Anxiety Causes, Symptoms & Signs

The signs of anxiety can often be difficult to identify. Once an individual identifies the symptoms and side effects of anxiety, the next step in the recovery journey become clear.

Understanding Anxiety

Learn about anxiety

Throughout life, everyone can expect to feel worried from time to time, and feeling fearful about potentially dangerous situations, objects, and places is normal as well. At manageable levels, fear or anxiety is a useful emotion, and at times it can serve as a protective tool as it is the mind and body’s natural response when safety could be compromised.

In a broad sense, feelings of stress can push us into necessary action, allowing one to focus, stay alert, perform an action, or solve a problem. But not all stress is healthy, and chronic anxiety can have a debilitating effect. Rather than serving as an activator or motivator, this type of unrelenting distress can cause countless damages to one’s ability to function.

Individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to face constant worry without a particular reason, may avoid social situations, and may even develop irrational fears of certain objects, places, and situations. At most severe, anxiety disorders can cause a crippling amount of fear and apprehension that can make it seem impossible to attend to the tasks of daily living, preventing some from even leaving the home.

The emotions that present in anxiety disorders can vary from mild feelings of nervousness, to extreme bouts of terror and panic, not all of which have a noted cause. There are several different types of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, phobic disorder, and panic disorder, each with unique symptoms and recommended treatments.

While frightening and challenging to overcome, anxiety disorders are considered a very treatable type of mental illness. With the proper interventions from a quality treatment center, most individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders are able to lead happy and productive lifestyles.


Anxiety statistics

Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million people (or 18% of the population) in the United States over the age of 18, and women are 60% more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders at some point during their lifetime. It has been estimated that adolescents, ages 13 to 18, have about an 8% prevalence for these disorders, with most symptoms emerging before the age of 6.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for anxiety

The precise mechanisms that cause anxiety disorders to develop in some and not others remains unknown. However, it is generally thought that anxiety disorders are often the culmination of many factors working together. The most common causes for anxiety disorders include the following:

Genetic: Individuals who are born into families who have a history of anxiety disorders are at greater risk for developing an anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime. Low levels of GAMA, a neurotransmitter that is known to reduce excitement in the central nervous system, is believed to contribute to heightened anxiety.

Environmental: Individuals who are known to have a sensitivity to stimulants such as caffeine are at greater risks for having anxiety-related symptoms. Additionally, individuals who have anxiety may develop the condition in response to environmental stress, such as financial concerns or the diagnosis of a chronic illness.

Risk Factors:

  • Experiencing traumatic events
  • Having a low distress tolerance
  • Family history of anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions
  • Gender (females are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than males)

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

As is the case with other types of mental health conditions, anxiety disorders can present in a variety of ways depending on the individual. However, some commonalities persist when it comes to the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorder, some of which are briefly outlined below:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Inability to be still
  • Ritualistic behaviors such as hand-wringing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tremors or twitches
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea

Physical symptoms:

  • Dry mouth
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Sweaty hands or feet
  • Cardiac arrhythmia (heart palpitations)
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling weak
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach problems
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling in hands or feet

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Feelings of panic
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of uneasiness
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Inability to calm down
  • Repeated flashbacks of trauma
  • Nightmares

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Challenges fulfilling work, school, or familial obligations
  • Withdrawing from once pleasurable pastimes
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones


Effects of anxiety

Although anxiety disorders are quite treatable with the proper supports in place, many individuals are ashamed of their experience and do not seek help. Sadly, the effects of untreated anxiety disorders can impact virtually all aspects of an individual’s life and can include:

  • Crumbling interpersonal relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Teeth grinding
  • Digestive or bowel problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Job loss
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Co-Occurring Disorders

Anxiety and co-occurring disorders

Anxiety disorders often occur with the presence of other mental illnesses. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Substance use disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
Marks of Quality Care
These affiliations are an official recognition of Riverview’s dedication to offering exceptional treatment.
  • Arkansas Hospital Association
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval
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The doctors and nurses at Riverview Behavioral Health recognized the unique problems of my child.  They provided treatment that put her back on the right track.

– Parent of a former patient