“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Anxiety Disorders: Symptoms, Descriptions, Causes, How To Stop Them

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Updated: March 24, 2019

Anxiety Symptoms and Anxiety Disorder Symptoms: Full list, Types, Descriptions, Causes, Treatment

There are over 100 anxiety symptoms and signs for anxiety, anxiety attacks (panic attacks), and other anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and phobias.

The following are some of the anxiety symptoms associated with anxiety disorder:

  • Numbness and tingling
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck tension
  • Stomach upset, nervous stomach
  • Pulsing in the ear
  • Burning skin
  • Fear of impending doom
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Electric shock feeling
  • Shooting pains in the face
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weakness in legs
  • Feeling like you are going crazy
  • Inability to rest
  • Sleep problems

There are a great many more anxiety symptoms. For a comprehensive list of anxiety symptoms with descriptions, including severe anxiety symptoms, see below.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is defined as:

  • A state of uneasiness, apprehension; as about future uncertainties.
  • A state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning.

In other words, anxiety occurs when we behave (think and act) in an apprehensive manner, such as when worrying about an event or situation.

With this in mind, anxiety is not a force or 'thing' in itself. It's a state of uneasiness that results when we worry. More about this in a moment.

Because imagining the future in an apprehensive manner is a behavior, it's not caused by a biological, chemical, or genetic problem with the brain. Anxiety results from a certain style of behavior.

Visit our 'anxiety' page for additional information.

What is anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. This is normal. This is why anxiety is not a medical, biological, chemical, or genetic problem.

Anxiety turns into a 'disorder' - disruption to normal functioning - when anxiety and its sensations and symptoms interfere with a normal lifestyle.

It's important to keep in mind that anxiety disorder should NOT be equated with a medical condition or serious mental illness (when there is a medical, biological, chemical, or genetic cause). Unfortunately, the term mental illness is used to refer to any problem caused by behaving in an abnormal way (what is considered to be outside of the 'norm'). All of us have behaviors that fall outside of the norm, which is why all of us could be categorized as having some type of mental illness.

While you may have or have been diagnosed as having anxiety disorder, this means you have overly anxious behaviors (tendencies). It doesn't mean you are somehow mentally deficient or have something medically, biologically, chemically, or genetically wrong.

Visit our anxiety disorder page for additional information.

If anxiety disorder isn't a medical, biological, chemical, or genetic problem, why does anxiety cause symptoms? That's next.

What are anxiety symptoms?

Behaving in an overly apprehensive manner creates the physiological, psychological, and emotional state of anxiety. Anxiety activates the stress response, which stresses the body. A body that becomes overly stressed can exhibit symptoms of stress.

So anxiety symptoms are actually symptoms of stress. They are called anxiety symptoms because behaving apprehensively is the main source of the stress that overly stresses the body, which then, causes the body to exhibit symptoms.

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 just one mild or a few anxiety symptoms, whereas another person might have all anxiety symptoms and to great severity. All combinations and variations are common.

Chapter 9 in the member's area of our website is our anxiety Symptoms Section. Chapter 9 includes all symptoms (not just the symptoms listed below), including in depth descriptions about how each symptom feels, what causes it, what you can do to alleviate it, and how prevalent each symptom is (the percentage of people who experience each symptom).

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 and men

The majority of anxiety symptoms in women and men are similar, but there are some anxiety symptoms differences.

For example, anxiety causes stress hormones to enter the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots in the body to bring about specific emergency response changes. These changes prepare the body for immediate action.

Since stress hormones affect other hormones, women can experience a wide range of sensations and symptoms due to how stress hormones affect the hormones that affect the female menstruation cycle. Many women experience increases in anxiety related symptoms in association with their monthly cycle.

Women can also experience an increase in symptoms due to the biological changes of pregnancy, postpartum recovery, and menopause.

Women are also more emotionally-centered than men, so their anxiety symptoms can seem more numerous and daunting.

