Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders and Tips for Healthy Coping

April 1, 2024

Everyone experiences anxiety; it is a normal part of life. Going on a job interview or taking an important exam are sure to cause some anxiety, but for the most part, the anxious feelings tend to go away once the situation that caused them comes to an end. Having an anxiety disorder, however, is more than just worrying or feeling nervous in certain situations. People with symptoms of anxiety disorders often have an intense, excessive, and persistent worry about a number of things, including everyday issues such as job responsibilities, health, finances, family members, household chores, as well as the competence and quality of their performance at work or school.

The worry may shift from one thing to another and gets in the way of daily activities, relationships, or other important areas of life. The worry is difficult to control, out of proportion to the actual risk the situation poses, and impairs your ability to do things quickly and efficiently, whether at home, at work, or at school.

You may find yourself avoiding certain places, people, or situations in an effort to prevent feeling anxious or nervous.

The worries of everyday life are usually not excessive and are seen as manageable. The worry experienced with anxiety disorders, on the other hand, is more intense and distressing, lasts longer, and can occur seemingly out of nowhere. Anxiety disorders are characterized by feeling nervous, restless or on edge most days, being easily fatigued, irritability, difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, muscle tension, and having difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, or having restless, unsatisfying sleep.

Some people with anxiety disorders may also experience physical symptoms, such as trembling, twitching, muscle aches, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, being easily startled, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches. Everyday worries, on the other hand, are much less likely to be accompanied by physical symptoms.

Anxiety Disorders May Change With Time

The symptoms of anxiety disorders tend to be long-lasting and may change with time. They may start during childhood or be triggered by a major event or life experiences. Many people with anxiety disorders can look back and recall feeling anxious and nervous all their lives. Sometimes, symptoms may occur early in life but are dismissed as having an “anxious personality” or being a “worrywart” or “scaredy cat,” when in fact, a family history of anxiety could be a significant factor contributing to the development of an anxiety disorder. However, anxiety disorders could also be caused by sudden or significant changes in life or major stressors such as illnesses, relationships, death, finances, work, buying a home, having children, traumatic events, and undergoing surgery.

Many people with anxiety disorders benefit from psychotherapy or medications to get their symptoms under control, but lifestyle changes and healthy coping strategies can also make a difference.

Here are some tips for healthy coping when you’re feeling anxious:

  • Reach out to your support network or community. Engage in social interactions with people you care about, whose company you enjoy, or those you share common interests with. Let friends and family know when you’re feeling overwhelmed and what they can do to support you.
  • Prioritize eating well-balanced meals and getting restful sleep. Since anxiety can affect appetite and sleep, it’s important to be mindful of when and what you’re eating, as well as the quality of sleep you’re getting. Try not to skip any meals and give your body enough rest as needed.
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as visualization, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  • Move your body. Exercise is a great stress reducer. Create a routine so that you are physically active most days of the week. This can look like taking short breaks to stand up, walk around, or stretch. You can look for exercises that you find interesting and fun, such as a dance class or yoga. You can start out with a few minutes a day and gradually increase the time and intensity of your activities. Feel free to move at your own pace!
  • Engage in activities you enjoy and make you feel good. Perhaps you like listening to music, reading, or crafting. Doing more of what you love helps manage anxiety.
  • Avoid the use of substances or social media to escape anxiety. While they may offer immediate relief from anxiety, it is often temporary and do not provide a long-term, sustainable solution.
  • Learn about your anxiety. Talking to a mental health provider can help you learn more about your symptoms, identify your triggers, and develop skills to manage or cope with anxiety.

Keep in mind that anxiety disorders can be treated. Ignoring the worries or dismissing them as simply being a “worrywart” will not make them go away on their own. On the contrary, they may worsen over time. There is no shame in seeking help. You do not have to do this alone!

Karina Arias is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is currently in private practice.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders


Karina Arias is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker based in Los Angeles, California. She has over 10 years of experience and has been completing mental health evaluations for bariatric surgery candidates since 2017. She is currently in private practice and continues supporting bariatric surgery candidates with pre-surgery evaluations, while also providing therapy to individuals working through anxiety, depression, grief, and trauma.