Anxiety Symptoms, Types of Anxiety Disorders & Co-occurring Treatment
Anxiety activates the stress response, also known as the fight, flight, or freeze response. This survival reaction immediately stimulates the body into emergency action . The stress response is our ally when in danger. Because of the many changes, the stress response brings about, stress responses stress the body. A body that is stressed can exhibit symptoms of stress.
Therefore, anxiety disorder symptoms are symptoms of stress. They are called anxiety symptoms because anxiety is the main source of stress that causes the body to become stressed and symptomatic.
There are two main types of anxiety symptoms:
Acute, which are caused by an active stress response.
Chronic, which is caused by chronic stress, which we call stress-response hyperstimulation because stress hormones stimulate the body.
Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, the type, number, intensity, duration, and frequency of anxiety symptoms will vary from person to person. For example, one person might have one or just a few mild anxiety symptoms, whereas another person might have all of them and to severe degrees.
The severity of anxiety disorder will also have a bearing on the type, number, frequency, intensity, and duration of symptoms. Higher degrees of anxiety disorder severity often produce higher seriousness and number of anxiety symptoms.
The best way to manage anxiety is to understand its symptoms. The more you know what causes your anxiety symptoms, what they mean, why you struggle with them, and what you can do to manage them, the more you’ll be able to start making real progress on your anxiety symptoms.
Some individuals experience anxiety symptoms that are one hundred percent mental with no physical symptoms. Others experience anxiety symptoms that are one hundred percent physical. They are anxious physically even though they have no worries and their minds are clear. Most individuals encounter some combination of the two. There is no wrong or right way to experience anxiety.
Anxiety has hundreds of symptoms, but these symptoms may change depending on the type of anxiety you have. “Anxiety disorders” is an umbrella term for a group of anxiety conditions, each of which has unique signs and symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety
The most common anxiety symptoms are those directly caused by the fight-or-flight system — the system in your brain responsible for keeping you safe from harm. When it works improperly, it causes anxiety.
Usually, if you have anxiety, you will experience some combination of these symptoms. Much depends on the anxiety disorder what you’re paying attention to, how long you’ve had it, and more. For instance, some anxiety symptoms, like chest pains, are more common in panic attacks than in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) .
Don’t take this list to mean that you do or do not have anxiety. Anxiety is more complicated than that. But if you do have an anxiety disorder, you will likely experience at least fifty percent of the following common anxiety symptoms.
- Breathing Difficulties
- Chest Pain
- Chest Pressure / Chest Tightness
- Concentration Problems
- Depersonalization / Derealization
- Difficulty Speaking
- Digestion Issues
- Feeling Ill
- Feeling Overwhelmed
- Feeling Shaky
- “Heart Attack Symptoms”
- Heart Pounding / Heart Palpitations
- Insomnia / Drowsiness
- Lack of Air
- Low Energy
- Muscle Tension / Sore Muscles
- Shallow Breathing
These are some of the most common anxiety symptoms. If your symptoms do not appear on this list, that does not make them rare. There are still thousands of anxiety symptoms that millions of people all over the world experience.
Mental Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety is a mental health illness, so the best way to start talking about anxiety symptoms is to look at the mental ones. Anxiety changes your brain. It alters how you think, how you process, and how you perceive information. For instance, a person without anxiety may see a random individual looking at them and think nothing of it. However, a person with anxiety may see the same person looking at them and worry that they’re being judged or that the person is dangerous. Therefore, the same situation is processed differently.
Likewise, anxiety can cause strange mental symptoms. It can cause anhedonia, a total loss of the ability to feel pleasure. It can cause intrusive thoughts, like imagining yourself being violent to a child even though you have no violent tendencies. It can even cause you to forget who you are. This is because anxiety changes the neurochemicals in your brain that tell you how to think and act. But rest assured, healing anxiety can also change your brain back to its previous state. Like an illness, anxiety alters your brain, but none of those changes have to be permanent.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel helpless, trapped, or embarrassed.
Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition includes symptoms of panic or intense anxiety that are directly caused by a physical health problem.
Generalized anxiety disorder includes excessive and persistent anxiety and worries about events or activities — even ordinary, routine issues. The worry is out of proportion to the actual situation, is challenging to control, and affects how you feel physically. It often happens along with other depression or anxiety disorders.
