Anxiety - Topic Overview
Feeling worried or nervous is a normal part of everyday
life. Everyone frets or feels anxious from time to time. Mild to moderate
anxiety can help you focus your attention, energy, and motivation. If anxiety
is severe, you may have feelings of helplessness, confusion, and extreme worry
that are out of proportion with the actual seriousness or likelihood of the
feared event. Overwhelming anxiety that interferes with daily life is not
normal. This type of anxiety may be a symptom of another problem, such as
Anxiety can cause physical and
emotional symptoms. A specific situation or fear can cause some or all of these
symptoms for a short time. When the situation passes, the symptoms usually go
Physical symptoms of anxiety include:
- Trembling, twitching, or
- Feeling of fullness in the throat or
- Breathlessness or rapid heartbeat.
- Lightheadedness or
- Sweating or cold, clammy
- Feeling jumpy.
- Muscle tension, aches, or
- Extreme tiredness.
- Sleep problems,
such as the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, early waking, or
restlessness (not feeling rested when you wake up).
Anxiety affects the part of the brain that helps control how
you communicate. This makes it harder to express yourself creatively or
function effectively in relationships. Emotional symptoms of anxiety
- Restlessness, irritability, or feeling on edge
or keyed up.
- Worrying too much.
- Fearing that something
bad is going to happen; feeling doomed.
- Inability to concentrate;
feeling like your mind goes blank.
Anxiety disorders occur when people
have both physical and emotional symptoms. Anxiety disorders interfere with how
a person gets along with others and affect daily activities. Women are twice as
likely as men to have problems with anxiety disorders. Examples of anxiety
disorders include panic attacks, phobias,
obsessive-compulsive disorder, and
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Often the cause of anxiety disorders is not known. Many people with an
anxiety disorder say they have felt nervous and anxious all their lives. This
problem can occur at any age. Children who have at least one parent with the
diagnosis of depression are more than twice as likely to have an anxiety
disorder than other children.
Anxiety disorders often occur with
other problems, such as:
panic attack is a sudden feeling of extreme anxiety or
intense fear without a clear cause or when there is no danger. Panic attacks
are common. They sometimes occur in otherwise normal, healthy people. An attack starts suddenly and usually lasts from
5 to 20 minutes but may last even longer, up to a few hours. You have the most
anxiety about 10 minutes after the attack starts.