Anxiety is a normal state of apprehension, tension, and uneasiness in response to a real or perceived threat. Although anxiety is considered a normal response to temporary periods of stress or uncertain situations, prolonged, intense, or inappropriate periods of anxiety may indicate an anxiety disorder.



The most common types of anxiety disorders are: phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety and anxiety disorders are often complicated by the presence of alcohol/drug abuse and depression.


Anxiety has psychological and physical symptoms.

Psychological symptoms may include :

  • Worry or dread
  • Obsessive or intrusive thoughts
  • Sense of imminent danger or catastrophe
  • Fear or panic
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Ambivalence
  • Trouble concentrating

Physical symptoms may include :

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Sweating, especially the palms
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushing or blushing
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or faintness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Shaking
  • Choking sensation
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Feeling of "butterflies" in the stomach   
  • Sexual difficulties

Anxiety may result from many factors including :

  • Appropriate response under stressful circumstances
  • Drugs that affect the nervous system, such as:
    • Caffeine
    • Alcohol
    • Cocaine
    • Nicotine
    • Amphetamines
    • Some herbal medications
  • Biological factors:
    • Brain chemistry imbalances (eg, serotonin and norepinephrine)
    • Personality traits
  • Faulty perceptions and irrational beliefs (eg, phobias)  
  • Unresolved emotional History of physical or psychological trauma

Health Professionals will ask about symptoms and medical history. They will perform a psychiatric evaluation. They may also perform a physical exam and diagnostic tests.


Effective treatment usually involves a combination of interventions, including :

Lifestyle Changes :

  • Get sufficient rest and sleep
  • Avoid tobacco
  • Reduce or eliminated caffeinated beverages
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Avoid illicit drugs
  • Reduce exposure to stressful environments
  • Exercise regularly

Relaxation Techniques :

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Deep muscle relaxation
  • Massage
  • Engaging in pleasurable activities

Social Support :

  • Strong support system of family and friends
  • Counseling to improve coping skills
  • Support groups

Psychotherapy :

  • Psychotherapy addresses thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that play a role in anxiety
  • Psychotherapy helps you work through unresolved psychological trauma and conflict

Medication :
For severe anxiety or anxiety disorder, medications may be needed such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants


To help prevent anxiety, consider taking the following steps :

  • Avoid situations, occupations, and people that cause stress.
  • If unavoidable, confront and overcome situations that provoke anxiety.
  • Find a relaxation technique that works for you and use it regularly.
  • Develop and maintain a strong social support system.
  • Express your emotions when they happen.
  • Challenge irrational beliefs and counterproductive thoughts.
  • Correct misperceptions; ask others for their views.
  • Work with a psychotherapist or marriage and family counselor.  
  • Avoid using nicotine or other drugs, and drink alcohol in moderation.

Untreated anxiety can increase risk of more severe, even life-threatening conditions. These conditions include depression, suicide, substance abuse and physical illness.


Risk factors for anxiety include:

  • Sex: female
  • Family member with anxiety disorders
  • Stressful life events
  • Ineffective coping strategies  
  • History of physical or psychological trauma