Everyone experiences anxiety.  However, when feelings of intense fear and distress are overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday things, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States.  An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S., or 18% have an anxiety disorder.  Approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience the negative impact of an anxiety disorder at school and at home.


Just like with any mental illness, people with anxiety disorders experience symptoms differently.  But for most people, anxiety changes how they function day-to-day.  People can experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Emotional symtoms:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger

Physical symptoms:

  • Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
  • Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Sweating, tremors and twitches
  • Headaches, fatigue and insomnia

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Different anxiety disorders have various symptoms.  This also means that each type of anxiety disorder has its own treatment plan.  The most common disorders include:

  • Panic Disorder.  Characterized by panic attacks – sudden feelings of terror – sometimes striking repeatedly and without warning.  Often mistaken for a heart attack, a panick attack causes powerful physical symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and stomach upset.
  • Phobias. Most people with specific phobias have several triggers.  To avoid panicking, someone with specific phobias will work hard to avoid their triggers.  Depending on the type and number of triggers, this fear and the attempt to control it can seem to take over a person’s life.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).  GAD produces chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday life.  This can consume hours each day, making it hard to concentrate or finish routine daily tasks.  A person with GAD may become exhausted by worry and experience headaches, tension  or nausea.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder.  Unlike shyness, this disorder causes intense fear, often driven by irrational worries about social humiliation – “saying something stupid,” or “not knowing what to say.”  Someone this disorder may not participate in conversations, contribute to class discussions, or offer their ideas.  He or she may become isolated.  Panic attack symptoms are a common reaction.


Scientists believe that many factors combine to cause anxiety disorders.

  • Genetics.  Some families will have a higher than average number of members experiencing these issues.  Studies support the evidence that these disorders run in families.   A genetic component is one risk factor for developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Stress.  A stressful or traumatic situation such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence or prolonged illness is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder.


The physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions like heart disease or hyperthyroidism.  Therefore, a doctor will likely perform a physical examination, an interview and lab tests.  After ruling out medical illness, doctors often refer to a mental health professional to make a diagnosis.


As each disorder has a different set of symptoms, and every client is different.  A treatment plan is personalized for each patient.

If you believe the information on this page pertains to something you may be going through, please request an appointment today.

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Anxiety causes chest pain for woman