Anxiety: What is it? When it is a problem?

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

The human body is replete with a wide variety of emotions, one of which is anxiety. The general population often confuses the term anxiety with anxiety disorders. Anxiety is a healthy emotional change that the body undergoes as a response to stress. The feeling is transitory but if a person continues to experience the symptoms for a long term or regularly then it is considered an anxiety disorder.


We, humans, come with an in-built defense mechanism that efficiently enhances us to either be aggressive or regressive in response to danger. Any danger or stressful stimulus triggers a “fight-or-flight” response that is manifested as anxiety. The mechanism of inducing anxiety is beneficial to the body because it prepares you for resentment or rest. As per American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is an emotion characterized by:

  • Tension
  • Worried thoughts
  • Increased blood pressure (and other physical changes)

These stressful feelings wither off as soon as the stimulus is taken away.

Anxiety disorders

When the feeling of distress and fear continues to haunt you then you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. It is easy to identify whether you have an anxiety disorder or not i.e. by observing your symptoms. The generalized constant feelings/symptoms experienced by anxiety disorder patients are as follows:

  • An increased heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lethargy and restlessness
  • Having a hard time sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and mood imbalances

According to APA, anxiety disorder is the state of having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.

Anxiety attacks

Patients with anxiety disorders have a specific fear that stays with them. However, they do not feel the symptoms at all times. It is when faced with a certain stimulus, the patient face an overwhelming feeling of distress and fear. This overwhelmed feeling is an anxiety attack and is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Feeling of insecurity and fear
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Numbness

Types of anxiety disorders

Based on the nature of fears, anxiety disorders are classified into different types which are given below:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD affects about 18.1% of the American population every year. This type of anxiety is characterized by worrying thoughts regarding non--specific events of life. The cause of the anxiety is unidentified. According to a study, the COVID-19 outbreak has increased the number of GAD patients in China. Most of which are young people.

Panic Disorder. In a panic disorder, the patient experiences sudden intense attacks of terror. The attack is a mix of different emotions such as confusion, fear that is associated with nausea, breathlessness, and shaking. These outbursts of fear may or may not be associated with a specific trigger. The patient at times explains the severity of the attack to be life-threatening.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sometimes patient patients receive the unwanted gift of anxiety after a traumatic event in life. In this type, irritability, and restlessness are most pronounced. This is known as Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Phobia .Phobias refer to anxiety caused by a specific cause. A phobic person gets anxious when faced with the trigger. Claustrophobia is the fear of confined spaces.

When is anxiety a problem?

Having occasional episodes of anxiety is a natural process but if you are persistently facing anxiety issues, then you should get help. Restlessness, inability to sleep at night, a constant myriad of worrying thoughts, and a raised heartbeat constitute the most evident symptoms of anxiety disorder. So, if you are facing these on a daily basis, you must see a therapist. Therapy can help you overcome these challenges and find  a way back to living anxiety free.


Anxiety is a normal feeling of the body that helps us get alert against stressful triggers. The bodily changes that follow include increased heart rate, worried thoughts, sweating, etc. If the symptoms persist in the body for a long term then it is declared an anxiety disorder. There are different types of anxiety disorders including social anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, etc. All of these disorders can be helped by either therapy and/or medication. Studies have shown that a combination of therapy and medication produces positive outcomes and can help people return to be anxiety free.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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