Read below about anxiety, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your anxiety from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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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)

10 Potential Anxiety Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Normal Amount of Anxiety

    You are suffering from a normal level of anxiety.


    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, mild anxiety, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with normal amount of anxiety:
    Symptoms that never occur with normal amount of anxiety:
    worsening anxiety, severe anxiety, thoughts of suicide
    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.

    Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome can last all the way into menopause.

    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, anxiety, constipation, depressed mood, breast pain
    Symptoms that never occur with premenstrual syndrome:
    constant sadness, severe sadness, post-menopausal
  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.

    Acute stress disorder generally lasts days to 1 month.

    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with acute stress disorder:
    impaired social or occupational functioning
    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.

    Symptoms of premenstrual dysmorphic disorder can be managed with a healthy lifestyle. In severe cases, antidepressants may be useful.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, stomach bloating, anxiety, depressed mood, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps)
    Symptoms that always occur with premenstrual dysphoric disorder:
    impaired social or occupational functioning, symptoms of depression, anxiety and emotional lability
    Symptoms that never occur with premenstrual dysphoric disorder:
    constant sadness, post-menopausal
    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.

    May be lifelong.

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

    Anxiety Checker

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

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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.

    Chronic with relapses

    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with panic disorder:
    Symptoms that never occur with panic disorder:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    Treatment ranges from medication to surgical removal of the fibroid.

    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Holiday Blues

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

    The holiday blues are seasonal and last no more than a few months.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance
    Symptoms that never occur with holiday blues:
    severe sadness
    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. The transition into menopause is called peri-menopause and can include symptoms like hot flashes, shortening of menstrual cycle and mood fluctuations.

    Hot flashes typically peak approximately 1 year after the final period and last 4-10 years. Most women stop having hot flashes 4 years after they start, but 10% of women may have hot flashes up to 12 years after their last period.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause:
    delay in or irregular periods
  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.

    Within minutes of treatment.

    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
    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.

FAQs About Anxiety

Here are some frequently asked questions about anxiety.

How to know if you have anxiety?

It may be appropriate to seek medical evaluation if you are experiencing a mixture of mental and bodily symptoms for at least 90 days out of six months. Mental symptoms can include expectation of bad things, worry about a wide array of subjects (like work, school, or home) and an inability to control worries. Bodily symptoms include inability to sleep, concentrate, jitters or restlessness, and irritability as well as uncontrolled sweating or accelerated heart rate. A diagnosis of an anxiety disorder is usually only possible if there is no other cause such as substance abuse, danger at work or in home, or repeated proximity to violence.

How to know if you're having an anxiety attack?

Panic attacks are often but not always spontaneous or without a trigger or cause, have a beginning and an end, and are accompanied by intense fear that lasts usually less than an hour. If you are having a panic attack, you may feel shortness of breath, chest pain, an acceleration of heart rate, racing thoughts, or produce a profuse amount of sweat. You may also experience severe stomach upset and loss of continence. It is possible, though not as common, to experience a panic attack in the absence of fear. It is possible to have a panic attack and not have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety attacks can be caused by substance abuse or substances including but not limited to marijuana, hallucinogenic compounds, and methamphetamines.

What does anxiety feel like?

Anxiety attacks may manifest differently depending on the person. However, the most common symptoms of an anxiety attack include a sudden triggered or non-triggered sense of fear, anxiety, impending doom, or loss of control as well as increased heart rate, shortness of breath and increased breathing, and tingling in the arms. Panic attacks often end gradually and rarely last longer than an hour. Most individuals experiencing panic attacks describe a sense of loss of control, fear, and bodily changes (heart rate increase, stomach upset, breathing rate increase) over which they have little control.

What are the signs of a panic attack ?

Common signs of a panic attack include a trigger, intense fear of a situation, followed by bodily changes of hyperarousal including but not limited to stomach upset, increased breathing rate, increased heart rate, tingling, or numbness around fingertips or mouth, dizziness, and lightheadedness.

What are the risk factors for anxiety disorders?

Individuals that are directly related to people with panic disorders or depression are at higher risk to experience panic disorders. However, an individual's temperament and life exposures present the biggest risk for panic disorders. Individuals with anxious temperaments, poor stress resilience, poor behavioral inhibition, and higher sensitivity to anxiety may experience panic disorders at a higher rate. Experiencing emotional or physical abuse also increases the risk of developing a panic disorder.

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 your symptoms causing difficulty at work, socializing, or spending time with friends & family?
  • Q.Are you having difficulty concentrating or thinking through daily activities?

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

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Anxiety Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced anxiety have also experienced:

    • 6% Depressed Mood
    • 5% Fatigue
    • 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:

    • 10% Premenstrual Syndrome
    • 7% Normal Amount of Anxiety
    • 5% Acute Stress Disorder
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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