Anxiety: An In-Depth Guide To Anxiety – Causes, Symptoms & More (2021)

Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives, whether it is apprehension over life changes, social situations, difficult times, or other stressors. For some, this feeling is fleeting or passes with time. Having anxiety at times can be natural, and feeling anxious occasionally is not a cause for concern. However, anxiety becomes a disorder when it overpowers your thinking, impairs your functioning, and is consistent rather than momentary.

If you feel like you are experiencing anxiety and it is taking a toll on your day-to-day life, you may be among the one in 13 people who suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you’re not sure whether you are feeling anxiety, we can help you learn more.


Mental illness has both psychological and physical symptoms. Below is a list of common symptoms of anxiety disorder. This list is not exhaustive, so please reach out for clarity if you don’t see your symptoms on this list:

  • You constantly worry — You find you’re always wondering what could go wrong and feel consumed by worrying thoughts.

  • You feel unable to relax or enjoy downtime — You find that time to yourself or an opportunity to “chill out” feels just as stressful as if you weren’t relaxing at all.

  • You feel tense — You feel you’re constantly under emotional stress, a state of worry, or a state of nervousness.

  • You experience muscle tension — You experience muscle tightness and body aches in conjunction with your mental tension.

  • You avoid potentially stressful situations — You consistently opt-out of events, opportunities, or new experiences due to an intense fear of what could go wrong.

  • You have trouble concentrating — You find yourself jumping from task to task because staying focused on one thing feels difficult or impossible.

  • You’re unable to cope with uncertainty — You feel an intense apprehension when you don’t know exactly what will happen.

  • You have a constant feeling of dread — You anticipate things with apprehension, fear, or extreme reluctance. Feelings of dread can also cause shortness of breath.

  • You feel overwhelmed — You feel like everything is too much, and your anxiety makes it difficult to complete tasks.

  • You have intrusive thoughts — You find it hard to stop thinking about things that bother you.

  • You’re getting poor sleep, or you lack sleep — You find that constant worry disrupts your sleep.

  • You’re experiencing restlessness — You are jumpy or overly alert.

  • You always feel fatigued — You find your anxiety is exhausting, and you feel tired all of the time.

  • You are having stomach problems — Your anxiety is manifesting in nausea or diarrhea. These stomach problems can be chronic or acute.

  • You have heart palpitations or chest pain — Your heart is racing from your feelings of stress.

  • You have difficulty breathing or have a lump in your throat — Your anxiety causes you to be short of breath. This could even feel like you are choking.

  • You have dizziness — You feel lightheaded, you hyperventilate, or your breathing becomes shallow, leading to dizziness.

  • You experience chills or hot flashes — You feel cold and hot within a short time.

  • You’re irritable — You feel on edge all the time or find you are easily angered.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are six common types of anxiety disorders. Your anxiety may fall into one or more of these categories, depending on your triggers or specific symptoms.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is characterized by a constant state of worry and frequent anxiety symptoms without any particular trigger. If you have GAD, anything can cause your anxiety. It can be incredibly hard to control how you feel when suffering from GAD.


Agoraphobia is the fear of spaces and situations that may cause panic attacks, public embarrassment, or feelings of helplessness. Triggers for this can include leaving home, being in a crowd, or riding in a vehicle. 


Anxiety may present as phobias. Certain objects, sensations, or situations can trigger phobias that induce worry and fear. The phobia can include a fear of heights, a fear of spiders, or a social phobia. 

Anything can be a trigger, and it is important to recognize your triggers to help you control your anxiety.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is an intense worry or fear of being apart from someone or something you love. Separation anxiety can occur when you’re away from your family, pets, or the comfort of your living space. The fear is overwhelming, and time apart from your loved one can feel intolerably stressful.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder stems from the fear of being judged or disliked in a group of your peers. This anxiety can occur when meeting with a large group of people, even if you know them. Feeling overwhelmed when meeting new people is another sign of social anxiety.

Panic Disorder

People who have a panic disorder have sudden panic attacks. These can happen without any clear trigger and can even wake you from a deep sleep. These attacks are unexpected and recurring.

Other Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are countless other forms of anxiety disorders. The above are a few of the most common. Other types of anxiety you or someone you know may experience are:

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) — People with OCD spend hours a day focusing on their obsessions and compulsions, which can be thoughts or actions, even if they know these thoughts or obsessions are not rational.

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — PTSD is often felt by those who have witnessed or experienced life-threatening events. This disorder causes them to re-experience the traumatic event repeatedly in their mind. 

  • Selective Mutism — This anxiety disorder is when children who can speak suddenly find themselves unable to do so in certain settings, like school or other situations they find stressful.

