What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It is a normal emotion that everyone experiences at times. Some people, however, find it hard to control and it can be disabling. Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

The signs and symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person, but generally include feelings of fear, unease, and worry. Some people may also experience physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, nausea, and fatigue. Common signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Sleep problems
  • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Nausea
  • Muscle tension

Causes of Anxiety

The exact cause of anxiety is not known, but it is thought to be related to changes in the way certain brain structures and neurotransmitters work. Anxiety may be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, such as life events, brain chemistry, or an underlying medical condition.

Treating Anxiety

The treatment of anxiety generally includes lifestyle changes, therapy (cognitive behavioral or other types), medications, or a combination of these treatments. It is important to find a treatment plan that works for the individual and that the person feels comfortable with. Common treatments for anxiety include:

  • Medications such as anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, or beta blockers.
  • Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Exposure therapy to help you gradually confront and face your fears.
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Exercise and other physical activity to help reduce stress and improve your overall health.