It is natural to worry and feel anxious about things — that presentation at work, your growing to-do list, a relationship. Anxiety can help you confront stresses in your life, and for many people the feeling is motivating and doesn’t last long. But when persistent worries start affecting your day-to-day activities, your work, your sleep, or your relationships, it may be time to do something about it.
Anxiety problems are common and uncomfortable. Almost one-third of adults will experience some form of distressing anxiety at some point in their lifetime. Symptoms can include:
- Feeling restless, jumpy, or on edge
- Excessive worrying about everyday decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- A racing heart or cold, clammy hands
- Trembling or twitching
- Having trouble catching your breath
- Feeling dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded
- Difficulty sleeping
The good news is that there are effective treatment options for overcoming problems with anxiety.
Types of Anxiety
Most people feel anxious in some social situations, some of the time, but for people with social phobia, that anxiety is strong and long-lasting. Social phobia can keep people from doing things they want to do, such as public speaking or attending a crowded event like a concert or a football game.
Do you feel very nervous or anxious in specific situations? Download the screening checklist for social anxiety disorder or social phobia.
People with generalized anxiety feel as if they’re always worrying or anxious about a range of things in their daily lives. They have trouble controlling or stopping these worries — whether they're about work, school, money, relationships, or their health.
People with generalized anxiety sometimes describe themselves as “worry warts” and often are told that they worry too much. They may also experience symptoms of tension, including restlessness, tiring easily, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep difficulties, and inability to relax.
Do you continually worry or feel anxious? Download the screening checklist for generalized anxiety.
People with panic disorder have recurrent, unexpected episodes of intense fear or discomfort called panic attacks. A panic attack is accompanied by symptoms such as heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, a racing or pounding heart, trembling, chest pain, stomach distress, dizziness or lightheadedness, and numbing or tingling. During a panic attack, people often feel afraid that they are out of control or even that their life is at risk.
Although most people experience a panic attack at some point, those with panic disorder worry about having more panic attacks and will often do things to try to prevent them. They might avoid situations that are difficult to leave, such as a client meeting or concert, because they fear having a panic attack. This can significantly limit a person’s ability to experience and enjoy life. When people avoid situations because they are afraid they will have a panic attack, they may be experiencing panic disorder with agoraphobia.
Have you had more than one sudden rush of intense fear or discomfort? Download the screening checklist for panic disorder.
A person with a specific phobia experiences intense fear in response to a particular object or situation. For example, fear of blood or needles, of enclosed places, and of flying are common specific phobias.
Sometimes specific phobias arise or become more of an issue after a person relocates to an area with a higher risk of encountering what they fear. For example, if someone has a specific phobia of earthquakes, that fear may intensify after moving from Chicago to Los Angeles, where earthquakes are common. The key to coping with these phobias is recognizing when they are getting in the way of your everyday life.
Do you feel very afraid of, or feel a need to avoid, a specific object or situation? Download the screening checklist for specific phobias.
In Veterans’ Own Words
In Iraq, Brian felt tense and uneasy. When the Army National Guard Veteran came home, he wasn’t able to let his guard down. He felt anxious and on edge, especially at night or in crowds. When his wife suggested that he find support, Brian talked to his doctor about his challenges. Later, he sought counseling through VA. Now he can manage his anxiety triggers and feels more at ease.