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Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

In 2013 11.6 percent of Canadians (three million people) reported that they had an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a clinical condition in which the individual affected is extremely nervous to the point where they have difficulty functioning.

Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments 1

There are a variety of different clinical anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and OCD, which is categorized as an anxiety disorder. They’re extremely common, and people often minimize the effect that anxiety has on the body and mind.

Anxiety can be extremely debilitating, and it can cause people to experience difficulty functioning, leaving the house, attending work or school, and many other things.

It’s important to understand that people with anxiety are struggling and that this diagnosis should be treated as any other medical condition. People with anxiety are among those individuals. It’s essential to note that people with anxiety aren’t trying to be lazy or an inconvenience to others. They have a medical condition just like people with heart disease or diabetes.

When you’re someone that lives with anxiety, you often feel excessively nervous about a variety of situations, and you might feel like you’re letting people down. It’s okay to express these feelings, and it’s essential to reach out for help if you think that your anxiety is negatively impacting your life in any way.

The first step to getting treatment for anxiety is admitting that it is adversely affecting your life so that you can find the help that you need.

Worrying vs. Anxiety

Occasional worries, nervousness, and stress is a part of life; it’s something that everyone experiences. However, there’s a drastic difference between experiencing stress sometimes and having an anxiety disorder where you live with constant worry, panic attacks, or a variety of other symptoms.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Racing thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Feeling extremely nervous or restless
  • Having an impending sense of doom

Here are some common anxiety disorders:


Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD, which includes frequently worrying about things that are out of one’s control and worrying about activities or events and what will happen during those activities or events. GAD often co-occurs with depression.

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to become unable to speak in certain situations or to specific individuals. It is most often seen in children, and it interferes with social functioning.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety, which involves being anxious in or about social situations. Many people with social anxiety are afraid of being embarrassed or viewed negatively by their peers.


Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder where individuals avoid places where they might feel trapped or embarrassed. Usually, people associate agoraphobia with trouble leaving the house, but the reason that they have difficulty leaving the house is their fear of being embarrassed, helpless, or of feeling trapped.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder, which is an anxiety disorder where an individual experiences shortness of breath, chest pain, and repeated episodes of feeling impending doom that seemingly come out of nowhere. Panic attacks typically peak at around twenty minutes and then subside, but the person may feel as if they’re dying while it’s happening.

When To See A Medical Professional

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If you feel like your anxiety is out of control, and you’re worrying so much that it’s interfering with your life, it’s time to see a doctor. If you have suicidal ideation or behaviors, go to an emergency room immediately, and see a medical professional.

If you feel depressed, it’s essential to see a doctor. If anxiety is interfering with your life and personal relationships, see a doctor, or reach out to a qualified therapist on Psychology Today.

Causes/Correlations For Anxiety

It’s essential to seek help to learn to manage your anxiety so that it won’t take over your life. Panic attacks can interfere with daily functioning, but there are ways to handle panic so that it doesn’t make it impossible to conduct your life. Of course, panic attacks are scary, and there are ten symptoms of a panic attack, including:

  • An impending sense of fear or doom that comes out of nowhere
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling like your throat is closing or a feeling of choking
  • Chest pains
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fear that you’re dying or having a heart attack
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Hot flashes
  • Trembling or chills

Panic attacks are different from panic disorder. Panic disorder involves recurrent panic attacks and often, avoidance of situations that may trigger these panic attacks. Panic disorder and panic attacks differ because panic attacks can have a variety of causes other than panic disorder, and not all panic attacks are caused by panic disorder.


PTSD is considered an anxiety disorder. In an earlier version of the APA’s DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, which was released in 2013, PTSD was its own condition; it wasn’t yet considered an anxiety disorder.

It’s caused by exposure to traumatic events such as imminent death, shootings or other violent acts, natural disasters, and sexual assault.

It indicates fear of people or the place where a traumatic event happened, difficulty focusing, trouble sleeping, hypervigilance where you’re excessively aware of your surroundings, and a sense of doom.

PTSD comes with panic attacks much of the time. If you’ve never had a panic attack, you may wonder how they feel. As referenced above, they come out of seemingly nowhere. They make a person feel as if they’re sometimes dying, and you feel like you’re out of control if you don’t know what’s happening.

You can cope with a panic attack using skills like mindfulness at times, and sometimes, medication can either prevent or help you manage panic attacks.

The Cause Of Panic Disorder Is Unclear

The Cause Of Panic Disorder Is Unclear

Concerning panic disorder, there’s no one clear singular cause. It could have to do with a life change, such as having children or getting married. It could have to do with a traumatic event. People with panic disorder are more likely to have depression and sometimes, or suicidal ideation.

