Anxiety is a mental health issue experienced by an increasing number of people. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults (19.1% of the U.S. population) age 18 and older every year. Anxiety disorders affect 31.9% of adolescents between 13 and 18 years old.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is not the same as feeling anxious. While stressful or frightening situations may cause us to feel anxious, this usually subsides when the situation has passed. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a diagnosable mental health condition. Sufferers feel fearful, worried, or tense most or all of the time, with anxiety having a significant impact on their everyday lives.
What are the short term effects of anxiety?
In the short term, anxiety sufferers might experience a range of different symptoms. The symptoms of anxiety can be both mental and physical.
Mental symptoms of anxiety include:
Feelings of dread, panic, or “impending doom”
Heightened awareness or alertness
Wanting to escape from the situation you are in
Irritability or agitation
Excessive feelings of fear or worry
Frequently obsessing over situations or outcomes
Dissociation (feeling like you aren’t connected to your own body, watching things happen around you without feeling it)
Some anxiety sufferers are also prone to panic attacks or anxiety attacks, which are defined as an episode of extreme anxiety, agitation, and fear. Panic or anxiety attacks usually occur rapidly, without much warning, and typically peak in around ten minutes.
How do I know if I have anxiety?
If you recognize one or more of the symptoms above, it might indicate that you have anxiety.
Click the link to take our anxiety test to learn more about how anxiety may be affecting you and in which areas of your life.
What causes anxiety?
Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Some of the most common causes include:
Traumatic life experiences
Medical conditions (heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome)
Drug or alcohol misuse or withdrawal
Medication side effects
What are the different types of anxiety?
There are several different types of anxiety. The following are some of the most well-known:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Generalized anxiety disorder involves chronic feelings of anxiety and exaggerated worry; these feelings are generally unprovoked.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD experience recurring, unwanted thoughts (or obsessions) and/or perform repetitive behaviors (or compulsions) to provide temporary anxiety relief; failure to perform these behaviors tends to increase anxiety symptoms.
Panic Disorder: Panic disorder involves repeated and unexpected episodes of fear or panic; these feelings are accompanied by physical symptoms like heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, abdominal pain, and difficulty breathing.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD typically develops after exposure to a terrifying event in which harm may have been threatened or occurred; triggering events include assaults, natural disasters, accidents, and military combat.
Social Anxiety Disorder: People with Social Anxiety Disorder experience overwhelming anxiety and feelings of self-consciousness that occur during everyday social situations; it can be limited to individual situations like speaking in front of a crowd, or it can be so broad that symptoms are triggered whenever other people are around.
How is anxiety diagnosed?
If you feel your anxiety or depression symptoms are beginning to interfere with your quality of life, you should seek help from a professional right away.
A doctor or another qualified professional can conduct an exam or mental health evaluation. This can provide a clear diagnosis and help you make a plan for managing your symptoms moving forward.
Explained below are the basic processes a professional will go through when diagnosing anxiety:
Anxiety is typically diagnosed by performing a psychological evaluation. A physician or other trained professional will ask a series of questions, including questions related to your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, to help them determine whether or not you are exhibiting signs and symptoms of anxiety.
If you do not have any risk factors for anxiety (you don’t have a family history of anxiety, you don’t have any childhood trauma, etc.), or if your symptoms seem to have arisen out of nowhere, your doctor may also recommend a physical exam to ensure no medical issues are causing them.
What are the long term effects of anxiety on other areas of health?
When present in excess or for extended periods of time, anxiety is considered to be detrimental for psychiatric and overall health.
Let’s look at the long-term physical issues related to anxiety. The research shows that people with these illnesses are statistically more likely to have anxiety. In some cases, these illnesses could come first.
While there are many more to choose from, here are eight, relatively common physical illnesses, conditions, or issues that are linked to anxiety:
1. High blood pressure
Much like chronic stress, anxiety is associated with high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is caused by a range of factors and can be very harmful if left untreated. For example, it can damage your heart if it stays high over a long period of time, and it increases your risk of stroke. Both are leading causes of death in the U.S.
However, hypertension is common. Nearly 50% of adults in the United States (47%, or 116 million) have hypertension. Likewise, medication is readily available to manage hypertension. If you think you may have hypertension, visit your doctor.
2. Heart disease
Again, much research has looked at the connection between anxiety and heart health. According to one study, anxiety and its associated disorders are common in patients with cardiovascular disease and may significantly influence cardiac health. Similarly, anxiety disorders are associated with the onset and progression of cardiac disease.
Following a heart attack, one study showed that 20-30% of patients experience elevated levels of anxiety. While this is temporary for some patients, in half of cases anxiety persists for up to one year after the heart attack.
The physical symptoms of anxiety can put additional strain on the heart, in particular for those already suffering with heart issues. Because one person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease, it’s crucial to manage both heart disease and anxiety in tandem. As with high blood pressure, please seek advice from your doctor if you have concerns about heart disease and anxiety.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, rates of depression and anxiety in people with arthritis-related diseases can be between two and 10 times greater than the rates in the general population, depending on the type of arthritis.
Anxiety can lower your pain threshold, while chronic pain aggravates anxiety levels. The vicious cycle of pain, poor health, and negative mood can significantly change the course and management of arthritis.
Asthma affects around 10% of youth in the United States, making it the most common chronic health challenge that children and adolescents experience.
