Anxiety Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Vitaly Liashko, MD, FRCPS(C).
Last updated January 9, 2023

Anxiety Symptoms Overview

Anxiety symptoms can be powerful and greatly debilitating. Many people fear they are caused by a serious medical or mental illness. Thankfully, understanding the signs of anxiety, their cause, and how to get rid of them can not only eliminate the physical symptoms of anxiety but can also remove the fear about them.

This article explains what anxiety symptoms are, what causes them, and how to get rid of them. It also contains a list of all anxiety symptoms with links to each for more specific information, such as common descriptions, causes, and how to get rid of it.

If you like, you can jump right to our comprehensive anxiety symptoms list.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is defined as a state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from anticipation of a realistic or imagined threatening event or situation.[1]

What is anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. This is normal. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it and its symptoms and feelings interfere with a normal lifestyle.[2]

Anxiety disorder isn’t a medical term and shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a medical diagnosis or disease. Anxiety disorder is a label used to describe when anxiety becomes problematic.[3]

You can take our free online anxiety disorder test to see if you have anxiety disorder, and if so, to what degree.

The anxiety disorder symptoms video below answers the questions, "What are anxiety symptoms?" "What causes anxiety symptoms?" And, "How to get rid of anxiety symptoms?"

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What are anxiety symptoms?

Anxiety activates the stress response, also known as the fight, flight, or freeze response. This survival reaction immediately stimulates the body into emergency action.[4][5]

anxiety symptoms the stress response illustration

The stress response is our ally when in danger. Because of the many changes the stress response brings about, stress responses stress the body. A body that is stressed can exhibit symptoms of stress.

Therefore, anxiety disorder symptoms are symptoms of stress. They are called anxiety symptoms because anxiety is the main source of the stress that causes the body to become stressed and symptomatic.

There are two main types of anxiety symptoms:

  1. Acute, which are caused by an active stress response.
  2. Chronic, which are caused by chronic stress, which we call stress-response hyperstimulation because stress hormones stimulate the body.

For more in depth information, visit our stress response and stress-response hyperstimulation articles.

Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, the type, number, intensity, duration, and frequency of anxiety symptoms will vary from person to person.

For example, one person might have one or just a few mild anxiety symptoms whereas another person might have all of them and to severe degrees.

The severity of anxiety disorder will also have a bearing on the type, number, frequency, intensity, and duration of symptoms. Higher degrees of anxiety disorder severity often produce higher degrees of severity and number of anxiety symptoms.

Our Anxiety Symptoms List ALL includes all symptoms of anxiety disorder, is categorized by type, and includes physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms. Each anxiety symptom has a link to it for more specific symptom information.

Some medications can cause side effects that are similar to symptoms of anxiety. If you suspect some of your symptoms are side effects of medication, discuss your medication with your doctor and pharmacist.

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Are anxiety disorder symptoms different from anxiety symptoms?

No. Anxiety disorder symptoms and anxiety symptoms are the same. The only difference between the two would be, as anxiety and its persistence increases, so will the number, type, intensity, frequency, and duration of anxiety symptoms increase. Otherwise, they are one and the same.

Anxiety symptoms in women

The majority of anxiety symptoms in men and women are similar, but there are some anxiety symptom differences.[6][7] You can read more about this in our “Anxiety Symptoms In Women” article.

Anxiety symptoms in men

As mentioned, the majority of anxiety symptoms in men and women are similar, but there are some anxiety symptom differences, as well as how anxiety is expressed and experienced.[6][7] Visit our “Anxiety Symptoms In Men” article for more information about these important differences.

Anxiety symptoms in children

Children can have problems with anxiety.[8] I (Jim Folk) remember having strong anxiety and panic attacks at the age of 7. At that time, I just felt “sick in the stomach” and an overwhelming sense of doom, which my parents labeled as the stomach flu. But as my anxiety grew worse over time and peaked at age 23, it became clear my “stomach flu” episodes were anxiety.

You can read more about this in our “Anxiety Symptoms In Children” article.

High anxiety symptoms

High anxiety symptoms often refers to anxiety symptoms that are strong in severity and numerous in number.[9] For instance, a person who has many anxiety symptoms and to severe degrees of intensity could be said to have high anxiety symptoms. Others might refer to high anxiety symptoms when the number of their symptoms increases and becomes stronger in intensity.

