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 [9].

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 [10].

Many of the conditions that cause anxiety stem from the brain and subconscious [11]. 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 [1].
  • Cardiopulmonary disease: Serious issues with circulation and breathing can make you feel anxious [2].
  • 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 [3].

  • 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 [4].

  • 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 [5].

  • 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)

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Anxiety

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced anxiety. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.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

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with panic disorder:
    anxiety
    Symptoms that never occur with panic disorder:
    agoraphobia
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.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.

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Panic or Anxiety Attack(s)

    Panic or anxiety attacks are sudden feelings of intense fear or stress without true danger. Symptoms usually peak and then decrease within minutes. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart. A panic attack can be a very scary experience and should be taken seriously.

    Depending on recurrence

    Rarity:
    Common
    Symptoms that always occur with panic or anxiety attack(s):
    anxiety or anxiety/panic attacks
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Gad)

    Anxiety is a common emotion from time to time; however, persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worrying are signs of generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed when a person worries more days than not for at least six months and has symptoms like fatigue, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

    With long-term care, symptoms can be controlled with talk therapy, medication, and self-care.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, trouble sleeping, general anxiety (stress), irritability, nausea
    Symptoms that always occur with generalized anxiety disorder (gad):
    general anxiety (stress)
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Anxiety Checker

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

    Anxiety Quiz
  5. 5.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.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.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating
    Symptoms that always occur with acute stress disorder:
    impaired social or occupational functioning
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.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.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    stomach bloating, anxiety, constipation, depressed mood, breast pain
    Symptoms that never occur with premenstrual syndrome:
    constant sadness, severe sadness, disapearance of periods for over a year
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Specific Phobia Disorder

    There are many specific phobias. Acrophobia is a fear of heights. Agoraphobia is a fear of public places, and claustrophobia is a fear of closed-in places. If you become anxious and extremely self-conscious in everyday social situations, you could have a social phobia. Other common phobias involve tunnels, highway driving, water, flying, animals and blood.

    90% improve with therapy

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, anxiety from a specific situation, fear of heights, fear of blood or injections, fear of enclosed spaces
    Symptoms that always occur with specific phobia disorder:
    anxiety from a specific situation
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Overactive Thyroid

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just above your collarbone. It is one of your endocrine glands, which make hormones. Thyroid glands control how fast one burns calories and how fast the heart beats. If the thyroid is too active, it makes more thyroid hormones than the body needs. This is called hyperthyroidism.

    Great prognosis with high remission rates

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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 [12].

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 [13], 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 [14], 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 [6]. 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 [7].

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 [8].

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.Do you have trouble sleeping?

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

Anxiety Quiz

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:

    • 54% Over a Month
    • 22% Less Than a Day
    • 11% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced anxiety were most often matched with:

    • 50% Panic or Anxiety Attack(s)
    • 37% Panic Disorder
    • 12% Symptoms of Menopause
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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

Anxiety Quiz

References

  1. Cuncic A. The Effect of Hormones on Your Social Anxiety. Verywell Mind. Verywell Mind Link.
  2. McCann U. Anxiety and Heart Disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link.
  3. Fred KB, David Z, Brenda C. Adjustment Disorder. Mount Sinai. Published March 26, 2018. Mount Sinai Link.
  4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Published Feburary 2016. NIMH Link.
  5. Phobias. National Library of Medicine: MedLinePlus. Published June 6, 2018. MedLinePlus Link.
  6. Glasofer DR. The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety. Verywell Mind. Published September 1, 2018. Verywell Mind Link.
  7. Engel N. How to Know When You Are Having a Panic Attack. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ADAA Link.
  8. Meek W. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Causes and Risk Factors. Verywell Mind. Published August 16, 2018. Verywell Mind Link.
  9. Anxiety Attack. Drugs.com. Published January 30, 2018. Drugs.com Link.
  10. Panic Attack Symptoms. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ADAA Link.
  11. Martin EI, Ressler KJ, Binder E, Nemeroff CB. The Neurobiology of Anxiety Disorders: Brain Imaging, Genetics, and Psychoneuroendocrinology. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2009;32(3):549-575.
  12. Anxiety Treatment. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ADAA Link.
  13. Chronic Pain: Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment. NIH MedlinePlus. Published 2011. MedlinePlus
  14. Depression. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ADAA Link.