People who develop asthma in childhood are at three times increased risk to develop anxiety and depression. There are a range of theories related to this connection, including differences in brain function in those with asthma, and increased levels of inflammation.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common, preventable and treatable chronic lung disease which affects men and women worldwide. Abnormalities in the small airways of the lungs lead to limitation of airflow in and out of the lungs.
It is unsurprising that struggling to breathe can cause sufferers to feel anxious in the short term. According to the American Lung Association, symptoms of anxiety among patients with COPD were common and significantly higher, showing there is a need for improved anxiety measures for patients with COPD, for both early identification and treatment. The Association recommends belly breathing, joining a support group, and focusing on the joy in your life.
Fibromyalgia is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness to touch that may occur body-wide or migrate over the body. Fibromyalgia affects people physically, mentally, and socially, with about 20% who live with this chronic pain also suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can last a lifetime, although treatment can alleviate symptoms. There is no cure, but the condition is not progressive or fatal. Research suggests treatment should focus on managing both physical and emotional symptoms.
One study found migraine sufferers to be four to five times more likely to suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and that the anxiety comes first. Chronic daily headache has been associated with higher levels of anxiety and depressive disorders than occasional migraines.
Another study treated headache sufferers using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and antidepressant medication, finding that there was a better outcome for anxiety sufferers following this protocol.
8. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Digestive issues are a common symptom of anxiety. IBS is a collection of common symptoms such as constipation and diarrhea. The American College of Gastroenterology estimates that about 10% to 15% of adults in the United States live with symptoms of IBS.
IBS results from disordered brain–gut interactions, with a 2021 study identifying six genes responsible. While there is a genetic connection between IBS and anxiety, it isn’t quite the same as saying one causes the other. What we do know is that anxiety may worsen symptoms of IBS.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve symptoms of both IBS and anxiety.
Is anxiety or phobia taking hold of your life? Dr. Jantz explains why you feel anxiety in today’s world. He also shares why phobias make you react in certain ways. For Gen Z, there is a newer term called foreshortened future, which describes those who don’t see any hope for the future and are struggling to sense their place in society.
Mental health issues rarely exist in isolation, and anxiety is a good example of this. There is a connection between anxiety and depression with nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression also having an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Read more on this topic in our article on the differences between anxiety and depression.
Anxiety disorders often co-occur with other disorders such as eating disorders, bipolar disorder, BDD (body dysmorphic disorder), stress, substance abuse, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests that people with an anxiety disorder are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
How is anxiety treated?
Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. The main treatments for anxiety include:
Talking therapies include psychotherapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is one of the most common types of therapy recommended to those with anxiety. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps you to challenge your thoughts and teaches you techniques so that you can adapt your behaviors when you’re met with anxiety triggers.
Medication is sometimes prescribed by physicians to treat anxiety disorders. This may be in the form of antidepressants (this is particularly common for those who are experiencing symptoms of both anxiety and depression), or they may prescribe anti-anxiety medications like buspirone, as well as medications like benzodiazepines, which are meant to be used for short-term relief during severe episodes of anxiety.
Anxiety treatment at The Center • A Place of HOPE
The Center • A Place of HOPE has an excellent track record in treating anxiety, with personalized treatment plans that are individualized for each client. Recognized as one of the leading mental health treatment centers in the world, The Center is ready to help you or a loved one with anxiety. Call The Center today at 888.771.5166 to learn more.
 Paterniti, Sabrina MD; Alperovitch, Annick MD; Ducimetiere, Pierre PhD; Dealberto, Marie-Jose MD, PhD; Lepine, Jean-Pierre MD; Bisserbe, Jean-Claude MD. Anxiety But Not Depression Is Associated With Elevated Blood Pressure in a Community Group of French Elderly. Psychosomatic Medicine 61(1):p 77-83, January/February 1999.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. About Multiple Cause of Death, 1999–2020. CDC WONDER Online Database website. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2022. Accessed February 21, 2022.
 Grace SL, Abbey SE, Irvine J, Shnek ZM, Stewart DE. Prospective examination of anxiety persistence and its relationship to cardiac symptoms and recurrent cardiac events. Psychother Psychosom. 2004;73(6):344–52. doi:10.1159/000080387.
 Caulfield JI. Anxiety, depression, and asthma: New perspectives and approaches for psychoneuroimmunology research. Brain Behav Immun Health. 2021 Oct 1;18:100360. doi: 10.1016/j.bbih.2021.100360. PMID: 34661176; PMCID: PMC8502834.
 Thieme, Kati PhD; Turk, Dennis C. PhD; Flor, Herta PhD. Comorbid Depression and Anxiety in Fibromyalgia Syndrome: Relationship to Somatic and Psychosocial Variables. Psychosomatic Medicine 66(6):p 837-844, November 2004. | DOI: 10.1097/01.psy.0000146329.63158.40
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 Eijsbouts, C., Zheng, T., Kennedy, N.A. et al. Genome-wide analysis of 53,400 people with irritable bowel syndrome highlights shared genetic pathways with mood and anxiety disorders. Nat Genet 53, 1543–1552 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41588-021-00950-8
 Naliboff BD, et al. (2020). Mindfulness-based stress reduction improves irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms via specific aspects of mindfulness.
Dr. Gregory Jantz
Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...
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