What is anxiety?
Worrying is a normal part of life. If you have anxiety or an anxiety disorder, you might have intense, excessive or consistent worry and fear about everyday situations.
These feelings interfere with daily life, don’t match the actual danger of a situation and are difficult to control. If you experience these feelings, you might go out of your way to prevent them. You might start to change your habits, isolate yourself or compensate in another way.
Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. You can have more than one anxiety disorder. Sometimes anxiety results from a medical condition that needs treatment.
Treatment can help with every type of anxiety. If you or someone you know needs support now, visit our Behavioral Health page to learn how to get started.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Anxiety symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense
- Feeling helpless
- A sense of impending panic, danger or doom
- Having GI problems
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid or trouble breathing
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than your anxious thought, including controlling your worry
- Trouble sleeping or eating
What You Need to Know About Anxiety
While we don’t know the exact cause of anxiety, there are factors that we know influence it. Your experiences, especially traumatic events, appear to trigger anxiety or anxiety disorders, especially if you’re already prone to anxiety. Other factors and risks include:
- A family history of anxiety
- Underlying health issues
- Side effects of medications
- Other mental health disorders
- Stressful life events
- Drugs or alcohol use
Anxiety looks and feels different to everyone. Strategies listed here may help some, and not others. Here are some tips for dealing with your anxiety:
- Talk to your primary care provider or a behavioral health provider about your situation. There are treatment options for anxiety that can help you.
- Keep physically active.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, tobacco and caffeinated beverages. All of these substances can cause or worsen anxiety.
- Prioritize sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well or need help, talk with your primary care provider.
- Use stress management techniques like meditation.
- Find support and don’t let your anxiety isolate you from loved ones or activities.
- Learn more about your disorder and help family and friends to understand as well.
- Identify what triggers your anxiety. Learn what situations increase your anxiety.
There are many treatments for anxiety, and you should talk to your provider about what will work best for your situation and needs. Some treatments include:
- Psychotherapy (there are many types and techniques that can be used)
- Coping and self-help techniques
Your anxiety probably won’t go away on its own. Your primary care provider or a behavioral health provider can help you before it gets worse.
You should see your provider if:
- You feel like you’re worrying too much and your worry is interfering with your life, relationships or work.
- Your anxiety is difficult to control.
- You have other mental health concerns along with your anxiety.
- You think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health concern.
If you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek emergency treatment immediately.