“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 Symptoms: Disorders, Descriptions, Causes, Treatment

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jacqueline Nadworny, M.A. (Counselling); B.A. (Psyc), RPC, MPCC-S, CPCA, CPCS (PACCP); Grace Lian, BA (Psychology), MDiv (Counseling), DMin; and Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 14, 2019


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

Anxiety can cause 100s of symptoms: feeling dizzy, trembling, numbness, tingling, short of breath, nausea, nervous, heart palpitations, sweating, panic attacks, and many more.

In addition to the above, other signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

And many more. For a comprehensive list of anxiety signs and symptoms with descriptions, explanations, and what to do, including severe anxiety symptoms, see below.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is defined as:

Anxiety occurs when we behave (think and act) in an apprehensive manner, such as when worrying about a future situation, circumstance, or event.

Worry can be defined as:

Worry can be thought of as “negatively anticipating” that some future situation, circumstance, or event could be harmful or unpleasant. Notice that worry is driven by the “fear” that something harmful or unpleasant could occur. Since worry is a behavior that creates anxiety, fear (or being afraid) is a central tenet of anxiety.

With this in mind, anxiety is not a force or "thing" in itself. It's a state of uneasiness that is created when we use a particular style of behavior, such as worry.

What is anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. This is normal. Anxiety turns into a “disorder,” however, when it and its symptoms and feelings interfere with a normal lifestyle.

Disorder” can be defined as: a condition that disrupts normal functioning (physical, mental, lifestyle, etc.).

If anxiety is interfering with your normal lifestyle, preventing you from doing things you normally would, or causing problems in your life, it can be considered a “disorder.”

What are anxiety symptoms?

The moment we believe we could be in danger, the body activates the stress response that secretes stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it. This survival reaction is the reason why it’s often referred to as the fight or flight response, the emergency response, or the fight, flight, or freeze response (some people freeze when they are afraid like a “deer caught in headlights”).[3][4]

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.

Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. They are called anxiety symptoms because apprehensive behavior, such as worry, is the main source of the stress that stresses the body, which produces 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 one or just a few mild anxiety symptoms whereas another person might have all of them and to a severe degree. The severity of anxiety disorder will also have a bearing on the type, number, frequency, intensity, and duration of symptoms.

We have included a comprehensive list of anxiety symptoms, including physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and emotional symptoms farther down this web page. Recovery Support members can view a more complete list of anxiety symptoms in the Symptoms section (chapter 9) in the Recovery Support area of our website.

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

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 symptom differences.[5][6]

For example, since stress hormones affect other hormones, women can experience a wide range of symptoms around the female menstruation cycle. Many women experience increases in anxiety symptoms due to 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 signs and symptoms list below.

Types of anxiety and symptoms

There are different subtypes within the Anxiety Disorder classification because anxiety disorder can occur in different ways. 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 degree anxiety (fear), feelings, and symptoms.[7][8] 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. But at other times, panic attacks can seem to occur “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.

Panic attacks and their symptoms can last from a few moments to hours. During the attack, most people feel an incredible amount of fear and foreboding, which is often accompanied by a strong urge to escape, strong sensations and symptoms, a feeling that you are about to lose control, and for many, that they might even die.[9][10]

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

There is no question that anxiety attacks/panic attacks can be strong physiological, psychological, and emotional experiences, which is why many people fear them. Additionally, anxiety attacks can create many symptoms and feelings that many panic disorder sufferers come to fear because of their seemingly overpowering nature.[11]

Anxiety Attacks Disorder / Panic Attack Disorder (PAD) symptoms:

To name a few symptoms.

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

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Everyone is anxious from time to time. And many of us have some aspects of life that we worry about more than others, such as speaking in public, taking an important exam, an important job interview, completing an important project, about health and medical matters, or about participating in an important sporting event.[12][13]

People who experience generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), however, worry about many things and more often than those who don’t experience generalized anxiety. Furthermore, they also experience intense and unrelenting worry. While they know their worry is unhealthy, they feel powerless to stop their excessive worrying. They even find themselves worrying about minor things, such as being late for an engagement, being called upon to speak in a group, or getting their chores done on time.

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

Signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:

Visit our Generalized Anxiety Disorder page for additional information.

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.[14][15][16]

The strong desire to feel safe from harm is at the root of obsessive compulsive disorder. To achieve that safety, those who experience obsessive compulsive disorder believe they have to be always on the lookout for danger, and then do whatever they can to avoid it.

This constant “surveilling for danger” is at the heart of obsessions, and finding external ways to “feel” safe is at the heart of OCD rituals. In a sense, people who experience OCD believe they have to perform certain actions until they “feel” safe from the imagined harm.

Common rituals include touching a certain object enough times, organizing things, counting something enough times, and doing things enough to where they “feel” that everything is going to be okay.

People who experience OCD place great importance on “feeling safe.”

Common obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms and signs include:

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 rather that they fear what people might think of them and how those people might react. Fear of rejection and judgement is a major concern for the socially anxious.

