Anxiety Signs & Symptoms

Anxiety can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding Anxiety

Learn about anxiety

Anxiety disorders, which are mental health conditions in which sufferers experience ongoing feelings of fear, apprehension, and worry, are, unfortunately, quite common in today’s world. People, young and old, are known to experience such conditions and equally share the risk of experiencing adverse effects if treatment is not sought to alleviate the symptoms of these conditions. Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias are a few examples of the different types of anxiety conditions that can impact a person’s life.

Allowing symptoms of these disorders to remain present in an individual’s life can ultimately cause a great deal of devastation. The intrusive and overwhelming thoughts that are often involved in these disorders can cause disruption in a youth’s functioning in school, prevent a person from performing efficiently at work, or have the potential to cause increased conflict among loved ones. Furthermore, because anxiety symptoms can be distressing, it is common for sufferers to use or abuse substances as a means of coping with their inner turmoil. Fortunately, there are viable and effective treatment options available that can greatly improve the lives of those who are battling anxiety symptoms.


Anxiety statistics

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that, among all mental health conditions in existence, anxiety disorders are some of the most common. A group of mental health conditions that are known to affect the lives of people of all ages, anxiety disorders can be a factor in the lives of children, adolescents, adults, and senior adults. More specifically, it is estimated that two million young people and forty million adults over the age of 18 currently meet diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for anxiety

Researchers and mental health professionals agree that there are a number of contributing factors and other influences that can lead to an eventual diagnosis of an anxiety disorder in a person. Genetics, environmental influences, and other risk factors are believed to work together and can explain why and how a person comes to experience anxiety symptoms. Consider the following explanations:

Genetic: Through extensive research that examined the prevalence of anxiety disorders among family members, it has been realized that mental health conditions of this kind are likely to be passed down through one’s genes. Because of this finding, it can be said that anxiety can be inherited.

Environmental: Mental health professionals agree that certain environmental influences can trigger or exacerbate anxiety symptoms. A person who endures chronic stress, witnesses or is a victim of violence, or one who is surrounded by chaos has a greater likelihood of experiencing symptoms synonymous with anxiety. This possibility is especially true for those who lack effective coping skills and a strong support network.     

Risk Factors:

  • Exposure to chronic stress, violence, or trauma
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses
  • Lack of effective coping skills
  • Inadequate support system
  • Experiencing abrupt life changes

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

Depending on the type of anxiety disorder that a person is suffering from, the signs and symptoms will vary. Additionally, the age of the sufferer and the specific cause for the anxiety symptoms can impact the obviousness of symptoms present. The following are examples of anxiety symptoms and should be reported to a mental health professional in the event that treatment is sought:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors
  • Avoidance of certain people, places, or situations
  • Procrastination
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Exaggerated startle response

Physical symptoms:

  • Dizzy feeling
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Labored breathing
  • Tension in muscles
  • Stomachaches
  • Appetite changes
  • Inability to fall or stay asleep
  • Frequent urination as a result of ongoing nervousness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Accelerated heart rate

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Cyclical thinking
  • Compulsions
  • Hindered memory
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Ritualistic thinking
  • Poor concentration
  • Fleeting ideas

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feeling detached from one’s surroundings
  • Unpredictable mood
  • Feeling out of body
  • Ongoing nervousness


Effects of anxiety

When the symptoms of an anxiety disorder are left untreated, it is possible for a person to experience a number of detrimental effects in response. With some effects being more costly than others, the following have the potential to occur:

  • Decline in quality and quantity of interpersonal relationships
  • Divorce
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to maintain work performance
  • Loss of employment
  • Substance use or abuse, leading to addiction and dependence
  • Development of self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideations
  • Suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Anxiety and co-occurring disorders

Similar to other mental health conditions, anxiety disorders are known to exist alongside other mental health disorders. Especially if the symptoms of an anxiety disorder remain untreated, it is also likely that an additional mental illness will develop in response to the ongoing feelings of fear, worry, and apprehension that are cornerstone to anxiety. The listed conditions are those that are often diagnosed at the same time an anxiety disorders:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Acute stress disorder
  • Depressive disorders

I came into the Harbor Oaks treatment program experiencing severe anxiety and felt that I had lost complete control of my life. All of the therapists and support groups were incredibly patient, encouraging and helped me manage my symptoms.

– Former Patient
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