Men also have challenges, as stress hormones also affect male hormones. Men who are more emotionally-centered can also struggle more with anxiety symptoms.

For additional information, see our anxiety symptoms list below.

Types of anxiety and symptoms

Problematic anxiety can be experienced in a number of ways. This is why there are specific types within the Anxiety Disorder classification. But just because there are different types of anxiety disorder doesn't mean problematic anxiety has a number of different causes. The cause is the same - behavior. But some people struggle more in one area than in others.

Below are the most common types of anxiety disorder.

Panic Attack Disorder (PAD) - which is the same as Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks, also referred to as panic attacks, are episodes of high intensity fear and anxiety. Panic attacks often occur suddenly and 'out of the blue.' Sometimes the cause of a panic attack is obvious, such as when you feel in immediate danger with no escape. But at other times, panic attacks can seem to occur without reason.

Panic attacks and their symptoms can last from just a few moments to hours. During the attack, most people feel an incredible amount of fear, trepidation, and foreboding, which is often accompanied by a strong urge to escape, a feeling that you are about to lose control, and for many, that they may even die.

The feelings, sensations, and symptoms that accompany a panic attack can be so strong that just the thought of having another one creates strong anxiety.

There is no question, panic attacks can be strong physiological, psychological, and emotional experiences, which is why many people fear them.

Panic Attack symptoms include:

  • intense feeling of doom and gloom
  • racing heart
  • lightheadedness
  • heart palpitations
  • sweating
  • nervous stomach
  • trembling
  • feeling like you are about to lose control
  • feeling like you are about to go crazy
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • sudden and strong urge to escape
  • heightened fear and apprehension
  • increased stimulation
  • pins and needles
  • throat tightness
  • muscle weakness
  • weak in the knees
  • super sensitive senses and nerves

To name a few symptoms.

You can visit our anxiety attacks and panic attacks pages for additional information.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

All of us are anxious from time to time. And many of us have some things we worry about. People who experience generalized anxiety, however, worry about many things, frequently, and to a great degree. Years ago, people who experienced generalized anxiety disorder were said to be worrywarts.

Generalized anxiety disorder doesn't mean your anxiety is worse than other types, but that you worry about more things and more often.

Generalized anxiety disorder also doesn't mean there is something medically, biologically, chemically, or genetically wrong. It means you haven't learned healthy ways of dealing with adversity, uncertainty, and risk. So, you worry!

Generalized anxiety symptoms:

  • a general feeling of uneasiness
  • persistently being on alert for danger
  • persistent worry
  • an overly cautious approach to life
  • a persistent feeling of being unsafe
  • overly reactive to things that you perceive could be threatening
  • many of the physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms of anxiety

Plus many more symptoms.

Visit our Generalized Anxiety Disorder page for additional information.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder 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.

Obsessive compulsive disorder doesn't mean you have something medically, biologically, chemically, or genetically wrong, but that you haven’t learned to make yourself feel safe 'on the inside.' As a result, you worry or perform rituals to try and make yourself feel safe.

An example of this is thinking that if you do a certain ritual enough times, you'll be safe. Common rituals include touching things enough times, counting things enough times, and doing things enough times and to the point of where you 'feel' everything is going to be okay.

Coping styles are learned. OCD is an example of an unhealthy coping style.

OCD symptoms:

  • relentless worry
  • underlying fear
  • an underlying sense of danger
  • inability to self-soothe
  • nervousness
  • agitation
  • sleep issues
  • and many of anxiety's physiological, psychological, and emotional symptoms

And many more symptoms.

Visit our Obsessive Compulsive Disorder page for more information.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Social Anxiety Disorder is described as being overly anxious in social situations. It's not that social anxiety disorder sufferers are afraid of people, but of what people might think of them and/or how those people might react. Fear of rejection is a major concern for the socially anxious.

Socially anxious people generally struggle with self-esteem and self-worth issues. Social phobia is another term often used to describe social anxiety.

