What are the symptoms of Anxiety ?

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are amongst the most prevalent mental illnesses in most populations that have been studied (Sadock & Sadock, 2003).

While everyone experiences some level of anxiety for healthy functioning, an anxiety disorder is usually when those feelings and symptoms associated with anxiety become so overwhelming that the negatively impact on the person’s social and occupational functioning.

Anxiety is generally understood as a general unpleasant and vague sense of apprehension and nervousness that is normally accompanied by one or more physical symptoms (Saddok & Sadock, 2003).

There are a range of anxiety disorders, but in order to understand any of them, it is important to first understand what anxiety is and the symptoms thereof. Sadock & Sadock (2003) explain that there are two components to anxiety; namely the awareness of the physical sensations and the awareness of feeling nervous. In this sense, the physical symptoms of anxiety include the following:

Racing heart
Heart palpitations
Shortness of breath
Excessive sweating
Dizziness / lightheaded
Restlessness (pacing)
Tremours or trembling
Upset stomach including diarrhea
Frequent urination
(Sadock & Sadock, 2003).

These peripheral manifestations of anxiety are coupled with a feeling of nervousness, butterflies in the stomach and, possibly fear.

Another way of understanding anxiety is as a pervasive and excessive worry about some future event or instance (Penney, Mazmanian & Rudanycz, 2013).

The act of worrying is further defined as a repetitive thought activity that deals with negative future events – in other words, thinking repetitively about possible negative events or outcomes in the future. Anxiety is, in many cases, a self-fulfilling prophecy so to speak.

Often it creates a vicious cycle that exacerbates itself. For instance, someone who is acutely aware of themselves as in the state of anxiety, may become anxious about the way other people are perceiving them. In so doing they worry about the symptoms they are showing, such as the trembling hands and excessive sweating.

They become more anxious about their physical symptoms, which increases the anxiety and, therefore, increases the physical symptoms.

In the same manner, those that feel anxious due to excessive worry, begin to exacerbate and maintain their own state of anxiety by viewing the worry as a negative thing and believing that they do not have control over their worrying.

They may go as far as to believe that the worrying itself may lead to a mental breakdown and that the anxiety that accompanies the worrying is clear evidence for the fact that it is dangerous (Wells & Carter, 2001).

This is the start of a negative cycle where worrying causes anxiety, which leads to more worrying and, therefore, greater levels of anxiety and so forth.

In short, anxiety is a condition that manifests psychologically, emotionally and physically. People struggling with anxiety usually also struggle with excessive worry about negative events, a generalized and vague feeling of dis-ease and apprehension as well as very clear somatic symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath and trembling.

The state of anxiety can often be self-perpetuating and anxiety about anxiety becomes a maintaining factor in the disorder.

Penney, A. M., Mazmanian, D., & Rudanycz, C. (2013). Comparing positive and negative beliefs about worry in predicting generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. Canadian Journal Of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement, 45(1), 34-4

Sadock, B. J. & Sadock, V. A. (2003): Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences / Clinical Psychiatry. Philedelphia Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Wells, A., & Carter, K. (2001). Further tests of a cognitive model of generalized anxiety disorder: Metacognitions and worry in GAD, panic disorder, social phobia, depression, and nonpatients. Behavior Therapy, 32, 85–102