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Types of anxiety disorders

There are different subtypes within the anxiety disorder classification. Here are the most common:

Agoraphobia (ag-or-ra-foe-be-ah)

A type of anxiety in which you avoid certain places, situations, and circumstances because of the fear of having strong feelings of anxiety and fear that seem out of control.[10] Agoraphobia is often associated with feeling trapped, helpless, and embarrassed in environments away from your “safe zone” (where you feel less anxious and less out of control of your anxiety).

Agoraphobia often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders and can include many of the symptoms on our anxiety symptoms list below.

Panic Disorder (PD)

Panic disorder involves episodes of sudden, intense fear and terror that peak within minutes.[11][12]

Visit our anxiety and panic attacks symptoms article for in-depth information about panic attacks.

You can also take our free online anxiety panic attack test to see if you have panic disorder, and if so, to what degree.

Medical anxiety

Medical anxiety can include having symptoms of intense anxiety and panic that are caused by a physical health problem or medication for a medical health problem.

Medical anxiety can include many of the symptoms on our list of anxiety symptoms below.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

A type of anxiety disorder that includes chronic and excessive worry about normal lifestyle events and activities. This worry is out of proportion to the actual situation or circumstance, can seem out of control, and can create many symptoms.[13][14]

Generalized anxiety disorder often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders and depression, and can include many of the symptoms on our anxiety symptoms list below.

Visit our Generalized Anxiety Disorder page for additional information.

You can also take our free online generalized anxiety test to see if you have generalized anxiety disorder, and if so, to what degree.

Selective Mutism

Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder in which children refuse to speak, or are paralyzed to speak in certain situations, such as school, even though they can speak at home or with those they feel comfortable with.

Since the stress response can also produce an involuntary "freeze response," any age can be affected in situations and circumstances that make a person anxious.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Involves being overly anxious in social settings, especially with people you haven’t yet met and are perceived to be important.[10]

Social anxiety disorder often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders and can include many of the symptoms on our list of anxiety symptoms below.

Visit our Social Anxiety Disorder page for more information.

You can also take our free online social anxiety test to see if you have social anxiety disorder, and if so, to what degree.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is described as having unwanted thoughts and actions that seem difficult to impossible to stop. While many people worry, those who experience obsessive compulsive disorder feel they can't stop worrying, or if they do, something bad will happen.[15][16][17]

Obsessive compulsive disorder often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders and can include many of the symptoms on our anxiety symptoms list below.

Visit our Obsessive Compulsive Disorder page for more information.

You can also take our free online OCD test to see if you have obsessive compulsive disorder, and if so, to what degree.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

A childhood disorder in which a child worries excessively about being separated from parents or others the child feels comfortable with.

Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of anxiety or panic caused by recreational drugs, misusing drugs, taking medications, being exposed to a toxic substance, or withdrawing from drugs.[18][19]


Everyone is afraid of something. Phobias, however, are extreme rational and irrational fears that seem unusually strong and encompassing.[20][21] A fear of heights, small spaces, dogs, germs, bees, snakes, spiders, being in a situation that would be difficult to escape, and flying are examples of specific phobias.

Specific phobias are the most common types of anxiety disorder and can include many of the symptoms on our anxiety symptoms list below.

Visit our Phobias page for additional information.

Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder

Other specified anxiety disorder and unspecified anxiety disorder are anxieties or phobias that don't fit into a specific classification but are significant, distressing, and disruptive.

Trauma And Stress Related Disorders

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

While not classified as an anxiety disorder, many people who develop PTSD struggle with various anxiety symptoms, such as intrusion symptoms, alterations in arousal and reactivity, avoidance, and many of the other symptoms associated with anxiety disorder.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is characterized as having strong anxious and distressing reactions to a past traumatic event.[22][23] The memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and night terrors of the event can be so vivid that they provoke seemingly uncontrollable anxious reactions and symptoms.

Many people who struggle with PTSD feel helpless to eliminate the negative memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and night terrors and the strong reactions and symptoms that accompany them.

For additional information, visit our Post Traumatic Stress Disorder page.

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When to see a medical or mental health professional

Anxiety disorders are easier to treat when caught early. See a medical or mental health professional if:

  • You think you are worrying too much and it’s interfering with your normal lifestyle.
  • You avoid situations and circumstances because of anxiety or fear.
  • You have become afraid of the strong feelings of anxiety or fear.
  • You believe anxiety and fear are uncontrollable.
  • You are using alcohol or drugs to manage your anxiety or other mental health concerns.
  • You think your anxiety is linked to a medical health problem or medication.
  • You have suicidal thoughts. Seek immediate help.
  • Your worries don’t subside or get worse over time.
  • Your anxiety is causing problems with sleep and rest.
  • Anxiety is interfering with your work, family, or social interactions.