SAD symptoms:

  • nervousness around people who are deemed to be important
  • overly concerned about what people think
  • overly concerned about how people might react
  • hyper sensitive to rejection
  • overly sensitive to criticism
  • overly critical of others
  • and many of anxiety's physiological, psychological, and emotional symptoms

There are many more symptoms.

Visit our Social Anxiety Disorder page for more information.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is characterized as having strong anxious and distressing reactions to a past traumatic event. 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.

Some people say that having PTSD is similar to having panic attacks 24/7 and feeling there is nothing you can do to stop them.

PTSD symptoms:

  • reoccurring memories, flashbacks, and nightmares that seem unstoppable
  • on going anxiety and worry
  • underlying fear and trepidation
  • persistently feeling unsafe and at risk
  • avoiding situations that remind you of the event
  • avoiding situations that are associated with reminders and the event itself
  • overly vigilant in uncertain situations
  • avoiding others
  • a persistent internal struggle
  • and many of anxiety's physiological, psychological, and emotional symptoms

Plus many more symptoms.

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


Everyone is afraid of something. Phobias, however, are extreme fears that seem unusually strong and encompassing. A fear of heights, small spaces, dogs, snakes, spiders, being trapped with no exists, and flying are common phobias.

Phobia symptoms:

  • overly afraid of a person, object, situation, or circumstance
  • heightened sense of danger near your feared subject
  • persistent worry and/or concern about your feared subject
  • and many of anxiety's physiological, psychological, and emotional symptoms

There are many more symptoms of phobias.

Visit our Phobias page for additional information.

Anxiety 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 personal coaching/therapy (often referred to as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).[1] This is particularly effective when delivered by coaches/therapists who have personally experienced and have successfully overcome anxiety disorder and anxiety symptoms in their own lives.

Having personally experienced and successfully overcome anxiety disorder and anxiety symptoms means not only do they understand your struggle and how anxiety symptoms feel and can impact a person's life but that they also know how to treat anxiety unwellness and its symptoms. This personal experience is a valuable asset in the anxiety disorder recovery process, including treating symptoms.[2]

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

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

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

Anxiety symptoms listing:

Anxiety, 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, including this anxiety symptom. If your doctor concludes your symptoms are solely anxiety-related, you can be confident there isn't a medical cause. Generally, doctors can easily determine the difference between anxiety symptoms and those caused by a medical condition.

Doctors aren't infallible, however. If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, you can seek a second or more opinions. But if all opinions agree, you can be assured anxiety is the cause of this symptom.

Anxiety Symptoms

For information about anxiety symptoms, click on any of the symptoms of anxiety links below where available.

Body Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with the body in general):

Chest Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with the chest and chest area):

Emotions (see mood - anxiety symptoms regarding emotions, mood, and feelings)

Fears Anxiety Symptoms:

Head Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with the head):

Hearing & Ear Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety involving the ears and hearing):

Heart Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with the heart):

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 Symptoms; Emotion Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with mood, emotions, and feelings):

Mouth, Voice, Stomach, and Digestive System Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety involving the mouth, voice, stomach, and digestive system):

Skin Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety involving the skin):

Sleep Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with sleep and sleep problems):

  • 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
  • Waking up in a panic attack
  • You feel worse in the mornings

Sight Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with the eyes and sight):

Touch Anxiety Symptoms (symptoms of anxiety associated with the sense of touch):

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 signs, symptoms, and indications of anxiety. 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 about our Anxiety Therapy, Coaching, Counselling progam.


National Institute of Mental Health - general information

Canadian Mental Health Association - general information

American Psychiatric Association - general disorder information

American Psychological Association - general information

Anxiety UK Helpline - helpline in the UK

Free tests at anxietycentre.com - free anxiety, depression, and stress tests at anxietycentre.com

[1]"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.

[2]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.

Anxiety symptoms can vary in type, number, intensity, during, and frequency with each person having a unique experience with anxiety symptoms.