Signs/Symptoms

Common Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a natural part of our brain to protect us and to handle stressful life events like transitions, tragic events or having financial troubles.

However, when symptoms of anxiety become larger than the events that triggered them and begin to interfere with your life, they could be signs of an anxiety disorder.

Here are some common symptoms of an anxiety disorder:

Excessive Worrying

The worrying associated with anxiety disorders is disproportionate to the events that trigger it and typically occurs in response to normal, everyday situations.

Excessive worrying about daily matters is the basis of generalized anxiety disorder, especially if it is severe enough to interfere with daily life and persists almost daily for at least six months.

Feeling Agitated

When someone is feeling anxious, part of their sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive.

This begins a rippling effect throughout the body, such as a racing pulse, sweaty palms, shaky hands and dry mouth. These symptoms occur because your brain believes you have sensed danger, and it is preparing your body to react to the threat.

A rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking and dry mouth are all common symptoms of anxiety. People with anxiety disorders may experience this type of arousal for extended periods of time.

Restlessness

When someone is experiencing restlessness, they often describe it as feeling “on edge” or having an “uncomfortable urge to move.” If you experience restlessness on the majority of days for more than six months, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Restlessness alone is not enough to diagnose an anxiety disorder, but it can be one symptom, especially if it occurs frequently.

Fatigue

Fatigue can follow an anxiety attack for many and for others, fatigue can be chronic.

Fatigue is tricky because there could be caused by the other common symptoms of anxiety, such as insomnia or muscle tension, or whether it may be related to the hormonal effects of chronic anxiety.

Fatigue can be a sign of an anxiety disorder if it is accompanied by excessive worrying. However, it can also indicate other medical disorders.

Difficulty Concentrating

Difficulty concentrating can be one sign of an anxiety disorder, and it is a reported symptom in the majority of people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.

However, difficulty concentrating can also be a symptom of other medical conditions, such as an attention deficit disorder or depression, so it is not enough evidence to diagnose an anxiety disorder.

Irritability

Most people with an anxiety disorder report feeling highly irritable, especially when their anxiety is at its peak.

Tense Muscles

It is possible that muscle tenseness itself increases feelings of anxiety, but it is also possible that anxiety leads to increased muscle tenseness, or that a third factor causes both.

Muscle tension has been strongly linked to anxiety and treating muscle tension has been shown to help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Insomnia

Waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble falling asleep are the two most commonly reported problems

While insomnia and anxiety are strongly linked, it is unclear whether insomnia contributes to anxiety, if anxiety contributes to insomnia or both.

Sleep problems are very common in people with anxiety. Treating anxiety can usually help improve sleep quality as well.

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks produce extremely intense feelings of fear, accompanied by unpleasant physical symptoms. Recurring panic attacks may be a sign of panic disorder.

Panic attacks can happen in isolation, but if they occur frequently and unexpectedly, they may be a sign of panic disorder.

Avoiding Social Situations

You may be experiencing social anxiety if you find yourself:

  • Feeling anxious or fearful about upcoming social event
  • Worried that you may be judged or scrutinized by others
  • Fearful of being embarrassed or humiliated in front of others
  • Avoiding certain social events because of these fears

People with social anxiety may appear extremely shy and quiet in groups or when meeting new people. While they may not look distressed on the outside but on the inside, they feel extreme fear and anxiety.

Fear and avoidance of social situations may be a sign of social anxiety disorder, one of the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders.

Irrational Fears

Extreme fears about specific things, such as spiders, enclosed spaces or heights, could be a sign of a phobia.

A phobia is defined as extreme anxiety or fear about a specific object or situation. The feeling is severe enough that it interferes with your ability to function normally.

Some common phobias include:

  • Animal phobias: Fear of specific animals or insects
  • Natural environment phobias: Fear of natural events like hurricanes or floods
  • Blood-injection-injury phobias: Fear of blood, injections, needles or injuries
  • Situational phobias: Fear of certain situations like an airplane or elevator ride
  • Agoraphobia: Fear and avoidance of places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.

Irrational fears that interrupt daily functioning may be a sign of a specific phobia. There are many types of phobias, but all involve avoidance behavior and feelings of extreme fear.