“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 and Signs

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Vitaly Liashko, MD, FRCPS(C)
Updated: September 6, 2019

Anxiety Symptoms


Anxiety disorders, such as anxiety and panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and phobias can produce 100s of symptoms, including crying, trembling, pins, needles, numbness, tingling, dizziness, racing heart, chest pain, and breathlessness. See our anxiety symptoms list for more detailed information about each anxiety symptom.

Everyone is anxious from time to time. This is normal. People who are anxious, however, frequently have episodes of intense and excessive worry and fear that seem all encompassing. Anxiety disorders often involve sudden feelings of intense anxiety, fear, or terror that peak within minutes (panic attacks) and last for 20 minutes or more.

Anxiety disorder occurs when anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities and a normal lifestyle. Often these episodes of anxiety are out of proportion to normal reactions, are difficult to control, and can last a long time. Anxious people often avoid specific situations, circumstances, people, and places that cause feelings of anxiety in the hopes of avoiding the strong feelings and symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety disorder often starts during childhood and the teen years, and then continue into adulthood. You can have more than one anxiety disorder, as they often co-occur.

For more detailed information, select any of our on-page Table of Contents options.

Anxiety Disorder Signs and Symptoms

There are 100s of anxiety symptoms and signs including,

This list is not exhaustive. Click the link for a comprehensive list of anxiety signs and symptoms with descriptions, explanations, and what to do for each symptom.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is defined as:

  • A feeling of worry, unease, apprehension, or nervousness about an imminent event or future situation with an uncertain outcome.
  • Distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear or danger or misfortune.[1]
  • 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.

People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.[2]

You can take our free online anxiety test to see if you have issues with anxiety.

What is anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. This is normal. Anxiety turns into a disorder 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.).

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

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]

What are anxiety disorder symptoms?

The moment we believe we could be in danger, the body activates the stress response, also known as the fight or flight 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 exhibit stress symptoms.

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.

We have included a comprehensive list of anxiety signs and symptoms, including physical symptoms, psychological symptoms, and emotional symptoms farther down this web page. Recovery Support members can visit our “Anxiety Symptoms” section (chapter 9) for a more in depth list of anxiety symptoms, including descriptions, causes, remedies, and how many people experience them.

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.

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.

Generally, the more anxious and stressed the person is, the more symptoms he or she can experience. Therefore, if you are experiencing high anxiety symptoms  – lots of symptoms that are severe in intensity – that means your anxiety and the resulting stress is elevated (since being anxious stresses the body). Fortunately, we can reverse the number and intensity of anxiety symptoms by reducing anxious behavior and the body’s overall level of stress. As anxiety and stress diminish, so will the number and intensity of anxiety symptoms – unless the body has become hyperstimulated, which means it might take much longer for anxiety symptoms to diminish in number and intensity.

Recovery Support members can read more about the challenges of recovering from hyperstimulation in chapter 4, 5, 6, and 14.

Since anxiety-caused stress can affect the body in many ways, any anxiety symptom or symptom-set (a group of symptoms that can be experienced at one time) can increase when anxiety and stress increase.

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.

Panic Disorder (PD)

Panic disorder involves episodes of sudden, intense fear and terror that peak within minutes.[11][12] These episodes can be accompanied by strong feelings of doom, shortness of breath, shaking, racing heart, pounding heart, and lightheadedness. Because of the strong feelings associated with a panic attack, many people worry about having another attack, which can fuel panic disorder and the avoidance of places where the panic attack initially happened.

Panic attacks and their symptoms can last from a few moments to hours. During the attack, you can feel a strong sense of fear and foreboding. It can also be accompanied by an urge to escape, strong sensations and symptoms, a feeling that you could lose control, and for many, that they might even die because of their overpowering nature.[13][14][15]

Visit our anxiety and panic attacks symptoms page for additional information. You can also take our free online 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.

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.[16][17]

Generalized anxiety disorder often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders and depression.

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 in certain situations, such as school, even though they can speak at home or with those they feel comfortable with.