Panic disorder includes repeated episodes of sudden feelings of fear and intense anxiety or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). You may have feelings of impending danger, chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid, fluttering, or heart palpitations. These panic attacks may lead to worrying about them happening again or avoiding situations in which they’ve occurred.
Selective mutism is a consistent failure of children to speak in certain situations, such as school, even when they can speak in other situations, such as at home with close family members. This can interfere with school, work, and social functioning.
Separation anxiety disorder is a childhood disorder characterized by anxiety that’s excessive for the child’s developmental level and related to separation from parents or others who have parental roles.
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves high levels of anxiety, fear, and avoidance of social situations due to feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness, and concern about being judged or viewed negatively by others.
Specific phobias are characterized by major anxiety when you’re exposed to a specific object or situation and a desire to avoid it. Phobias provoke panic attacks in some people.
Substance-induced anxiety disorder is characterized by symptoms of panic or intense anxiety that are a direct result of taking medications, misusing drugs, withdrawal from drugs, or being exposed to a toxic substance.
Other specified anxiety disorders and unspecified anxiety disorders are terms for phobias or anxiety that don’t meet the exact criteria for any other anxiety disorders but are significant enough to be disruptive and distressing.
Effects of Anxiety on Your Body
Anxiety can really seem to cause almost every symptom imaginable because it does. It mimics health conditions. It can make you so sensitive to how you feel that normal perceptions feel seems abnormal. It can create its own issues — such as acid reflux, which then causes chronic cough.
In almost any mental health book, the anxiety symptoms list is extremely short, and this leads to individuals developing even more anxiety as they worry that they may have something else, that something else may be wrong with them.
But if you do research, talk to individuals who have anxiety, and learn more about the mental condition, you will find that there are hundreds of anxiety symptoms out there. All the more reason to find ways to cure it.
Blood and Circulatory System-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety can also affect how your heart pumps blood, how your body communicates, and so much more. The following are some anxiety symptoms of the blood and circulatory system:
- Circulation Problems
- Hormonal Changes
- Low Blood Pressure
Anxiety can also make some issues that you already struggle with worse. Luckily, most of the time, these issues are only temporary and do not cause any long-term damage or lead to any long-term risks.
Temperature Perception-Based Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety also affects the way you perceive ambient temperature, which in turn can make you feel hot, cold, or both. The following are some associated anxiety symptoms:
- Body Temperature Changes
- Cold Sweat
- Feeling Cold
- Hot and Cold Flashes
In most cases, they are largely harmless.
Somatic Anxiety Symptoms
The following are some symptoms of anxiety that affect the entire body but do not necessarily fit into any one category. Be sure to explore the links below to learn more about each symptom as well as what may cause it and what you can do about it.
- Aches and Pains
- Body Odor
- Joint Pain
- Pins and Needles
- Trouble Moving
- A Weakened Immune System
Anxiety symptoms can also migrate, making them feel like they affect your entire body.
Symptoms of Anxiety that Affect the Organs
Although slightly less common, anxiety can also affect the organs, especially the largest organ of your body — your skin. We discussed chest pains and a rapid heartbeat earlier as the adrenaline from anxiety frequently affects your heart. But you may also find that anxiety affects your organs or leads to similar organ symptoms. See the following:
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Burning Skin
- Heart Palpitations
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Kidney Problems
- Red Blotches
- Skin Color Changes
- Slow Heart Rate
- Spleen Issues
If you struggle with any of these issues, it makes sense to see a doctor for safety. But anxiety really does cause all of these conditions, and if you struggle with them, curing your anxiety may be the only way to eliminate them.
Chest, Digestive, and Breathing Anxiety Symptoms
Your chest is more than muscles. Inside your chest are your lungs, which affect breathing, and several parts of your digestive tract. These can lead to a variety of chest anxiety symptoms, including:
- Angina-like symptoms
- Esophagus Problems
- Heartburn and Acid Reflux
- Respiratory Problems
- Rib Pain
Some of the most common anxiety symptoms include chest pains, rapid heartbeat, and trouble breathing, so be sure to review that section as well for other anxiety symptoms of the chest.
