorder will have and excessive amount of intense worry or anxiety in several areas of life, such as work responsibilities, finances, health, or even minor concerns. 
  • Panic Disorder – aka Panic Attacks. A short period of intense anxiety usually accompanied by sweating, increased heart rate, muscle contractions or weakness, and a sense of dread. People who have had panic attacks tend to withdraw from situations which have caused them episodes in the past out of a fear of another attack. A person may become fixated on the fear of the panic attack and on preventing them from happening again.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – Anxiety that specifically involves social situations, especially where interaction with others may be involved, especially in a group setting. Those affected may be able to function relatively normally in in general social situations such as grocery shopping or other nonpersonal errands but experience high levels of anxiety when it comes to spending time with acquaintances, friends, family, or coworkers in social situations.
  • Substance Abuse Anxiety Disorder – This is anxiety which is directly attributed to the use of drugs (including alcohol), misuse of these drugs, and/or drug/alcohol withdrawal. 

While not a complete list of anxiety disorders or their symptoms, this list does represent a good cross section of what an individual with Anxiety may encounter. Anxiety symptoms may also be part of or co-occurring with a Depressive disorder or other Mood Disorder, Grief experiences, or adjustment disorders, so it is necessary for a clinician to evaluate all biopsychosocial issues to correctly diagnose a person. Additionally, the diagnoses of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder were historically considered under the umbrella of anxiety disorders; as psychiatry has evolved over time, these two disorders have become differentiated into distinct diagnoses, yet both disorders also include various symptoms of Anxiety. 


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