Anxiety: Symptoms, Types, Causes, and Prevention

Just like any other emotion, anxiety is an emotion. It’s your body’s response to dealing with stress. Everybody feels anxious in varied situations. Normal anxiety is okay. 

Anxiety disorder is a common mental health condition that impacts the quality of life and impacts productivity of an individual. 

Anxiety is the feeling when one’s body responds to a frightening or threatening situation. Furthermore, anxiety is characterized by feelings of nervousness, stress, and tension.

How does one respond to feeling threatened, under pressure, or under stress? For some, anxiety would be natural and helpful in some situations, such as coping with an emergency or performing better in an examination. However, for others, it may create a situation of being excessively worried.

Anxiety affects your feeling, thinking, behaviour, and physical body like increased blood pressure. 

Anxiety Disorder

Mental disorders are related to stress, reaction to stress, individual proneness to anxiety, and maladaptive. 

Approximately 38 million people suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in India. However, depression followed by anxiety disorders is found to be the most prevalent among the female adult population.

Anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive fear, anxiousness, and related behavioral alterations. In anxiety disorder, the external or internal stimulus produces extreme anxiety that is the source of intense distress or significant impairment of functioning. 

Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety 

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread 
  • Feeling tense and unreal, strange, and unsettled 
  • Restlessness 
  • Irritability 
  • Can’t concentrate
  • Thoughts racing
  • Imagining the worst
  • Constant worrying
  • Finding difficult to calm down
  • Anticipating the worst 
  • Being watchful for signs of danger
  • Avoiding situations or things  

Signs you have Anxiety: Physical Signs and Symptoms 

  • Heart palpation 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Upset stomach 
  • Body shake and shiver
  • Sweating on face and palms
  • Headaches, fatigue, and insomnia 
  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea 
  • Midnight awaken
  • Chest tightness
  • Muscles tension, body pain
  • Dizziness and urge to pee more often
  • Drink alcohol, smoke, and eat more
  • Talk quickly more than usual

Causes of Anxiety

Brain and biological processes play a crucial role in fear and anxiety. 

Genetics or family history of mental health condition 

Some families will have a higher than average number of members experiencing anxiety issues, and studies support the evidence that anxiety disorders run in families. Such factors are developing an anxiety disorder. People who experience anxiety might have a history of mental health conditions in their families.

Stressful events in life – Causes of anxiety are varied, however, a few of the common causes related with day to day life are listed below-

  • Work stress or changing jobs or being fired from a job
  • Change in lifestyle
  • Conceiving a baby, being pregnant, or delivery of a baby
  • Family issues and dealing with other relationship 
  • Traumatic event
  • Emotional shock 
  • Experiencing verbal, sexual, physical, or emotional abuse 
  • Violence
  • Death or loss of a loved one

Physical health problems Long terms health-related problems like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease may lead to anxiety disorder. Hormonal problems in ladies like thyroid or PMS are also reasons for an anxiety disorder. 

Substance use Excessive or long-term use of substances such as alcohol, drugs like cannabis, amphetamines, etc. can actually cause an individual to develop anxiety. People with anxiety are more on substance use to cope with withdrawal-related anxiety, which can lead to them feeling worse.


What are the types of anxiety disorders?

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Panic Disorder 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Acute Stress disorder (ASD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a chronic state of anxious worry and tension, often without provocation. A person with generalized anxiety disorder regularly anticipates disaster, often worrying excessively about a lot of things in life like health, money, family, or work over a period of six months or more.


  • Inability to control excessive worry 
  • Difficulty in concentration 
  • Interferes in everyday life 
  • Restless or on edge 
  • Fatigue and headaches
  • Sweating and shaking body
  • Irritability 
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Trouble sleeping 

Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social anxiety disorder is characterized by extreme anxiety about being watched by other people. Some people with social phobia experience their symptoms only when they are in a performance situation. But this order may also occur for other people when they are in ordinary social settings.

Essentially their experience is centered on a desire to avoid humiliation or embarrassment. For example, public speaking, eating in public, being assertive at work, or making small talk with others.


  • Social or performance situations 
  • Embarrassment or being negatively evaluated
  • Exposure to social situations 
  • Avoidance, anxious anticipation, or distress
  • Nausea, stomach ache, and sweating


A phobia is an unrealistic or extreme fear of a specific discrete object, setting, or situation. Fears are persistent and cause us to avoid situations in which exposure might occur.

For example, fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of underwater, fear of thunder, fear of flying, fear of elevators or lifts, fear of driving, fear of injection, fear of insects, fear of animals-dog, fear of dental visits, etc.


  • crying, stiffening, 
  • escaping the situation
  • a panic attack
  • object or situation always provokes 

Panic disorder 

Panic disorder refers to sudden and repeated attacks and episodes of intense fear and discomfort that reach a peak within a few minutes. During this time, the individual experiences physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, abdominal distress, chest pain, breathlessness, vertigo, sweating, shaking body, and shortness of breath. An individual is accompanied by the fear of losing control or feeling like choking or dying. If one experiences this for one month or more that lasts till 10 minutes then it’s said to be a panic attack. If such continues and is diagnosed then it is called one has panic disorder.


  • choked 
  • nausea or stomach ache
  • dizzy or faint 
  • tingly or numb 
  • feelings of unreality or depersonalization 
  • hot or cold flushes 
  • scared of going crazy 
  • scared of dying

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is when the individual experiences several distressing symptoms for more than a month following a traumatic event, such as re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance of reminders of the trauma, a numbing of general responsiveness and increased arousal.

It is a mental health condition that develops in response to witnessing or experiencing a distressing event involving the threat of death or extreme bodily harm. 

Examples include sexual assault, physical violence, war, accident, and natural disasters like fire, earthquakes, floods, and medical emergencies. One can experience intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Acute stress disorder (ASD) is an anxiety disorder that develops after a traumatic event, with symptoms such as depersonalization, numbing, dissociative amnesia, intense anxiety, hypervigilance, and impairment of everyday functioning.

People with this disorder may re-experience the event and desperately avoid reminders of the trauma. These symptoms arise within the month following the trauma and last from 2 days to 4 weeks.


  • insomnia and worry
  • death, injury, torture, or abuse 
  • trouble feeling intensely positive emotions
  • Avoid reminders of the event 
  • Lose excitement in life

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD

OCD is an unwanted thought, word, phrase, or image that persistently and repeatedly comes into a person’s mind and causes distress. It is a recurrent, and persistent thought, an urge to do something in order again and again. Or in other words, It is an anxiety disorder that traps people in repetitive thoughts and behavioral rituals that can be completely disabling. For example, handwashing, cleaning, hoarding, checking the stove, placing items in an order, counting, and repeating talk in order to make others understand.

OCD has three elements and symptoms:

  • Obsession: an unwanted, intrusive, and often distressing thoughts, images, or urges repeatedly entering the mind
  • Emotions: cause a feeling of intense anxiety or distress
  • Compulsions: repetitive behaviour or acts that drive to perform out of anxiety or distress

How to calm down anxiety 

  • Accept your anxiety
  • Identify triggers
  • Practice deep breathing exercises
  • Name the feeling
  • Practise self-care
  • Meditation
  • Riding off clutter
  • Regular bedtime and wake-up time
  • Stop procrastination
  • Reduce caffeine intake, drugs, and smoke
  • Restrict processed food
  • Change your negative core beliefs
  • Surround yourself with a positive and motivating environment
  • Practice gratitude
  • Visit a therapist, counsellor, or psychologist
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