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Learn about your anxiety, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your anxiety from our A.I. Symptom Checker. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Your Anxiety May Also be Known as:
Agitated
Agitation
Always worried
Annoyed
Anxious
Anxious a lot
Anxious all the time
Constantly anxious
Feeling anxious

Anxiety Symptoms

Your heart races before a big presentation; your palms sweat as you wait for a date; you are convinced the plane will crash and can't stop worrying about it. At some time or another, we all experience anxiety symptoms. As with many symptoms, there are very mild and frankly healthy degrees of anxiety, to having a full-blown panic attack or needing serious psychiatric care.

Common symptoms of anxiety are:

The ultimate manifestation of anxiety symptoms is a panic attack.

A panic attack may be a one-time experience—or one that you experience chronically, whenever you have to endure certain anxiety-promoting situations for you—say, crossing a bridge, getting on an elevator with a lot of people, or giving a presentation at work.

A true panic attack is distinguished from anxiety by the experience of shortness of breath, a feeling like the room is spinning, and a hard pounding of the heart.

Many of the conditions that cause anxiety stem from the brain and subconscious. Often anxiety symptoms are a totally normal response to life's twists and turns. But anxiety for little reason can be a problem and dangerous. You don't want panic attacks while driving.

The challenge is often to differentiate between normal anxiety and irrational, debilitating fears.

Anxiety Causes Overview

There are numerous causes of anxiety and they are generally broken into psychological or medical causes.

Medical anxiety causes:

  • Endocrine and hormones imbalance : Low insulin, elevated thyroid hormone, elevated stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, can all cause anxiety.
  • Cardiopulmonary disease: Serious issues with circulation and breathing can make you feel anxious.
  • Pain : Being in pain is anxiety-producing.

Psychiatric and psychological anxiety causes:

  • Normal stress response: Feeling anxious or nervous before a big, important event in life.

  • Adjustment disorder: Anxiety that follows a serious trauma or stressor, such as a car accident or mugging. This type of anxiety usually this improves within a few weeks.

  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder): Anxiety arising from a major, life-threatening event – combat, rape, any experience of violence or abuse– with anxiety lasting long after the event. People with PTSD often have anxiety, depression, insomnia, flashbacks, and avoidance behaviors Counseling/treatment is wise.

  • Phobias: Some people have a phobia of clowns, while others fear leaving their house (claustrophobia). Other phobias include fear of snakes, birds, insects, flying on planes, riding over bridges, storms—a wide variety of places and things.

  • Panic Disorder: Recurrent, full blown, panic attacks happening over and over.

  • Depression and schizophrenia: Both of these psychiatric illnesses can also include components of anxiety as part of the condition.

Some over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs cause symptoms of anxiety such as:

  • Caffeine
  • Stimulants
  • Asthma medications and bronchodilators
  • Sympathomimetics (nasal or oral decongestants): Sudafed is a classic
  • Alcohol or sedative withdrawal
  • Hallucinogens
  • Thyroid medications
  • Cocaine
  • ADHD drugs (Adderall, for example)

Top 10 Anxiety Causes

  1. 1.Normal Amount of Anxiety

    You are suffering from a normal level of anxiety.

    You do not need treatment. Your anxiety looks like a variation of normal. If you begin to experience anxiety on most days, for more than a few weeks, you should make an appointment with a doctor.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, trouble sleeping, mild anxiety
    Symptoms that always occur with normal amount of anxiety:
    anxiety
    Symptoms that never occur with normal amount of anxiety:
    worsening anxiety, severe anxiety, thoughts of suicide
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  2. 2.Premenstrual Syndrome

    Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a very common condition. PMS has a variety of symptoms including cramping, mood swings, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, breast tenderness & depression.

    You may recognize this diagnosis on your own due to the of the timing of your symptoms. Treatment can involve decreasing caffeine, salt and/or refined sugar, increasing exercise, and reducing stress. If symptoms become more severe, a doctor may prescribe an oral birth control pill or an anti-depressant.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, anxiety, constipation, breast pain, depressed mood
    Symptoms that never occur with premenstrual syndrome:
    constant sadness, severe sadness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Acute Stress Disorder

    Acute stress disorder describes changes in one's mood or memory for less than a month following an emotional or traumatic event.

    You should visit your primary care physician, who can do a thorough assessment and refer you to a psychiatrist if necessary. Treatment is mostly through counseling.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with acute stress disorder:
    impaired social or occupational functioning
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

    Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder is a condition that occurs 5-11 days before menstruation that causes depression-like symptoms, where you have depression-like symptoms, irritability, and tension.

    You may recognize this diagnosis on your own due to the of the timing of your symptoms. Treatment can involve decreasing caffeine, salt and/or refined sugar, increasing exercise, and reducing stress. A doctor may also prescribe an oral birth control pill or an anti-depressant.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, anxiety, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with premenstrual dysphoric disorder:
    impaired social or occupational functioning, hidden: affective symptoms pmdd
    Symptoms that never occur with premenstrual dysphoric disorder:
    constant sadness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Other Specified Anxiety Disorder

    Other specified anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that does not fit into a more defined disorder like generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder.

