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Why We Worry: Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Updated: May 25, 2020

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is typically experienced as nervousness or worry about events with uncertain prospects. Anxiety up to a certain level is normal. For some people, anxiety can even be a motivator to perform, feel alert, and complete tasks. The diagnostic criteria defines generalized anxiety as “excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities.”

How does anxiety feel?

There are some physical symptoms that many people with anxiety identify with. Everyone experiences anxiety differently, however some common symptoms include:


· Feeling nervous and uneasy

· Tensed muscles (especially the neck and shoulders)

· Bodily aches

· Faster breathing

· Feeling unwell (experiencing “butterflies” or feeling sick in the stomach)

How does it change your thoughts?

· A lot of worrying (especially about future events)

· The worrying seems excessive

· Worries that appear uncontrollable

· Difficulty with concentrating and paying attention

Other anxiety symptoms can include:

· Difficulty with relaxing

· Feeling irritated, restless, and annoyed

· Withdrawing from friends and family

· Ritualistic behaviors to ease anxiety symptoms

· A need for control, even in situations that are outside your control

· Avoidance of places and people

· Disturbance with sleep (struggle with sleeping at night or wake up frequently during the night)

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness experienced in the United States and are treatable with psychotherapy (mental health counseling) or with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. There are 40 million adults who experience an anxiety disorder, and only an approximate 37% receive treatment.

Many people suffering from anxiety may also experience symptoms of depression, which can make heavily influence daily functioning.

There are different types of anxiety disorders, and all of them are treatable. They are:

· Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

Some people may worry about many things for longer periods of time feeling like their worry is uncontrollable. They may struggle with relaxing, have difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and may feel tense, uneasy, and nervous most of the time.

· Separation Anxiety:

The individual may experience a fear about being away from loved ones, and may often fear them getting hurt.

· Social Anxiety:

Some people may experience an intense worry about social situations, fearing judgment, embarrassment, may feel nervous and tense in social settings. This fear may lead them to avoid social situations.

· Panic Disorder:

Individuals may experience intense anxiety and have recurring panic attacks accompanied by fears of experiencing more panic attacks.

· Agoraphobia:

Individuals experience intense anxiety in outside the home environment, which may include being in public spaces, crowded places and taking public transportation. This may lead to anxiety and avoidance of places to avoid symptoms like helplessness, entrapment, and panic.

· Specific Phobias:

Some people may experience anxiety and fear of an object or situation and will attempt to avoid the object and situation.

What can I do to manage anxiety?

Talk about it: Anxiety can be normal, however when it gets in the way of daily life, it’s time to seek help. You can seek consultation. Email: Psychotherapy (mental health therapy) with its use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help with changing the thoughts and behavioral patterns that cause anxiety disorders.

Promote self-care: Allow good self-care with eating well, staying relatively active, getting sleep, and doing activities that improve your mood, can help your overall mental wellbeing.

Try Breathing Techniques: Suffers of anxiety identify with many physical sensations. Breathing techniques and guided imagery exercises can soothe the unwanted physical sensations and can aid with promoting relaxation.

Be aware of avoidance and negative thinking patterns: There may be situations that may make you feel worried, and that in turn may want you to avoid them. Over the long haul, this may worsen your anxiety. Instead, identify areas that make you anxious, and learn some ways to cope, like relaxation techniques and positive self-talk. This can result in you discovering that the situation can be tolerable and in turn will provide you with confidence to continue facing the situation.


“Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5).” DSM-5,

“Facts & Statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA,

Image: Photo by Benedict Tahjar on

©2020 by Irem Choksy, LMFT

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