Panic disorder is treatable with therapy or medication and therapy together. Anti-anxiety medication, such as benzodiazepines or beta blockers, can be beneficial, and they can help you deal with both the physical and emotional symptoms of panic.

Causes/Correlations of GAD

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worrying, and people with GAD sometimes have unrealistic expectations for a situation. It affects how people function.

Some symptoms of GAD are:

  • pervasive worrying,
  • an unrealistic view of problems,
  • headaches,
  • muscle tightness,
  • irritability,
  • feeling restless,
  • nausea,
  • gastrointestinal difficulties,
  • Feeling excessively exhausted,
  • trouble sleeping,
  • insomnia or excessive sleeping,
  • frequent need to use the restroom.

Many of us worry about stressors in our lives, but when worrying takes over, that’s when you need to pay attention. It could be a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder.

The causes of GAD are often related to genetics, which means that if someone has a history of GAD in their family, they’re more likely to have it themselves.

Environmental factors can cause it, such as trauma or stress, life transitions, divorce, changing careers, or their job. Brain chemistry can impact the development of GAD because people who suffer from it have neurotransmitters that are signaling that there’s a danger when there isn’t, which is why medication can be helpful for people living with GAD.

GAD Is Common

It typically begins in a person’s childhood or their teenage years and can continue into their adult life. It’s significantly more common in women than men. A doctor can diagnose GAD during a medical exam where they document your psychiatric issues. GAD is treated by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a counsellor.

CBT For Anxiety

People who have anxiety often benefit from CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). It can help individuals cope with their maladaptive thinking, learn to manage anxiety, and cope better overall. CBT aims to show the individual that their anxiety is caused by maladaptive thought patterns that can be changed.

Patients can use thought records to keep track of their anxious thoughts and decide what isn’t serving them from what is. You can visit a therapist who specializes in CBT, whether that is an online therapist or someone in your local area.

Some studies indicate how CBT can help people with anxiety and depression. And it is a beneficial form of mental health treatment for both disorders.



Mindfulness can help with anxiety. You can be mindful of your surroundings. You might not be able to change how you are experiencing a panic attack because there are chemicals in your brain that are taking over. However, you can be mindful of your symptoms. You can focus on breathing through the panic attack. Breathe deeply through the panic attack and remind yourself that panic does not last forever.

On average, panic attacks continue for around 20 to 25 minutes, but they will end. Focus on your breath, and notice what is in your surroundings. One mindfulness exercise is to name five things that you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Doing this exercise will focus your attention on something during a panic attack.

Myths About Anxiety

Anxiety is a real medical condition. Many times people with anxiety get dismissed because they are told that their symptoms are dramatic. They’re told that they are making up what they’re dealing with when it’s extremely real. As someone living with anxiety, it’s important to remember that you are not fabricating your symptoms, and you are allowed to seek help for them. You are living with real mental health and medical condition.

Sometimes people with anxiety will go to the doctor with another medical condition, and they are told that it is just their anxiety. Just because you have anxiety does not mean that you can’t have other medical conditions. Don’t let a doctor dismiss you if you feel like you are experiencing a health issue other than your anxiety.

You don’t deserve to be stigmatized because you have this condition. You are just like anybody else, and you deserve to be treated so. Anxiety can feel debilitating, but it doesn’t have to take over your entire life.

Anxiety Disorders Are Highly Treatable

When you’re living with anxiety, you may feel out of control. Remember that anxiety and anxiety disorders are treatable. One of the best things you can do is seek out mental health treatment when you were suffering from anxiety. You can find ways to cope with your anxiety that will help you live a good quality of life.

If you’re living with generalized anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD, OCD, or anything related to anxiety, you can get help and get better. Look into how to deal with these issues with your medical doctor and get referred to a therapist.

The most effective form of treatment for anxiety is a combination of medication and therapy. Also, remember that not every treatment plan works for every person. Human beings are unique, and you can find ways to come with anxiety that work for you. It might be that you see a psychiatrist and take anti-anxiety medication as well as seeing a psychotherapist.

There is no definitive way to cope with anxiety. You need to find the best treatment plan for you. The most important thing to remember is that you will get through it. And you are not your anxiety.

Picture of Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen Sehat MC, RCC

Pareen’s career began in Behaviour Therapy, this is where she developed a passion for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approaches. Following a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology she pursued a Master of Counselling. Pareen is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. She specializes in CBT and Lifespan Integrations approaches to anxiety and trauma. She has been published on major online publications such as - Yahoo, MSN, AskMen, PsychCentral, Best Life Online, and more.

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