  • Unspecified anxiety disorders — If the specifics of an anxiety disorder do not fit a known or recognized disorder, the fears and feelings accompanying it fall under the umbrella of unspecified anxiety.

Causes of Anxiety

Several factors cause anxiety. Medical issues, stress, and trauma can all be causes or risk factors for developing anxiety. This list is not complete, but these are some common causes.

  • Medical problems — Heart disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes, and side effects from medications needed for health issues are linked to anxiety symptoms.

  • Trauma — As a child or an adult, witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event can put you at risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

  • Health-related stress — Illness or other health concerns can trigger a persistent state of worry about your future health.

  • Stress — Whether it is one large event like a death or a series of smaller events like work and family issues, an overload of stress can bring on anxiety.

  • Personality — Some people are more prone to experiencing anxiety based on their personality.

  • Family history — If you have relatives with anxiety, you could be at risk as well.

  • Other mental health concerns — Depression and other disorders often occur alongside anxiety.

  • Drugs and alcohol — General use, misuse, or withdrawal from these substances can trigger anxiety.


Living with anxiety can be difficult, but there are ways to minimize anxiety’s impact on your life. Solutions can be tailored to you based on your personal needs and the precise details of your anxiety. Therapy, medications, mindfulness practices, and preventative measures can all be used to reduce your anxiety symptoms.


Talk therapy is an excellent anxiety treatment. Talk therapy allows you to express how you feel and work with a qualified therapist to understand those feelings. Once you better understand what is causing you to experience anxiety, you can reduce the symptoms. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular talk therapy tool. This type of therapy goes beyond recognizing your feelings; it helps you identify the causes and learn coping strategies. Successful CBT will help improve your daily life by providing you with the tools to manage your triggers and reactions.


Many medications can help you manage your anxiety. Your prescription will depend on your specific symptoms. There is no one-size-fits-all medication, and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you. 

However, we can look to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) as the most commonly used antidepressants for anxiety, though they are not the only options.

SSRIs relieve anxiety by blocking your brain from reabsorbing serotonin. More free serotonin can lead to improved mood. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Celexa.

SNRIs relieve anxiety symptoms by blocking both serotonin and norepinephrine from being reabsorbed by your brain. This stabilizes these neurotransmitters and can improve mood, minimize anxiety symptoms, and even alleviate panic attacks. Commonly prescribed SNRIs include Cymbalta and Effexor.

Mindfulness Practices

Meditation and mindfulness practices can be incorporated into your anxiety management plan as a tool for better in-the-moment control. Learning to meditate, bring yourself inward, and focus on the small details of the present moment can help distance you from your worry. 

If you are triggered by a social situation, something at work, or an inanimate object, you can utilize mindfulness to manage your emotions. Forcing yourself to think about your breaths, what you are eating, smells around you, or other non-triggering stimuli can reduce symptoms almost instantly.

Preventative Measures

While there is no way to predict who will experience anxiety, there are ways to help reduce your risk of developing it. Even if you have an anxiety disorder, you can use these measures to help prevent your symptoms from worsening. Preventative measures can improve your quality of life with a few simple daily choices.

First, get help early. The longer you wait for treatment, the harder it will be to overcome your symptoms. It’s never too late to find treatment, but seeking help as soon as you notice a problem will make the process easier. 

Identifying a problem can be difficult for people who have been anxious for long periods because they may believe it is their normal state. If any of the symptoms of anxiety resonate with you, no matter how normal they may seem, you may benefit from treatment.

Stay active. Another key to warding off anxiety or reducing symptoms is to stay active, physically and mentally. People who exercise regularly and enjoy themselves while doing it are less likely to develop new or worsening anxiety symptoms. 

Staying involved with friends and family can keep you happy as well. It can be easy to retreat into yourself when suffering from any form of anxiety, but it is important to try to stay social.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. Avoiding these two substances will reduce your risk of anxiety and other mental health conditions. Misuse and withdrawal can cause anxiety symptoms, but so can responsible or moderate use. 

Take note of how you feel when you ingest these substances and compare them to how you feel without them. You may notice a correlation and find that staying away from them all together is best for you.


Regardless of which form of anxiety you have, its symptoms can be difficult to experience. It is vital to recognize the signs of anxiety and take action to care for yourself. Identifying the causes with a therapist and going through proper treatment can reduce your symptoms and put you back on track to be enjoying life to the fullest again.

Don’t wait another day—get started today with a mental health assessment from Mood.



Anxiety disorders – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Anxiety: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment and More | PsyCom

Understand the Facts | ADAA