Abdomen-Related Anxiety Symptoms
Right below the chest is your abdomen, which houses your stomach and has some of the most sensitive muscles in your entire body. Those who struggle with stress regularly have abdominal pain and other conditions. See some of them below:
- Abdominal Pain
- Stomach Cramps
- Stomach Pain
- Stomach Problems
- Upset Stomach
Stress has a strong effect on stomach acids and digestion.
Severe Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety is not just about feeling anxious – it is also about the physical and real symptoms caused by an anxiety disorder. The anxiety and deep fear of a person are supported by severe, physical symptoms of anxiety.
Physical Symptoms of Severe Anxiety
Physical symptoms of severe anxiety are typical in panic attacks and include:
- Palpitations, pounding heart or accelerated heart rate
- Shaking or trembling
- Shortness of breath; feeling of being smothered or choked
- Chest pain
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Chills or hot flashes
- Becoming detached from oneself and the environment
- Numbness or tingling sensations
Psychological Symptoms of Severe Anxiety
Intense fears of losing control, going crazy, or dying are common psychological symptoms of severe anxiety. There are additional symptoms, though, depending on the type of anxiety disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can produce symptoms of severe anxiety including:
- Feelings of a shortened life
- Psychologically reliving the traumatic event
- Overreacting with intense fear to anything reminiscent of the traumatic event
- Overreacting with fear when startled
- Looking for and seeing danger everywhere
Behavioral Symptoms of Severe Anxiety
Behavioral symptoms of severe anxiety often take the form of avoidance. Because severe anxiety symptoms are so terrifying, people will do almost anything to avoid feeling them. This might include:
- Not seeing certain people
- Not going to specific places
- Not having specific experiences
These severe symptoms of anxiety can even escalate until the person refuses to leave the house or talk to most people.
Other severe behavioral symptoms of anxiety include those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People with OCD become obsessed with ideas such as:
Once an obsession takes hold, the person feels an overwhelming urge to perform an action, a compulsion, also known as a ritual. Examples of severe compulsions include:
- Picking of skin and hair around the face until there are open wounds
- Washing of hands until the skin is raw
- Being unable to leave the house due to repeated checking of things related to safety such as turning off the stove
Anxiety Symptoms in Women
The majority of anxiety symptoms in women and men are similar, but there are some anxiety symptom differences. The following are just some characteristics of anxiety symptoms in women:
- Women have a higher likelihood of being affected due to the hormonal changes caused by the menstruation cycle. It’s common for women to experience an increase in anxiety symptoms around their monthly cycle.
- Women can also experience an increase in symptoms due to the biological changes of miscarriage, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum recovery, and menopause.
- Women are more emotionally expressive than men and share their experiences with others more than men. When under stress, women tend to reach out to others for support, which can ease the burden of stress.
- For many women, sharing their experiences with anxiety and how they feel is therapeutic whereas sharing is stressful for many men.
- Women also experience anxiety over different things than men. For instance, women have a tendency to be anxious about relationships whereas men are less likely.
- Women are more concerned about their appearance and how they interact with other women than are men.
- Women secrete higher levels of oxytocin than men. Oxytocin helps to reduce the adverse effects of stress hormones.
Anxiety Symptoms in Men
The majority of anxiety symptoms in men and women are similar, but there are some anxiety symptom differences. The following are just some characteristics of anxiety symptoms in mem:
- Stress hormones affect other hormones, including male hormones, such as testosterone, which can result in reduced sex drive.
- Men aren’t as expressive as women. Men tend to bottle up their emotions, try to problem-solve on their own, and prefer solitude when stressed.
- Men also tend to be anxious about different things than women. Finances, supporting the family, the responsibility of children, career matters, being successful, being financially secure.
- Men secrete less oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress’s impact. Consequently, stress takes a greater toll on men than women.
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack, or even dying.
Many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away, perhaps when a stressful situation ends. But if you’ve had recurrent, unexpected panic attacks and spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder . Although panic attacks themselves aren’t life-threatening, they can be frightening and significantly affect your quality of life. But treatment can be very effective.
What Can I do to Manage my Anxiety Symptoms?
Anxiety disorders are easier to treat when caught early. See a medical or mental health professional if:
- You are using alcohol or drugs to manage your anxiety or other mental health concerns.
- You have suicidal thoughts. Seek immediate help.
- You think you are worrying too much and it’s interfering with your normal lifestyle.
- Your anxiety is causing problems with sleep and rest.