This fear of being judged, humiliated, or rejected, especially in front of others, can be so extreme that it prevents them from doing everyday things like eating in front of people or going places like the store or the gym. The fear in social settings is so intense that it feels beyond their ability to manage.

About one in ten people suffer from social anxiety. When not dealt with, social anxiety can minimize the person's potential and quality of life.

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

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) 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.[17][18] 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.

Post traumatic Stress Disorder has been revised in the new DSM V and is under revision for the ICD-11.[19] New research includes cross-cultural factors and complex PTSD. These two additional considerations ought to be considered when you speak with your physician. In brief, complex PTSD is reoccurring exposure to a type of traumatic event repeatedly or cumulative or  over a period of time  within a specific context or environment.[20]

Events that can lead to PTSD are war, natural disasters, physical conditions, man-made traumas in child and adolescents, terrorism, road accidents, sexual assault, and refugee status.

Cross-cultural considerations are necessary for accuracy of diagnosis as well as differential diagnosis from Prolonged grief and compassion fatigue. Both of these differential diagnoses can present the same symptomatology  Being a witness or having experienced secondary exposure to the traumatic event needs to be taken into consideration in the discussion of PTSD. Ask your physician for these considerations.

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.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms:

Plus many more symptoms.

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

Phobias

Everyone is afraid of something. Phobias, however, are extreme fears that seem unusually strong and encompassing.[21][22] A fear of heights, small spaces, dogs, germs, snakes, spiders, being in a situation that would be difficult to escape, and flying are examples of specific phobias.

Common phobia symptoms across the majority of phobias:

Phobias can include all of the physical symptoms we list below.

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 therapy (often referred to as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).[23][24][25][26][27]

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.[28][29]. Distanced therapy (ICBT) has also been shown to be cost-effective.[30]

Therapy is particularly effective when delivered by therapists who have personally experienced and have successfully overcome anxiety disorder in their own lives. Having personally experienced and successfully overcome anxiety disorder means not only do they understand your struggle and how anxiety disorder can impact a person's life but they also understand what is required to overcome it. This personal experience is a valuable asset in the anxiety disorder recovery process, including treating symptoms.[31]

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):

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:

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. Many of our members have told us that our 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.

Resources

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

ANXIETY SYMPTOMS REFERENCES:

1. Dictionary.com

2. Meriam-Webster Dictionary

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

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

5. Horst, J.P., et al. "Relevance of Stress and Female Sex Hormones for Emotion and Cognition." Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, 24, Nov. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3377901/

6. Roney, James R., et al. "Elevated Psychological Stress Predicts Reduced Estradiol Concentrations in Young Women." Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, Mar. 2015, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40750-014-0004-2

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

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

9. Kim EJ, Kim HJ, Kim YK. Genetic, Epigenetic and Environmental Interaction in Panic Disorder. In: Kim YK, editor. Panic Disorder: Assessment, Management, and Research Insights. New York: NOVA SCIENCE; 2017. pp. 21–39.

10. Cosci F, Mansueto G. Biological and clinical markers in panic disorder. Psychiatry Investig. 2019;16:27–36

11. Pema, Giampaolo, et al. "Is panic disorder a disorder of physical fitness? A heuristic proposal." F1000 Research, 8 Mar. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5843823/

12. Bandelow, Borwin, et al. "Treatment of anxiety disorders." Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 19, June, 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573566/

13. Roberge, Pasquale, et al. "Generalized anxiety disorder in primary care: mental health services use and treatment adequacy." BMC Family Practice, 22 Oct. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4618956/

14. Reddy, YC Janardhan, et al. "An overview of Indian research in obsessive compulsive disorder." Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Jan. 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3146215/

15. Lack, Caleb. "Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Evidence-based treatments and future directions for research." World Journal of Psychiatry, 22 Dec. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3782190/

16. ME, Hirschritt, et al. "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment." JAMA Network, Apr. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28384832

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

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

19. Solomon, Z., & Horesh, D. (2007). Changes in diagnostic criteria for PTSD: implications from two prospective longitudinal studies. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77(2), 182-188.

20. Streb, M., Häller, P., & Michael, T. (2014). PTSD in paramedics: Resilience and sense of coherence. Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy, 42(4), 452-463.

21. WW, Eaton, et al. "Specific phobias." Lancet Psychiatry, 5 Aug. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30060873

22. Garcia, Rene. "Neurobiology of fear and specific phobias." Learning & Memory, 24 Sep. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580526/

23. 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, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3584580/.

24. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2654783.

25. Driessen, Ellen, et al. "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Mood Disorders: Efficacy, Moderators and Mediators." Psychiatry Clinics of North America, Sep. 2010, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2933381/

26. Kumar, Vikram, et al. "The Effectiveness of Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders." Cureus, 29 Aug. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5659300/

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. 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., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11956035

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

30. 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., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23406572

31 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 signs and symptoms.