Anxiety is a negative emotional state in which one feels physically tense and scared about what might happen in the future that they can’t control. It’s based on having an irrational, or, unrealistic and troubled, sense of what might happen to oneself in the future.

This fear could be from something specific, or much more abstract.

The difference between anxiety and a clinical diagnosis of anxiety, is, as understood elsewhere in the psychiatric realm, how much it inhibits normal day-to-day functioning.

The link between mental and physical in this instance holds strong

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A small amount of anxiety may be helpful. It leads one to be more careful about how they perform. Too much, however, can make one perform much worse than normal. Think of a bell curve.

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Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent form of mental illness, with 17% of people, according to a meta-analysis, suffering from it at some point in their life.

An anxious person might have a high heart rate, nausea, difficulty breathing and sleeping, high blood pressure, and look wildly around at their surroundings.

Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand. As follows, almost all medications that treat anxiety are also used to treat depression.

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At the present, it is understood that there are six different types of anxiety disorders.

Social anxiety disorder is an intense, chronic fear of embarrassing oneself in certain situations, usually unfamiliar situations that have one being watched. If untreated, all potentially difficult atmospheres tend to be completely avoided.

Triggers include…

  • Taking a test
  • Going on a date
  • Speaking in public
  • Trying to engage in small talk
  • Making a phone call
  • Performing for others (such as being in a play, or singing)
  • Meeting new people
  • Attending a party

Mental and emotional symptoms…

  • Fear of humiliating oneself
  • Fear of other people picking up on one’s nervousness
  • Excessive worry in the majority, to all, social interactions
  • Great anxiety in the time leading up to a social situation
  • Fear of being judged

Physical symptoms…

  • Sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stomach ache
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Fast heart beat
  • Feeling faint

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is when one continually, unintentionally, acts upon invading thoughts and impulses, which create a lot of angst (nervous anxiety), a sense of not being in control. These thoughts make one engage in repetitive behaviors; they are not able to stop performing them. Though most people suffering from OCD have both obsessive and compulsive aspects of the disease, some have either one or the other.


  • Being very preoccupied (concerned with) ethical and/or religious thoughts
  • Being scared of not being able to control oneself, then harming someone
  • Preoccupation with symmetry and order, the idea that things must line up perfectly (also a compulsion)
  • Being very superstitious
  • Being unable to stop thinking and/or seeing thoughts of violent or sexual nature
  • Excessive fear of being contaminated


  • Cleaning or washing things a lot of the time
  • Checking things (such as if a door is locked, or an oven off) to an absurd extent
  • Keeping a lot of “junk” (such as old milk cartons, or store receipts)
  • Chronically checking to see if friends and/or family are okay
  • Reducing anxiety through irrational (not logical) habits (like turning a light on and off seven times, or walking up a staircase backwards)

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Panic disorders involve a severe amount of stress experienced all of the sudden, an anxiety attack. Oftentimes, people feel as if they can’t breathe, or that something terrible is just about to happen to them, such as a heart attack, or even death.

These episodes generally peak after ten minutes, but tend to resolve after about thirty minutes.

Common symptoms include…

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  • Feeling suddenly hot or cold
  • Nausea
  • Feeling unreal
  • Chest pain
  • Physically shaking
  • Experiencing a surge of intense fear
  • Not being able to breathe
  • The fear of going insane
  • Hyperventilation
  • Feeling on the edge of losing consciousness

Generalized anxiety disorders (GAD’s) are diagnosed when a patient is anxious in absence of a reason. They tend to worry a lot during the day, for much more than is realistic.

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There are a few differences between normal anxiety, and those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder. For people with GAD, anxiety tends to be a lot more…

  • Persistent
  • Strong
  • Disruptive
  • Intrusive

Mental and emotional symptoms…

  • Extreme dread
  • Feeling that there is no way to help the anxiety
  • Being unable to tolerate the uncertain nature of the future
  • Being unable to stop thinking of things to promote anxiety
  • Chronic worry


  • Diarrhea
  • Tense muscles, oftentimes to the point of aching
  • Feeling on edge
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea

Phobic anxiety disorders are similar to generalized anxiety disorders, but the former center on one thing, exposure to a certain object or circumstance. It’s an intense fear of something that either poses no danger, or very little.

People with phobias might understand cognitively that there is no significant danger, but still be scared. The difference between a normal fear and a phobia, is that those with phobias dramatically overestimate danger when encountered with their trigger.

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There are at least 25 different, officially recognized phobia. Some of the more common ones are fear of spiders, fear of heights, fear of physically close spaces, and fear of being in public.

Mental and emotional symptoms…

  • Fearing insanity
  • The inability to control a fear, though you understand that the fear isn’t realistic
  • Feeling the need to escape a situation
  • Feeling detached
  • Crippling anxiety
  • Feeling that death is close


  • Pain in the chest
  • Racing heart
  • Significant sweating
  • An upset stomach
  • Feeling suddenly cold or warm
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Having a hard time breathing

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after one has faced something extremely disturbing, and relives part of the fear without the situation happening. It can be as severe as feeling like a panic attack that rarely, or never, leaves.

Events that can cause PTSD…

  • Being attacked
  • Being raped
  • Being exposed to war
  • Being kidnapped
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • When a friend or family member suddenly dies
  • Being in car or plane crash
  • Being in a terrorist attack
  • Being in a natural disaster (such as a hurricane)
  • Being significantly neglected as a child

Mental and emotional symptoms of an anxiety disorder can include…

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Dreading the worst in the future
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Feeling tense
  • Being hyper-vigilant about danger
  • Shock, or the inability to pull up thoughts

Physical anxiety symptoms may present as…

  • Dizziness
  • Stomach ache
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fast beating of the heart
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Twitches
  • Frequently relieving oneself
  • Muscle tension
  • Having a difficult time breathing

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Here’s a look at the demographics of this population

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Sources: Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach,,,,,,,,,,