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Anxiety Quest

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The Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.1

Adults suffering with anxiety can be up to five times more likely to go to their primary care physician and six times more likely to be hospitalized for mental health problems than those who do not have anxiety.

Nearly everyone gets anxious, especially about performance or the unknown and, in America, public speaking makes most people quite anxious.


The five major types of anxiety disorders are:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by chronic tension and exaggerated worry, even when there is little or nothing to provoke anxiety.
  2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these so-called “rituals,” however, provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.
  3. Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, or abdominal distress.
  4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
  5. Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation – such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations or eating or drinking in front of others – or, in its most severe form, may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost anytime they are around other people.2




3 The five symptoms lists are adapted from Therapist’s Toolkit by David Burns, MD and used by permission from the author.

The symptoms of anxiety emotions are:3

  • feeling nervous or on edge
  • being unable to stop or control worrying
  • worrying too much about too many different things
  • trouble trying to relax
  • being so restless you find it hard to sit still
  • becoming irritable or easily annoyed
  • feeling afraid is a something awful might happen
  • experiencing too much tension
  • feeling things around you are strange or foggy
  • feeling detached from all or part of your own body
  • having sudden unexpected panic spells
  • sensing impending doom or apprehension
  • feeling stressed or uptight

The physical symptoms of anxiety are:

  • skipping, racing or pounding of your heart
  • feeling pain, pressure or tightness in your chest
  • tingling or numbness in your toes or fingers
  • butterflies or discomfort in your stomach
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • restlessness or jumpiness
  • tense, tight muscles
  • sweating not brought on by heat
  • a lump in your throat
  • trembling or shaking
  • rubbery or jelly legs
  • feeling dizzy, lightheaded or off balance
  • choking or smothering sensations
  • headaches or pains in the neck or your back
  • hot flashes or cold chills
  • feeling tired, weak or easily exhausted

The symptoms of anxiety thoughts are:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • racing thoughts
  • frightening daydreams or fantasies
  • thinking you are on the verge of losing self-control
  • believing you are going crazy or cracking up
  • thinking you are passing out or fainting
  • believing you will suffer heart attacks, illnesses or dying
  • thinking you will look foolish in front of others
  • believing you can’t survive being abandoned, alone or isolated
  • thinking you cannot handle disapproval, rejection or criticism
  • believing something terrible will happen to you

The symptoms of obsessive thoughts are:

  • upsetting thoughts you’re unable to get rid of or control
  • unrealistic ideas ruminating through your mind over and over
  • words or sounds going through your mind over and over
  • apprehension harm will come to others if you don’t do certain things or things aren’t in the right place
  • worrying you may lose control and harm other people
  • worrying you will confess or blurt something out
  • brooding it will be your fault for something terrible happening like a fire or illness
  • concerns about germs, contamination, sticky substances, dirt or body secretions
  • having forbidden or perverse sexual thoughts
  • fears of doing something sacrilegious or blasphemous
  • thinking you’re inadequate, an imposter, not measuring up or fearing exposure

The symptoms of compulsive rituals are:

  • washing your hands repeatedly
  • performing an elaborate, time-consuming ritual when you shave, brush your teeth, shower, shave or groom yourself
  • performing an elaborate ritual when you clean the house
  • repeating things over and over
  • the compulsion to behave according to certain rigid rules
  • having to perform mental acts, such as counting things, praying or repeating words silently
  • checking things over and over, like the doors are locked or the stove is off
  • having to arrange things in a particular way
  • hoarding things or being unable to throw things away
  • having the compulsion to do other rituals
  • balancing or making things even
  • needing things to be symmetrical


If any of these symptoms is negatively affecting your life right now, call the Healthy Counseling Center for help at (509) 466-6632.

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