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Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

anxiety symptoms

Story at-a-glance -

  • When it comes to diagnosing anxiety, the patient’s medical and personal history should be determined first
  • People who have anxiety disorders, depression or bipolar disorder have a higher risk for smoking, alcoholism and other forms of addiction that may be considered a form of self-medication

Although there are various types of anxiety disorders, the primary symptoms are almost always the same. Patients with anxiety disorders typically experience these indicators:1,2,3,4

Mental Physical

Feelings of panic and/or fear

Difficulties with relaxing

Inability to think straight or concentrate about topics other than the current worry

Feelings that the mind has gone blank

Recurrent and constant feelings of nervousness or restlessness

Sleeping problems

Moving away from things that may trigger anxiety

Rapid heartbeat

Chest pain5

Shortness of breath or hyperventilation (rapid breathing)

Increased heart rate




Tingling sensations in the hands or feet

Difficulty swallowing7

Stomach pain or gastrointestinal problems

Dry mouth

These Symptoms Are Specific to Particular Anxiety Disorders

Apart from the aforementioned symptoms, certain anxiety disorders may have unique indicators. Some examples include:

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD):8


Muscle tension

Constant urge to go to the bathroom


“Pins and needles” sensations9

Panic Disorder:10,11

Frequent and/or unexpected panic attacks

Abdominal cramps


Fear of death or losing control of life

Continued fear or worry of next instance of a panic attack

Aversion or fear of places of previous panic attack occurrences

Ongoing worry about having another panic attack, which may last for at least one month12


Intense fear or anxiety triggered by an object or situation

Increased anxiety response when source of fear is near (whether in time or physical location)

Awareness that fear or anxiety is irrational or out of proportion, but unable to control said feelings

Avoidance of objects or situations that trigger fear, or endurance of the situations but with extreme distress

Failure to function normally because of the fear

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD):14

Extreme distress because of knowledge that patient may be away from home or be separated from a parent or loved one

Extreme worry about losing or possible harm toward a loved one

Intense worry about getting lost, being kidnapped or separated from loved ones

Refusal to go to school, stay home alone or sleep away from home without having a parent or loved one close by

Social Anxiety Disorder:15

Persistent fear of or intense anxiety about social situations wherein a patient believes that he or she may be scrutinized or act in a manner that’s humiliating

Avoidance or fear of social situations such as talking to strangers or being the center of attention, or enduring the said situation fearfully or anxiously

Fear of experiencing embarrassing physical symptoms such as sweating or shaky voice

Fear that others may notice you’re anxious

Experiencing anxiety because of a scary activity or happening

Analyzing a social situation and how you think you fared even after it has already happened

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How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed?

Consulting a physician or mental health specialist  is vital if you or someone you know is showing signs of an anxiety disorder.16 They will ask you questions about your medical and personal history, conduct a physical examination and, if needed, recommend laboratory tests. The last step may be considered if they want to know more about other health problems you may have that trigger symptoms you are experiencing.17

For the following anxiety disorders, physicians can either check for specific criteria that match descriptions of people with OCD, or ask patients to answer questionnaires or surveys to see if they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Physicians may refer to the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)," a set of guidelines published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).18

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:19 Physicians may ask patients some questions pertaining to their condition or let them answer a questionnaire to check for symptoms. Examples include:

Structured Interviews Self-Report Questionnaires

Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS)

Structured Clinical Interview for DSM (SCID)

Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule-Revised (AIDS)


Structured Interview for PTSD (SI-PTSD)

PTSD Symptom Scale Interview (PSS-I)

PTSD Checklist

Impacts of Events Scale-Revised (IES-R)

Keane PTSD Scale of the MMPI-2

Mississippi Scale for Combat Related PTSD and the Mississippi Scale for Civilians

Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS)

Penn Inventory for Posttraumatic Stress

Los Angeles Symptom Checklist (LASC)


Anxiety: Introduction

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety Versus Panic Attacks

Anxiety in Children

Anxiety During Pregnancy

Panic Attacks and Anxiety

Anxiety Causes

Anxiety Types

Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety Treatment

Anxiety Prevention

Anxiety Diet

Anxiety Support Groups

Anxiety FAQ


Anxiety Types


Anxiety Treatment

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