- You avoid situations and circumstances because of anxiety or fear.
- You have become afraid of strong feelings of anxiety or fear.
- You believe anxiety and fear are uncontrollable.
- You think your anxiety is linked to a medical health problem or medication.
- Anxiety is interfering with your work, family, or social interactions.
- Your worries don’t subside or get worse over time.
How are Anxiety Disorders Treated?
There are many anxiety treatment options. Research has found that the most effective treatment for anxiety disorder is the combination of good self-help information, support, and therapy. Therapy is particularly effective when delivered by therapists who have personally experienced and have successfully overcome anxiety disorder in their own lives. Having successfully overcome anxiety disorder means they understand your struggle, how anxiety disorder can impact a person’s life, and what is required to overcome it.
Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” can help people with anxiety disorders. To be effective, psychotherapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and tailored to his or her needs.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an example of one type of psychotherapy that can help people with anxiety disorders. It teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful objects and situations. CBT can also help people learn and practice social skills, which is vital for treating social anxiety disorder.
Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but can help relieve symptoms. Medication for anxiety is prescribed by doctors, such as a psychiatrist or primary care provider. The most common classes of medications used to combat anxiety disorders are anti-anxiety drugs (such as benzodiazepines), antidepressants, and beta-blockers.
Anti-anxiety medications can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, or extreme fear and worry. The most common anti-anxiety medications are called benzodiazepines. Although benzodiazepines are sometimes used as first-line treatments for generalized anxiety disorder, they have both benefits and drawbacks.
Some drawbacks of benzodiazepines are that people can build up a tolerance to them if they are taken over a long period of time and they may need higher and higher doses to get the same effect. Some people may even become dependent on them .
Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but they can also be helpful for treating anxiety disorders. They may help improve the way your brain uses certain chemicals that control mood or stress. Antidepressants can take time to work, so it’s important to give the medication a chance before reaching a conclusion about its effectiveness.
Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly used as first-line treatments for anxiety. Some types of drugs may work better for specific types of anxiety disorders, so people should work closely with their doctor to identify which medication is best for them.
Some people with anxiety disorders might benefit from joining a self-help or support group and sharing their problems and achievements with others. Internet chat rooms might also be useful, but any advice received over the internet should be used with caution, as Internet acquaintances have usually never seen each other and what has helped one person is not necessarily what is best for another. You should always check with your doctor before following any treatment advice found on the internet.
Stress Management Techniques
Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. Research suggests that aerobic exercise can help some people manage their anxiety; however, exercise should not take the place of standard care and more research is needed.
Co-occurring Treatment for Alcohol and Anxiety Disorder
A person with a dual diagnosis has both an alcohol or drug problem and a mental disorder. These conditions happen together frequently. About half of people who have a mental illness will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa. The interactions of the two conditions can worsen both. People with a dual diagnosis require an integrated treatment plan that addresses both disorders as interconnected issues.
Individuals who struggle with mental health disorders either seek clinical medication or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. People that get prescriptions for their condition are less likely to develop abuse disorders, but often the medications that they get access to have high abuse potential, creating more risk. People that self-medicate for their mental illnesses often start early, and the use of drugs or alcohol as a way to escape becomes a natural part of life.
Self-medication is dangerous because it can lead to addiction or even an overdose. It also makes treatment harder because the person has to treat addiction and mental illness. If they do not treat both problems at a dual diagnosis treatment center, they are more likely to have a relapse.
Treating dual diagnosis clients is a critical aspect of our inpatient treatment experience because co-occurring disorders are strongly connected with instances of substance abuse. Creating a treatment plan that addresses the physical aspects of withdrawal, the psychological connection with drug use, and addressing underlying mental health disorders is all a part of setting clients up for success.
At We Level Up NJ, we believe that if the client can identify the underlying issue and treat it simultaneously with their treatment for addiction, the client’s chances of a successful, relapse-free recovery are much improved. In fact, once we can identify and properly begin treatment on the underlying issue that’s driving or co-occurring with the dependency on alcohol or other drugs, clients will have reached a major milestone and will be that much closer to long-term sobriety. Anxiety symptoms can co-occur alongside addiction and can present complex and similar symptoms. Proper diagnosis requires a highly trained professional staff with years of experience.
 NIMH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders
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 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441870/
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6206399/