Do I Have Anxiety? How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms

Anxiety is a normal part of life. It is a response to occasional changes or stressful situations that may cause temporary increased worry and discomfort.

However, experiencing symptoms that are disruptive to daily living and anxiety that feels persistent, uncontrollable, and overwhelming may indicate that you have an anxiety disorder.

Learn about recognizing the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders and how to manage and treat them.

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What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are common mental health conditions. They are characterized by persistent and excessive worry or fear that is more intense than the situation warrants. Sometimes the excessive worry can manifest into physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.

Causes

While everyday anxiety can be caused by stressful events, research shows that anxiety disorders are much more complex. Research is unclear on exactly what causes anxiety disorders. They may be influenced by genetics, brain chemistry, personality, some physical health conditions. and negative life events.

Signs and Symptoms of a Disorder

Signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Extreme fear or worry
  • Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Other types of anxiety disorders may have slightly different signs and symptoms, and different types of triggers and behaviors. You may have an anxiety disorder if your symptoms make it difficult to carry out daily activities, cause you to avoid opportunities, or simply feel intolerable.

Do I Have Anxiety? Here's How to Self-Test

If you think you may have anxiety, you can self-test using an online instrument, such as:

Self-screening tools do not replace a mental health professional. They are designed for the results to be shared with your doctor to inform further discussion about diagnosis and treatment.

You may be one of nearly 40 million people in the United States who experience an anxiety disorder in any given year, or 18% of all Americans.

Online screening tools are not a replacement for a diagnosis from a licensed mental health professional. We encourage you to share your results with your healthcare team.

Do You Have Everyday Anxiety or an Anxiety Disorder?
 Everyday Anxiety  Anxiety Disorder
Worry about paying bills, landing a job, a romantic breakup, or other important events Constant and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress and interferes with daily life
Embarrassment or self-consciousness in an uncomfortable or awkward social situation Avoiding social situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated
A case of nerves or sweating before a big test, business presentation, stage performance, or other significant event Seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and the preoccupation with the fear of having another one 
Realistic fear of a dangerous object, place, or situation Irrational fear or avoidance of an object, place, or situation that poses little or no threat of danger
Anxiety, sadness, or difficulty sleeping immediately after a traumatic event Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or emotional numbing related to a traumatic event that occurred several months or years before
Adapted From Anxiety & Depression Association of America

Diagnosis

Your mental health professional can diagnose your anxiety disorder using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). The DSM-5 lists specific symptoms, frequency, and other criteria to determine your diagnosis.

Other labs and tests, such as blood tests or a physical exam, may also be used. While these tests do not confirm a diagnosis, they may help to determine if any lifestyle factors or medical conditions are causing or contributing to your symptoms.

Prevention and Treatment of Anxiety

You can't prevent anxiety or anxiety disorders, but you can take steps to treat and manage the symptoms. There are many ways to treat anxiety:

  • Psychotherapy: A number of different types of psychotherapy can help with managing the thoughts and feelings that accompany anxiety disorders. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and exposure therapy.
  • Medications: Medications may also be used to help in combination with therapy. Common medications include anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs.
  • Stress management: Stress management may include relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, massage, or other alternative treatments.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Eating well-balanced meals, limiting alcohol and caffeine, sleeping enough and sleeping well, exercising daily, and maintaining a positive attitude may help you with managing stress and anxiety.
  • Coping strategies: Breathing and counting exercises can help to reduce stress and anxiety in the moment. Writing in a journal is a great reflective exercise that can also help you understand and identify specific situations that are causing anxiety. Talking to friends and family members can help you cope when you are feeling stressed or anxious.
  • Support groups: Joining a self-help group or support group and sharing your problems and achievements with others can be an encouraging way to help manage anxiety. However, it is important to note that support groups, friends, and family do not replace a licensed mental health professional.

When to Seek Professional Help

When lifestyle, stress management, and coping strategies are insufficient for managing your anxiety, it may be time to seek professional help. Simply suppressing thoughts or ignoring them does not make them go away. There are many effective treatment options available. They can help you overcome your anxiety disorder so you can go back to living your life, reduce worry and suffering, and manage stressful situations as they arise.

There are a variety of mental health professionals who can help support you, including psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and psychiatric nurses. When choosing a healthcare provider, look for academic degrees, professional and state licenses, and association memberships. Aside from professional certifications and specializations, you may also want to consider whether the provider takes your health insurance and whether their treatment approach works well for your personality and situation.

Anxiety & Depression Association of America offers an online tool to help you locate a licensed mental health clinician in your area or providers who offer telehealth.

Crisis Resources

If you or your loved ones are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org for free, confidential support.

A Word From Verywell

Everyone experiences anxiety during their lifetime. It is an extremely common and normal response to stress and change. However, moderate and severe forms of anxiety disorders can be limiting or even crippling. If you're experiencing overwhelming fear, worry, panic, or dread, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Support is available to you and your loved ones if you are experiencing an anxiety disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I know what type of anxiety I have?

    A mental health professional can help you identify the type of anxiety disorder you have based on your symptoms. Types of anxiety are differentiated based on what triggers the fear, anxiety, or avoidance behaviors and associated thoughts.

  • How do I tell if I have anxiety or depression?

    Anxiety and depression have different symptoms. Anxiety is generally characterized by uncontrollable, overwhelming worry, fear, and dread, while depression is characterized by feelings of sad, empty, or irritable moods.

  • What do I do if I have anxiety and depression?

    Finding appropriate treatment from mental health professionals is important, as these commonly co-occurring conditions can sometimes make symptoms worse and recovery more difficult.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Symptoms. Updated September 21, 2021.

  3. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. What are the five major types of anxiety disorders?. Updated February 14, 2014.

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  8. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Choosing a Therapist. Updated September 21, 2019.