We've all felt symptoms of anxiety at some point in our lives. The intense fear around the lead up to a big test or presentation at work, maybe a particularly bumpy plane ride, certain overwhelming social situations, and perhaps even when you couldn't find where you parked your car in a big garage –– these can all bring on those familiar physical symptoms like profusely sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, and uncontrollable or excessive worry. It's perfectly normal to feel anxious or have anxious thoughts occasionally, especially for good reason.
Anxiety is our body's way of sensing and preparing for a potentially dangerous situation. For example, speaking in front of a group can make us anxious, but that same social anxiety also motivates us to prepare and practice. Driving in heavy traffic is another common source of anxiety or stress, especially when running late, but it helps keep us alert and cautious to avoid accidents. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, causes a lack of sleep, or results in having a panic attack, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.
Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry from different things or situations that are only perceived threats, not real danger.
Knowing whether or not you're experiencing anxiety can be difficult, especially if you've been dealing with anxiety symptoms for a while. If you're not aware of common symptoms, they could be easy to miss, even when someone is quietly suffering. However, when anxiety is prolonged far beyond the triggering event, or you start to develop panic attacks, and symptoms of severe anxiety start to impact your everyday life, it could be time to consider looking into anxiety therapy or a licensed mental health professional for treatment.
While anxiety has a wide variety of symptoms, from feeling a bit of stress in a new social situation to full blown panic attacks when thinking about a traumatic event, these symptoms can affect many aspects of daily life. Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. For informational purposes, if you are wondering if you may be suffering from anxiety disorder, take the Do I Have Anxiety Quiz to learn more about your own situation.
Reviewed By Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.