Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on
August 13, 2021
Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

You’ve been feeling too anxious, worried, scared, and jittery lately. So, you ask yourself or probably anyone you know, “do I have anxiety?”

This is not an easy question to answer. Nevertheless, I’ll give you plenty of facts and resources to help you make an informed decision on what you should do next, whether or not you have anxiety

So, keep on reading. 

Do I Have Anxiety? 

The short answer is probably, especially if all the signs and symptoms I listed below exist in you. However, the safest answer to this question is to consult a mental health professional, like taking this quiz to determine if you have depression, ADHD, or anxiety

If you’re not ready for a clinical consultation yet, continue reading to find out valuable facts about anxiety disorders and what you can do about them. Better yet, bookmark this page and share it with anyone you know who might be suffering from an anxiety disorder. 

What Is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is your body naturally responding to stressful factors all around you – your brain releases stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, especially if you sense dangers or threats. 

Your anxiety commonly manifests as a feeling of apprehension or fear for the future. You may feel extra nervous or fearful before publicly giving a speech, when it’s your first day in a whole new school, or before hopping into an interview for your dream job. 

Anxiety in itself is not problematic. Normal levels of anxiety commonly manifest as bearable feelings of apprehension, nervousness, and fear

These normal levels of anxiety are not supposed to affect your life negatively. In fact, most often than not, these may help you improve your problem-solving skills and ability to focus on a task at hand. 

Bearable anxiety can warn you about a potential threat or motivate you to accomplish a particular goal. For example, your stress for your coming exam will help you prepare all week, or your anxiety of encountering a bear on your hike will allow you to think for solutions and run away for safety. 

However, if these fearful and anxious feelings become too extreme and last longer for months, and are most likely interfering with your life negatively, then you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder

Do I Have Anxiety or Worry?

One of the most important things you need to take note of is that worry is only an element of anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety has three main elements or components:

  1. Emotional 
  2. Physiological 
  3. Cognitive 

The feelings of dread and fear about your upcoming presentation at work are examples of the emotional components. 

Bodily sensations, such as tightness in your stomach, heart palpitations, and sweating all represent the physical components of anxiety

Negative thoughts and worries like “I’m gonna be so embarrassed during the presentation” or “I can’t do this” or worrying about what will happen next are the cognitive components. 

So, remember that if you are anxious about something and the feeling is bearable, and it goes away after the matter that makes you anxious is taken care of, you might just be worried.

However, if your nervousness, fear, or anxious feelings become more extensive than the things that triggered them, and they begin to interfere with your everyday life, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder

Common Anxiety Symptoms

Symptoms of anxiety disorders often start during your childhood or teen years and may continue as you become an adult. 

These symptoms often occur for a significant amount of time, thereby impairing your daily functioning and causing excessive distress. 

For example, if you are now staying at home instead of going to work or school because of your panic attacks, you are highly likely suffering from an anxiety disorder.

So, here are the most common anxiety symptoms you must take note of if you suspect you’re suffering from an anxiety disorder: 

Cognitive or Mental Symptoms of Anxiety 

  • Extreme feelings nervousness
  • Having irrational fears
  • Excessive worrying or racing thoughts 
  • A constant sense of impending doom, panic, or danger 
  • Trouble focusing or thinking about things other than the current worry 
  • Brain fog 
  • Insomnia or trouble staying asleep 
  • Irritability or easily agitated 
  • Dissociation
  • Having the unreasonable urge of avoiding causes of anxiety
  • Persistent avoidance of social interactions or situations

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety 

  • Constantly tense, restless, or on edge  
  • The constant increase in heart rate 
  • Hyperventilation or rapid breathing 
  • Uncontrolled trembling 
  • Excessive sweating 
  • Persistent feeling of weakness or exhaustion 
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problems 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Blushing or having hot flushes
  • Dry mouth 
  • Hair loss 
  • Dizziness and even fainting  
  • Numb or tingling feet or hands 
  • Skin picking and hair pulling

If you experience one or more of these anxiety symptoms for at least six months now, it is a huge sign that you have an anxiety disorder. 

Common Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are several types of anxiety disorders that you may be experiencing at once, and here are the most common ones: 

Agoraphobia 

This type of anxiety disorder manifests as fear or avoidance of situations or places that are more likely to make you feel helpless, trapped, or embarrassed, which often leads to a panic attack. 

Agoraphobia is often related to traveling alone to crowded places, using public transportation, being in enclosed spaces or open spaces, or leaving your home. 

Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition

This type of anxiety includes excessive panic or nervousness caused by several physical health problems, such as thyroid, heart, and lung conditions. 

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

This type of anxiety manifests as upsetting thoughts about the way you look – these thoughts don’t go away so quickly and affect your daily life negatively. 

People who have BDD are not vain about their appearance. However, they have this compulsive belief that other people are so focused on unpleasant areas of their body, such as a birthmark or scar. 

BDD symptoms include spending too much time staring at your face and body in the mirror and hating what you see, comparing your features with others, and covering yourself with lots of heavy makeup. This often leads to excessive distress and depression. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 

Generalized anxiety disorder includes uncontrolled and persistent worry and stress about events or activities in your daily life, no matter how ordinary they may be. 

Also, when you have a generalized anxiety disorder, your worry is most often more significant than the circumstances you are worried about, and since the feelings of anxiousness are if traveling to control, they manifest physically. 

Generalized anxiety disorder also often co-occur with depression and other anxiety disorders. 

