For most people, anxiety is a normal part of life. Some anxiety symptoms can even be helpful when it warns you of danger. However, some people experience persistent anxiety symptoms that interfere with daily activities, relationships and general enjoyment of life. Eventually, these anxiety symptoms can cause health concerns and other problems.
In the United States, about 9.5 million adults suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). These people may experience a range of both emotional and physical anxiety symptoms. The disorder is characterized by uncontrollable, excessive and often irrational worry regarding common, everyday things. People with GAD may be overly concerned about matters like family problems, health issues, relationship problems, money or work difficulties. They may also anticipate disaster even though there is no rational reason.
Physical anxiety symptoms vary from case to case but often include fatigue, nausea, headaches, fidgeting, muscle aches, numbness in the feet and hands and difficulty breathing and swallowing. Other physical anxiety symptoms may include irritability, difficulty concentrating, sweating, trembling, hot flashes, rashes, restlessness, twitching and muscle tension.
Panic attacks are another type of common anxiety disorder. People experiencing panic attacks may feel anxiety symptoms like a sudden sense of terror, apprehension or fear accompanied by shortness of breath, feelings of impending doom, chest pain or heart palpitations. During a panic attack, patients may feel other anxiety symptoms, like they are going crazy or losing control.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that causes the patient to feel as though he or she is reliving a traumatic event, such as an accident, assault, fire, flood, shooting or earthquake. The patient may feel intense physical and emotional anxiety symptoms coupled with a desire to avoid any reminders of the event. People with PTSD may also have other anxiety symptoms, like difficulty sleeping, being hyper-vigilant, difficulty concentrating or feeling a sense of doom.
Another anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes recurring, persistent impulses, thoughts or images, called obsessions. Common obsessions include worrying about forgetting to turn of the oven or worrying about hurting someone. The patient may feel an irresistible desire to do seemingly purposeless acts, called compulsions. Common compulsions include washing one’s hands repeatedly or flipping a light switch a certain number of times before leaving a room.
Phobias are another common disorder marked by major anxiety symptoms upon exposure to a specific situation or object. Social phobias may be induced by exposure to certain types of performance or social situations. “Stage fright” is the most common social phobia, but extreme shyness is another example of the disorder. Both types of phobias can cause panic attacks.