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] Those with social anxiety disorder often avoid situations because of a strong fear of being embarrassed, feeling overly self-conscious, and being judged, viewed negatively, and ultimately rejected.

Social anxiety disorder often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders.

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.[18][19][20]

Obsessive compulsive disorder often co-occurs with other anxiety disorders.

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.[23][24]


Everyone is afraid of something. Phobias, however, are extreme rational and irrational fears that seem unusually strong and encompassing.[25][26] 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.

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.[21][22] 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.

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.

Medical Problems Linked to Anxiety

Anxiety can be linked and aggravated by a medical health problem. Sometimes, anxiety signs and symptoms are the first indication of a medical illness. It’s best to discuss all new, persistent, changing, and returning symptoms with your doctor.  Your doctor can run tests to rule out a medical cause.

Examples of medical problems linked to anxiety include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Diabetes
  • Drug misuse or withdrawal
  • Heart disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Recreational drug use
  • Respiratory disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma
  • Side effects of medication
  • Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism
  • Tumors that produce stress hormones
  • Withdrawal from alcohol, anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines), antidepressant medications (Zoloft, Effexor, Lexapro, etc.) or other medications

Anxiety disorder risk factors

There are many risk factors that can set up the development of anxiety disorder.[27] 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 disorder can affect the body physically, psychologically, and emotionally. It can also lead to, or aggravate, other physical and mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression (which often co-occurs with anxiety and other mental health disorders)
  • Sleep problems (such as insomnia and sleep dread)
  • Digestive or bowel problems
  • Headaches, including migraine headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Substance misuse
  • Career and work problems
  • School problems
  • A reduced quality of life
  • Suicide ideation
  • Relationship problems (including social problems and isolation)
  • Poor eating habits
  • Lack of exercise
  • Autoimmune disease (development or aggravation)


Anxiety disorder can develop at any time. While there’s no way to predict what will cause its development, there are some ways to prevent it and to reduce its impact.

  • If you’re from a family with an anxious parent(s), get therapy to address your behavior so that issues with anxiety don’t turn into a disorder.
  • If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, get therapy to help process it and the effect it had on you.
  • If you believe you have low self-esteem, seek therapy to raise your sense of self. Low self-esteem is a common underlying factor that causes issues with anxiety.
  • If you’ve been under chronic stress, reduce your stress to prevent it leading to the development of anxiety disorder.
  • Avoid recreational drugs. If you are a recreational drug user and are having difficulty quitting, seek therapy.
  • Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about the prescription drugs you are taking to avoid those that are known to cause issues with anxiety.
  • Spend time in nature. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Enjoy your relationships and stay active in them.
  • Get regular good sleep.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Enjoy your hobbies.

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.[28][29][30][31][32]

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.[33][34]. Distanced therapy (ICBT) has also been shown to be cost-effective.[35]

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.[36]

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.

Anxiety Symptoms Quick FAQs

Is crying a symptom of anxiety?

Yes, crying is a symptom of anxiety. Anxiety is one of the body’s most powerful emotions, which can have a dramatic effect on other emotions. As such, anxiety can cause a person to cry for what seems like no apparent reason. Many anxiety disorder sufferers cry because of anxiety. It is a common symptom.

What are symptoms of anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorder can produce hundreds of symptoms, such as:

  • Crying.
  • Trembling.
  • Pins and needles.
  • Numbness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Racing heart.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.

And a great many more. Since anxiety affects all of the body’s systems, organs, glands, and nervous system, anxiety can have a profound effect on the body.

Explore our comprehensive list of anxiety symptoms below for more information about each anxiety symptom.

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 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 sole cause of your symptoms.

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

Body Symptoms:

Chest Symptoms:

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


Head Symptoms:

Hearing & Ear Symptoms:

Heart Symptoms:

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

Mind and Thinking Symptoms:

Mood, Emotions, Feelings Symptoms;

Mouth, Voice, Stomach, and Digestive Symptoms:

Skin Symptoms:

Sleep Symptoms:

  • 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, Vision, Eyes Symptoms:

Touch 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 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.


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13. 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.

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

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36. 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.