Anxiety Effects, Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Anxiety

Learn About Anxiety

Feelings of anxiety are a normal reaction to stress caused by things in one’s life, such as work, money problems, or an important interview. This small amount of anxiety can be a good thing in certain situations because it is your body’s natural response to danger. However, for some individuals anxiety becomes excessive to a point where it impacts their daily lives. Even though most individuals realize that this amount of anxiety is too much, they have a difficult time controlling it. There are a wide range of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias. Each one of these anxiety disorders has different symptoms, but all the symptoms are based on an excessive amount of fear and dread. When put together, these anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders experienced among individuals in the United States.

Anxiety disorders last for at least 6 months and only get worse if left untreated. Individuals who are struggling with anxiety may start to avoid social situations and slowly become more socially isolated. The crippling amount of fear associated with these disorders can become so intense that an individual is unable to leave their home. Additionally, these individuals may have developed irrational fears about objects, places, and situations that are not normally considered to be fear-inducing.

While frightening and challenging to cope with, anxiety disorders are very treatable mental illnesses. With the proper amount of medications and therapies, most individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders are able to lead happy and productive lifestyles.


Anxiety Statistics

Anxiety disorders affect 18% of the United States population for individuals over the age of 18. This is roughly about 40 million people. Women are 60% more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders at some point during their lifetime. It’s been estimated that adolescents ages 13-18 have approximately an 8% prevalence for these disorders, with most symptoms emerging before the age of six.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Anxiety and Co-Occurring Disorders

Anxiety disorders often occur in the presence of other mental illnesses. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • ADHD
  • Sleep disorders
  • Body dysmorphic disorder

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Anxiety

The exact cause for the development of anxiety disorders in some individuals is still not known. However, it’s generally thought that anxiety disorders are often the culmination of many factors working together. The most common causes for anxiety disorders include:

Genetic: Individuals who have family members with anxiety disorders are much more likely to develop an anxiety disorder themselves.

Brain Chemistry: Low levels of GAMA, a neurotransmitter that is known to reduce excitement in the central nervous system, are believed to contribute to anxiety.

Brain Structure: There has been a significant amount of research that points to certain structures in the brain as a cause of anxiety. Several parts of the brain, such as the amygdala and the hippocampus, play a significant role in most anxiety disorders. The amygdala interprets incoming sensory information and can alert the rest of the brain if there is a threat present. For individuals with anxiety disorders it is believed that the amygdala isn’t functioning properly. Additionally, the hippocampus encodes threatening events to memory. Studies have shown individuals with anxiety disorder have a smaller hippocampus.

Psychological: Many individuals who have anxiety disorders have a similar history of other mental illnesses, such as depression. These co-occurring disorders may play off one another, which produces anxiety.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

The specific symptoms each individual with an anxiety disorder experience are vast and can vary wildly, making prompt treatment and diagnosis a challenge. Some may experience these symptoms as mild annoyances while others experience the same symptoms and find them totally debilitating. The most common symptoms of anxiety disorders include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nightmares
  • Withdrawing from once-pleasurable past-times
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Inability to calm down
  • Challenges fulfilling work or familial obligations
  • Inability to be still
  • Ritualistic behaviors, such as hand-wringing
  • Always on edge
  • Feeling powerless
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Sweaty hands or feet
  • Cardiac arrhythmias – heart palpitations
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Tingling in hands or feet
  • Feelings of dread
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling weak
  • Troubles with sleeping
  • Muscle tension
  • Depression
  • Feelings of uneasiness
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Stomach problems
  • Sweating
  • Tremors or twitches
  • Tachycardia


Effects of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are quite treatable with a proper combination of medications and therapy. The effects of untreated anxiety disorders can impact virtually all aspects of an individual’s life and can include:

  • Crumbling interpersonal relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Teeth grinding
  • Avoidance of certain places or situations
  • Digestive or bowel problems
  • Inability to leave house
  • Panic attacks
  • Divorce
  • Job loss
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Marks of Quality Care
  • Arkansas Juvenile Officers Association
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Missouri Hospital Association
  • Missouri Juvenile Justice Association
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval
  • Tricare

My daughter's anxiety got to the point where it severely affected almost all the different parts of our lives. After seeking assistance at Lakeland Behavioral Health, she is now more equipped to deal with her symptoms and is able to go back to a healthier life!

– David D.