Anxiety Signs, Symptoms & Effects

At TrustPoint Hospital we believe education is an important first step in the effort to heal from anxiety. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of anxiety can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Anxiety

Learn about Anxiety

It is perfectly healthy to experience certain levels of anxiety from time to time. As an emotional response, anxiety is able to prevent harm and can increase a person’s sense of alertness in some situations. However, should an individual experience profound feelings of apprehension, worry, or fear to such a degree that it prevents him or her from living a satisfying life, then that person is likely suffering from an anxiety disorder.

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are a variety of anxiety disorders that exist today. While some may seem more extreme than others, what holds true for each is that they can all have an adverse effect on an individual’s functioning if treatment is not sought.

The following anxiety disorders are those that are well-known and impact the lives of countless individuals in the world today:

Specific phobia, which is triggered by a specific stimulus or stimuli, can be a debilitating form of anxiety. Often caused by overwhelming trepidation when an animal, insect, or blood is present, specific phobia can hinder a person in his or her efforts to live a satisfying life.

Generalized anxiety disorder may be an applicable diagnosis for someone who experiences ongoing worry without having a specific trigger for that worry. Without treatment and a lack of healthy coping skills, a person with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, may be unable to function in several situations.

Social anxiety disorder causes those who suffer from it to be apprehensive about situations or circumstances in which they could be vulnerable to social scrutiny. In many instances, the preoccupation with being judged by others is often imagined and not actually occurring when in such scenarios.

Agoraphobia symptoms can emerge when a person is in an open space, is among a crowd, has to utilize public transportation, or has to be in a smaller space. Cornerstone to this disorder is a fear that one is unable to escape and will experience adverse effects as a result.

Panic disorder is a mental illness that can often be confused with a medical condition due to the physical symptoms it can bring about. Those who are given a diagnosis of panic disorder may experience an abrupt onset of symptoms that can be expected to occur or unexpected when they happen. Heart palpitations, feeling as if one’s life is about to end, profuse sweating, and feeling as though one is unable to breathe are but a few of the sensations experienced by individuals with panic disorder.

Separation anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that can impact both adults and young people. When a person experiences a great deal of worry when the possibility of being separated from an important loved one is looming, this disorder may be given as a diagnosis. Additionally, when the threat of separation exists, the individual is likely to take extreme measures to avoid being alone or separate from a particular person.

If you feel that you or an important individual in your life is grappling with any of the above disorders or combination of disorders, it is important to consider seeking treatment for anxiety as soon as possible. By engaging in effective care, the debilitating and complex symptoms of anxiety can be alleviated and a healthy, more productive life can begin.


Anxiety statistics

Per research that was completed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), specific phobia is the most common form of anxiety affecting people today. Affecting somewhere between seven and nine percent of people, rates of specific phobia are higher than rates of social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Additionally, and according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), forty million people in the United States suffer from some kind of clinical anxiety, making this type of illness the most common among Americans of all ages.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for anxiety

It can be difficult to understand why and how a person comes to suffer from an anxiety disorder. So as to help alleviate this confusion, experts in the field of mental health have completed studies designed to explain the causes and potential risk factors for developing an anxiety disorder. The following is a summary of those findings and can explain why someone may come to grapple with clinical anxiety:

Genetic: Researchers have done a great deal of research in order to understand if anxiety disorders are heredity or not. The findings of that research ultimately concluded that individuals with a biological, family history of such disorders are more likely to also develop anxiety disorders at some point as well. Furthermore, it was found that possessing certain personality traits, which are known to be heritable, increases an individual’s chances of eventually being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.   

Environmental: Regardless if a person has a genetic history of mental illness or not, there are certain environmental factors that can cause a person to experience anxiety disorder symptoms. For instance, individuals who are survivors of trauma or those who have a history of having endured a great deal of stress are more likely to develop anxiety disorders when compared to people who do not have those types of backgrounds. Additionally, if an individual does not develop proper coping skills or lacks the support of others, there is an increased risk that he or she will experience anxiety.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Possessing inadequate coping skills
  • Having a subpar support system
  • Personal history of another mental disorder
  • Family history of anxiety disorders or another mental illness
  • Personal history of trauma

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

The telltale warning signs of an existing anxiety disorder or disorders can vary, and only a mental health professional can conclusively determine if the symptoms being experienced indicate that this type of mental illness is present. However, if you are unsure if you or someone you care about is struggling with the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it could be helpful to pay attention to see if any of the following are occurring:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Refusing to leave one’s home
  • Avoidance of certain places, people, or situations due to worry or fear
  • Problems carrying out daily responsibilities

Physical symptoms:

  • Tense muscles
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Stomachaches
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased heartrate
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Paranoia
  • Derealization
  • Depersonalization
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Nightmares
  • Problems with thinking clearly
  • Experiencing rapid thought processes

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Uncontrolled feelings of worry
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of fear
  • Irritability
  • Low self-esteem


Effects of anxiety

There are numerous adversities that can emerge if a person does not receive treatment for an anxiety disorder. Depending upon the severity of the anxiety symptoms and if the individual is also struggling with co-occurring concerns, the following could result, especially if the person suffers from such problems for a long period of time:

  • Onset of substance abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Need for hospitalization
  • Job loss due to absences from work or poor work performance
  • Demise of meaningful relationships
  • Worsening anxiety symptoms
  • Decline in physical health
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Development of other mental health issues

Co-Occurring Disorders

Anxiety and co-occurring disorders

Untreated anxiety disorder symptoms can trigger the onset of other mental disorders. Additionally, if a person is struggling with another type of untreated mental illness or substance use disorder, it is possible for that individual to develop symptoms synonymous with an anxiety disorder as a result. For these reasons, it is quite possible for a person to require care for an anxiety disorder or disorders and one or more of the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Impulse-control disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

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Marks of Quality Care
  • Alzheimer's Association
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Children's Behavioral Solutions
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Tennessee Hospital Association
  • Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network
  • The Jason Foundation