    You should speak with your physician about your symptoms. It is likely a referral to a mental health professional will be made. Behavioral modifications and medication can be greatly beneficial.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, anxiety attack
    Symptoms that always occur with other specified anxiety disorder:
    anxiety
    Symptoms that never occur with other specified anxiety disorder:
    anxiety when doing something in front of a group, anxiety from a specific situation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.Panic Disorder

    Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror without true danger. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart.

    You should go see your primary care doctor, who can diagnose you by interview. Most people get better with treatment. Therapy can show you how to recognize and change your thinking patterns before they lead to panic. Medication may be beneficial.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), stomach bloating, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with panic disorder:
    anxiety, impaired social or occupational functioning
    Symptoms that never occur with panic disorder:
    agoraphobia
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Anxiety - Induced Chest Pain

    Anxiety can cause chest pain that is unrelated to an issue with the heart.

    Your pain will subside on its own. Try to breathe deeply or do a relaxing activity to help tame the anxiety.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    chest pain, anxiety
    Symptoms that always occur with anxiety-induced chest pain:
    chest pain, anxiety
    Symptoms that never occur with anxiety-induced chest pain:
    ripping or tearing chest pain, severe chest pain, fever
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Holiday Blues

    The holiday blues is a mild form of seasonal affective disorder.

    You do not need treatment at this time. If your symptoms worsen or last longer than a month, it is recommended you see your physician for further evaluation.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance
    Symptoms that never occur with holiday blues:
    severe sadness
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  9. 9.Symptoms of Menopause

    Menopause is the point in life where your period stops. This happens when the ovaries stop making hormones that keep your cycle going.

    Diagnosis doesn't require a blood test and completed menopause is defined as not having a period for the last 12 months. Treatment of symptoms includes diet and exercise, hormonal and non-hormonal therapies, and OTC medications as symptoms occur.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, vaginal discharge, trouble sleeping, muscle aches, anxiety
    Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause:
    hidden: menarche status: perimenopausal or postmenopausal
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  10. 10.Asthma Attack

    An asthma attack is the sudden worsening of asthma caused by a trigger (e.g., exercise or cold air) or infection.

    Most importantly, take your asthma medication for these acute attacks. You should visit your primary care physician today for management of your attack. He/she may change your medication regiment and give you a course of steroids.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, shortness of breath at rest, tight, heavy, squeezing chest pain, wheezing, cough with dry or watery sputum
    Symptoms that always occur with asthma attack:
    shortness of breath
    Symptoms that never occur with asthma attack:
    blue skin
    Urgency:
    In-person visit

Anxiety Treatments and Relief

Not all cases of anxiety need require that you see a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrists. However, if the anxiety symptoms are severely and negatively impacting your quality of life, you might consider seeing a licensed therapist who can help you identify and overcome your feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling that arises when you feel life's demands of you exceed your ability to meet them. Therefore, finding ways to reduce stress and minimize stressors in your life is a first line of action that produces positive results.

Anxiety symptoms due to medical conditions requires the underlying illness be managed.

  • Thyroid
  • Cardiopulmonary
  • Medication dose change
  • Medication change
  • Management of drug or alcohol withdrawal

With psychiatric disorders, appropriate assessment by a trained mental health provider is key to reduce anxiety symptoms.

  • Reassurance
  • Stress reduction
  • Exercise
  • Psychotherapy – individual or group
  • Inpatient therapy or hospitalization for severe cases
  • Medication – benzodiazepines often used (Valium, Ativan)

If the panic attacks become frequent, it is highly advisable to see a therapist, and if you feel you have a chronic panic disorder, you might want to choose one that can prescribe medication. Panic disorders can be dangerous, especially if you're driving when you have one. That's why often medication is required.

Always see a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist if:

  • If you suspect the panic attacks are being cause by medication or your anxiety is accompanied by physical symptoms that haven't been mentioned here—for example, weight gain (thyroid and adrenal gland imbalance), angina (cardiovascular issues), feeling as if an elephant is sitting on your chest (COPD)
  • If your anxiety is causing you depression, great sadness, or feelings of hopelessness
  • If your anxiety is impacting your relationships, social sphere, work, school
  • If you fear you might hurt yourself in any way

A licensed psychiatrist/psychologist can use techniques like relaxation, identifying stressors, and cognitive behavioral therapies as well as prescribe medications that will get you through this difficult period until you resolve the underlying psychological condition.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Anxiety

  • Q.Are you feeling irritable (easily made upset)?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Are you having difficulty concentrating or thinking through daily activities?
  • Q.Do you have trouble sleeping?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our anxiety symptom checker.

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Anxiety Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced anxiety have also experienced:

    • 6% Fatigue
    • 6% Depressed Mood
    • 3% Nausea
  • People who have experienced anxiety had symptoms persist for:

    • 53% Over a Month
    • 22% Less Than a Day
    • 11% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced anxiety were most often matched with:

    • 8% Premenstrual Syndrome
    • 7% Normal Amount of Anxiety
    • 4% Acute Stress Disorder

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Check my anxiety symptoms

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having anxiety symptoms

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