Health Anxiety

You may have a health anxiety disorder if you spend too much time worrying if you have an illness that might never exist even though you are perfectly healthy physically, or if you keep on worrying that you might get ill in the future. 

Some health anxiety symptoms include constant worrying that your doctor may have missed something, or constantly checking your body for signs of diseases, or spending too much time asking other people if they think you are ill. 

Panic Disorder

This type of anxiety often includes repeating episodes of a sudden and extreme sense of terror, fear, or anxiety that lasts and peaks within a few minutes, also known as panic attacks. 

Panic disorders involve heart palpitations, excessive feelings of impending doom, chest pains, and shortness of breath.  

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD anxiety symptoms are developed after you have endured an extremely distressing event in your life or if you have experienced years of trauma. 

Selective Mutism

This type of anxiety commonly occurs in children who consistently fail to speak in certain situations, such as schools and other social gatherings, even though they can communicate well at home. 

Separation Anxiety Disorder 

This type of anxiety is prevalent among children that interferes negatively with a child’s developmental stages – they experience extreme levels of anxiety when they get separated from their parents or other guardians. 

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

This type of anxiety includes high levels of avoidance or fear of social situations due to the risks of being embarrassed.

People who suffer from social anxiety disorders constantly feel self-conscious and worried that other people view them negatively. 

Specific Phobias

Anxiety symptoms from specific phobias manifest as extreme levels of worry and fear when you’re exposed to particular situations or objects, and they provoke panic attacks. 

Some of the most common specific phobias are the following: 

  • Animal phobias: extreme fear of rodents, dogs, snakes, cats, spiders, etc. 
  • Natural environment phobias: extreme fear of thunder, heights, lightning, germs, etc.
  • Blood-injection-injury phobias: extreme fear of injuries, blood, needles, and injections.
  • Situational phobias: extreme fear of certain situations, like a bus ride, elevator ride, or airplane. 

Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

This anxiety disorder involves intense panic symptoms due to misuse of drugs or withdrawal from drugs, toxic chemical exposure, or overuse of medication. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This type of anxiety disorder is characterized if a person has too much obsession or compulsion, or both. 

  • Obsession: This disorder manifests as intrusive and uncontrollable images or thoughts that you can’t stop thinking about and can be extremely difficult to ignore. 

Most of the images and thoughts are too disturbing, thereby causing much anxiety and distress. 

  • Compulsion: This disorder is characterized by a thought or action that you repeatedly think or do to relieve your anxiety. 

This can be obvious or hidden, such as repeating a phrase in your head to calm yourself or checking that your front door is locked multiple times. 

Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder

These are terms used for phobias or anxiety disorders that don’t have specific criteria but are still significant enough to cause disruption and distress in your thoughts and life in general. 

Common Causes of Anxiety Disorders

While the causes of anxiety disorders are not yet fully understood, psychiatrists and psychologists found that specific life experiences, such as traumatic events, trigger anxiety symptoms among individuals without shutting the possibilities of inherited traits. 

So, here are some of the most common causes of anxiety disorders: 

  • Tumors that produce certain hormones for fight or flight
  • Heart disease 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Diabetes 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Thyroid problems (e.g., hyperthyroidism)
  • Withdrawal from alcohol or drugs 
  • Respiratory disorders (e.g., asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Withdrawal from anti-anxiety medications (e.g., benzodiazepines) 
  • Misuse of drugs
  • Other underlying mental and physical health issues 

Common Anxiety Complications

Anxiety disorders do more damage than constant worry or fear – they can lead to worse mental and physical complications, such as the following: 

  • Poor life quality 
  • Depression 
  • Functioning problems at work or school 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Social isolation 
  • Insomnia 
  • Chronic pain, especially headache 
  • Bowel or digestive problems 
  • Suicide 

How To Prevent Having Anxiety Disorders?

Preventing anxiety can be a long shot, especially if your life experiences since childhood have caused you to develop several anxiety disorders. 

However, there are specific steps you can take to reduce, if not eradicate, the impact of extreme anxiety symptoms, such as the following: 

  • Get the help you need as soon as possible: Like many other mental health disorders, an anxiety disorder can be more difficult to deal with if you take too much time before seeking a mental health professional’s help. 
  • Make sure to stay active: try to recreate activities that you truly enjoy and make you feel good. Move your body or get some exercise so that your brain can release dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins which are all great chemicals for mental health. 
  • Avoid drug use and drinking too much alcohol: Drugs and alcohol have been proven to worsen anxiety among adults. Quitting from addictive substances can make you anxious. 

So, it is best to avoid them in the first place. If you want to quit drugs and alcohol use, see a doctor to ensure that you get the help you need. 

When To Seek Help From a Doctor

Normal anxiety symptoms can often be hard to distinguish from actual anxiety disorders. So, here are a few situations that will help you determine if you need to seek a mental health professional’s help: 

  • You now have suicidal thoughts or behaviors; this is the most dangerous, so please seek treatment immediately. 
  • Your extreme worrying is impacting your work, relationships, and other aspects of your life negatively. 
  • You think or feel that your anxiety symptoms may come from a physical health problem. 
  • You have difficulty controlling your anxious thoughts, fears, and worries. 
  • You have a problem with drug or alcohol use.
  • You have other mental health issues that come along with anxiety. 

Remember that your anxiety disorder may worsen over time, but it is easier to treat if you get a professional’s help early. 

So, if you have one or more anxiety symptoms mentioned above, see your doctor or consult a mental health provider as soon as possible.

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