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Anxiety Disorders: Causes, Symptoms, Types, and Treatment

Anxiety disorders are very common. They are prevalent in today’s fast-paced society, yet most sufferers of this mental illness remain underdiagnosed and undertreated.

What’s normal?

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel nervous when faced with stressful situations, such as managing problems at work, taking a test, or making important decisions.


People with anxiety disorders experience worry and fear as constant and overwhelming. If anxiety starts interfering with your ability to lead a normal life, it may have crossed the line into a disorder, and you should consult a physician.


Like other mental disorders, anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of several risk factors, including changes in the brain, genetics, and environmental stress. Researchers have discovered that people with anxiety disorders often have chemical imbalances in the brain that involve the way nerve cells communicate with each other. Research has also shown that people with anxiety disorders may have problems in the brain circuits that regulate fear. Anxiety disorders often run in families and can be inherited. Finally, life stress (especially at an early age) can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.


Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Stomach upset or diarrhea
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath or breathlessness
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Fatigue or extreme exhaustion
  • Insomnia or sleeplessness
  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness

Mental Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Excessive worry that is difficult to control
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Flashbacks of a traumatic experience
  • Feelings of intense fear or panic
  • Feeling that you are losing control or going crazy


There are several types of anxiety disorders, including –

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • People with GAD worry excessively, even over trivial matters, and realize that their worry is often more intense than the situations warrant.
  • They have difficulty controlling their worry.
  • They feel keyed up or on edge all of the time.
  • They always think of the bad outcome or “worst-case scenarios.”
  • They often suffer from fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, and/or stomach upset.

Anxiety Attacks (Panic Disorder)

  • People who have panic disorder experience repeated, unexpected panic attacks and have anxiety about having panic attacks.
  • They may have agoraphobia – fear of not being able to escape from a place in times of a panic attack. As a result, they often avoid public places like theaters, shopping malls, airplanes, etc.


  • People with phobias have an unrealistic or excessive fear of a particular place, human, animal, object, or situation that normally poses little to no danger.
  • Examples of phobias are acrophobia (fear of heights), achluophobia (fear of the dark), ailurophobia (fear of cats), etc.
  • Frequent avoidance of the object of fear strengthens the phobia.

Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Social anxiety disorder or social phobia refers to the fear of being perceived negatively by others and of public humiliation.
  • During extreme cases, people suffering from social phobia avoid contact with people altogether.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

  • People who have witnessed or experienced traumatic or life-threatening events may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • At times, sufferers may have panic attacks triggered by reminders of the stressful event.
  • They also report flashbacks or nightmares of traumatic events.
  • They can become easily startled and are very watchful of their surroundings.
  • They may withdraw socially to avoid situations that could trigger the same traumatic feelings.


You may consider seeing a general doctor if your anxiety symptoms negatively impact your daily life. Your doctor will take your vitals and do a physical exam to verify that you are not suffering from a physical
illness. Then, he or she may refer you to a mental health professional (usually a psychiatrist) who will use various assessment tools and a specialized interview to evaluate you for an anxiety disorder.


Certain medications can be helpful for anxiety disorders. These usually work best with psychotherapy (talk therapy), dietary changes, and relaxation techniques. Many kinds of talk therapy can be helpful. A few
are listed below:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a very effective form of talk therapy that challenges negative, ruminative thinking patterns and the illogical beliefs that trigger anxiety. This type of therapy also encourages behaviors that promote well-being.
  2. Exposure therapy is another helpful type of counseling that involves exposing oneself to the object, thought, or situation that triggers anxiety. A greater sense of control is obtained via repeated exposure to the traumatic situation or the feared object, either in reality or virtually.
  3. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy can also be helpful for anxiety and involves understanding the subconscious undercurrents that drive anxiety.
  4. Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy: When medication and psychotherapy don’t work, you can try TMS therapy to reduce anxiety disorder symptoms. It uses magnetic fields to calm specific parts of the brain that cause anxiety.

Anxiety FAQs

Can anxiety cause chest pain?

Yes, anxiety can cause chest pain. It’s a common symptom and can be described as sharp, shooting pain, persistent chest aching, or an unusual muscle twitch or spasm in your chest.

The pain may arise due to contractions in the chest wall, muscle strain caused by hyperventilation, or a sudden blood pressure and heart rate spike. If you feel it frequently, it’s essential to visit a doctor to identify whether it’s anxiety or a physical illness.

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Best psychiatrists to cure social anxiety and GAD

Dr. Joann Mundin, MD Psychiatrist

Dr. Joann Mundin, MD

Language: English

Location: Zoom - Telepsych appointment

Years in Practice: 21+
NP Shebna N Osanmoh I, PMHNP Psychiatrist

NP Shebna N Osanmoh I, PMHNP

Language: English

Location: Zoom - Telepsych appointment

Years in Practice: 14+
Dr. Barbara Huynh, DO Psychiatrist

Dr. Barbara Huynh, DO

Language: English

Location: Zoom - Telepsych appointment

Years in Practice: 14+
Dr. Bessy Martirosyan, MD Psychiatrist

Dr. Bessy Martirosyan, MD

Language: English

Location: Zoom - Telepsych appointment

Years in Practice: 21+
Dr. Ellen Machikawa, MD Psychiatrist

Dr. Ellen Machikawa, MD

Language: English

Location: Zoom - Telepsych appointment

Years in Practice: 21+
Dr. Phacharawut Kanchan, MD Psychiatrist

Dr. Phacharawut Kanchan, MD

Language: English

Location: Zoom - Telepsych appointment

Years in Practice: 28+