Anxiety disorder risk factors

There are many risk factors that can set up the development of anxiety disorder. Some include:

Being raised by a parent(s) who was anxious

Anxious behavior often develops in families who have anxious parents who model anxious behavior, which is then adopted by the children.

Trauma, especially early life trauma

Children who experienced abuse or trauma, or witnessed traumatic events, have a higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Childhood trauma can also cause adult-onset anxiety disorder.


Stress, especially chronic stress, is a common factor that leads to the development of anxiety disorder. For more information, see our “stress response” and “hyperstimulation” articles.


Illness stresses the body, which can lead to anxiety disorder. Also, worrying about the illness, testing, treatment, and outcome can lead to the development of anxiety disorder.


Certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorder, such as Type A’s, perfectionists, and those with low self-esteem.

Other mental health problems

It’s common for anxiety disorder to be accompanied by other mental health problems, such as depression and personality disorder.

Recreational drug use, prescription drug use, and withdrawal

Drug use, and withdrawing from drugs, can lead to anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Disorders Treatment

There are many anxiety treatment options. Research has found that the most effective treatment for anxiety disorder is the combination of good self-help information, support, and therapy.[25][26]

Moreover, research has found that therapy delivered at a distance via teletherapy or over the internet (ICBT) is as effective, if not more so, than in-person therapy.[27][28]. Distanced therapy (ICBT) has also been shown to be cost-effective.[29]

Therapy is particularly effective when delivered by therapists who have personally experienced and have successfully overcome anxiety disorder in their own lives. Having successfully overcome anxiety disorder means they understand your struggle, how anxiety disorder can impact a person's life, and what is required to overcome it. This personal experience is a valuable asset in the anxiety disorder recovery process, including the treatment of anxiety symptoms.[30]

Visit our Anxiety Therapy page for information about how our anxiety therapy option works and the many anxiety therapists available.

Did you know that treating anxiety symptoms is not all there is to addressing anxiety disorder? Here is more information about the Two Levels of Anxiety Disorder Recovery.

For overview information about anxiety, its symptoms, and its treatment, see our Anxiety 101 section.

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Anxiety Symptoms List:

Anxiety disorder, no matter the type, affects the body the same way. As a result, the following anxiety symptoms can occur with any type of anxiety disorder. The type, number, intensity, duration, and frequency of anxiety symptoms is generally determined by the degree of anxiety experienced.

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning anxiety symptoms be discussed with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms.

If your doctor attributes your symptoms solely to anxiety, you can be confident there isn't a medical or medication cause. Generally, doctors can easily determine the difference between anxiety symptoms and those caused by a medical condition or the side effects of medication.

For explanations about anxiety disorders symptoms, click on any link below to jump to that anxiety symptom category, or scroll through the entire anxiety symptom list and select any of the individual symptoms links below where available.

Anxiety Symptoms List Categories

Body Symptoms:

Emotions (see mood - emotions, mood, and feelings)


Hearing & Ear Symptoms

Heart Symptoms:

You can find out if you are having a heart attack or anxiety attack (panic attack).

Mind Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with the mind and thinking):

Mood, Emotions, Feelings Symptoms:

Mouth, Voice, Stomach, Nose, and Digestive Symptoms:

Sleep Symptoms:

  • Dream flashbacks
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Frequent bad, bizarre, or crazy dreams
  • Hearing sounds in your head that jolt you awake
  • Insomnia, or waking up ill in the middle of the night
  • Jolting awake
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Waking up in a panic attack
  • You feel worse in the mornings

Other Anxiety Symptoms

Other anxiety symptoms are often described as: Being like a hypochondriac, muscle twinges, worry all the time, tingles, gagging, tightness in the chest, tongue twitches, shaky, breath lump, heart beat problems, head tingles, itchy tingling in arms and legs, and so many more.

