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
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:
A physical problem, such
as heart or lung disease. A complete medical examination may be needed before
an anxiety disorder can be diagnosed.
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 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.
Symptoms include feelings of
dying or losing control of yourself, rapid breathing (hyperventilation), numbness or tingling of the hands or lips, and a racing heart. You may feel
dizzy, sweaty, or shaky. Other symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pain
or tightness, and an irregular heartbeat. These symptoms come on suddenly and
People who have repeated unexpected panic attacks and
worry about the attacks are said to have a
extreme and irrational fears that interfere with daily life. People with
phobias have fears that are out of proportion to real danger. And although
these people are aware that their fears are not rational, they are not able to
Phobias are common and are sometimes present with
other conditions, such as panic disorder or
Tourette's disorder. Most people deal with phobias by
avoiding the situation or object that causes them to feel panic (avoidance
A phobic disorder occurs when the avoidance behavior
becomes so extreme that it interferes with your ability to participate in your
daily activities. There are three main types of phobic disorders:
Fear of being alone or in public places where
help might not be available or escape is impossible (agoraphobia)
Fear of situations where the individual might be exposed to
criticism by others (social phobia)
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Home treatment, combined with
professional treatment, can help relieve
Recognize and accept your anxiety about specific
fears or situations, and then make a plan for dealing with it. For example,
if you are constantly worrying about finances, set up a budget or savings
Don't dwell on past problems. Change what you can to help you
feel more comfortable with present concerns, but let go of past problems or
things you cannot change.
Be kind to your body:
Relieve tension with vigorous exercise or
Practice relaxation techniques. For more information, see
Avoid caffeine, such as coffee, tea, colas, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine can keep you in a tense, aroused condition. For more information, see the topic
Do not smoke or use
smokeless (spit) tobacco products. Nicotine stimulates many physical and
psychological processes, causes your blood vessels to constrict, and makes your
heart work harder. For more information, see the topic
Exercise during the day.
Even a brisk walk around the block may help you stay calm. For more
information, see the topic
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.