In addition, you might also find yourself worrying compulsively about:

  • Having a heart attack
  • Having a serious undetected illness
  • Dying prematurely
  • Going insane or losing your mind
  • Suddenly snapping
  • Losing it
  • Uncontrollably harming yourself or someone you love
  • Losing control of your thoughts and actions
  • Being embarrassed or making a fool out of yourself
  • Losing control
  • Fainting in public
  • Not breathing properly
  • Losing control of reality
  • Choking or suffocating
  • Being alone

These are some of the more common anxiety symptoms. This symptoms list is not exhaustive.

If you would like more in depth information about all anxiety symptoms, including those symptoms that aren't listed or explained above - the Symptoms section (Chapter 9) in the Recovery Support area of our website includes every anxiety symptom, including complete descriptions, explanations, remedies, and the percentage of people who experience it. The Anxiety Symptoms section in the Recovery Support area is the most comprehensive symptoms resource available anywhere today. Click here for more information about our Recovery Support area, including membership options.

For more information, see our Anxiety Therapy, Coaching, Counselling progam.



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3. Shelder, Jonathan. “A Psychiatric Diagnosis Is Not a Disease.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 July 2019.

4. Selye H. Endocrine reactions during stress. Anesthesia & Analgesia. 1956;35:182–193. [PubMed]

5. "Understanding the Stress Response - Harvard Health." Harvard Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2016.

6. Horst, J.P., et al. "Relevance of Stress and Female Sex Hormones for Emotion and Cognition." Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, 24, Nov. 2012.

7. Roney, James R., et al. "Elevated Psychological Stress Predicts Reduced Concentrations in Young Women." Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, Mar. 2015.

8. Wehry, Anna, et al. "Assessment and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents." Current Psychiatry Reports, July 2015.

9. Duits, Puck, et al. "High Current Anxiety Symptoms, But Not a Past Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis, are Associated with Impaired Fear Extinction." Frontiers in Psychology, 26, Feb. 2016.

10. "Anxiety Disorders." National Institute of Mental Health. July 2018.

11. Gorman JM, Kent JM, Sullivan GM, Coplan JD. Neuroanatomical hypothesis of panic disorder, revised. Am J Psychiatry. 2000;157:493–505

12. Lai CH. Fear network model in panic disorder: the past and the future. Psychiatry Investig. 2019;16:16–26

13. Bandelow, Borwin, et al. "Treatment of anxiety disorders." Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 19, June, 2017.

14. Roberge, Pasquale, et al. "Generalized anxiety disorder in primary care: mental health services use and treatment adequacy." BMC Family Practice, 22 Oct. 2015.

15. Reddy, YC Janardhan, et al. "An overview of Indian research in obsessive compulsive disorder." Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Jan. 2010.

16. Lack, Caleb. "Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Evidence-based treatments and future directions for research." World Journal of Psychiatry, 22 Dec. 2012.

17. ME, Hirschritt, et al. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment." JAMA Network, Apr. 2017.

18. Watkins, Meredith. "The Connection between Anxiety and Alcohol." American Addiction Centers, 25, July, 2019.

19. Smith, Joshua, and Sarah Book. "Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders: A Review." Psychiatric Times, July 2008.

20. WW, Eaton, et al. "Specific phobias." Lancet Psychiatry, 5 Aug. 2018.

21. Garcia, Rene. "Neurobiology of fear and specific phobias." Learning & Memory, 24 Sep. 2017.

22. Bisson, J., & Andrew, M. (2007). Psychological treatment of post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Occupational medicine, 57 (6). 399-403

23. Sar, V. (2011). Developmental trauma, complex PTSD, and the current proposal of DSM-5. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 2(1), 5622.

24. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

25. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

26. "Web-based cognitive behavior therapy: analysis of site usage and changes in depression and anxiety scores." Christensen H, Griffiths KM, Korten A. J Med Internet Res. 2002;4:0.

27. "CBT can be recommended as a gold standard in the psychotherapeutic treatment of patients with anxiety disorders." - Otte, Christian. "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Anxiety Disorders: Current State of the Evidence." Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. Les Laboratoires Servier, Dec. 2011. Web. 14 Sept. 2016.

28. Tolin, D.F., "Is cognitive-behavioral therapy more effective than other therapies? meta-analytic review." Clinical Psychology Review (2010).

29. "Effectiveness of internet-based cognitive behaviour therapy for panic disorder in routine psychiatric care." Hedman E, Ljotsson B, Ruck C, et al. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2013;128:457–467.

30. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change. Consequently, individual results may vary.

Anxiety symptoms can range in type, number, intensity, frequency, and duration with each person having a unique set of anxiety disorder signs and symptoms.