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Do I have anxiety? Learn the symptoms and treatments

  • Some common signs of anxiety: restlessness, irritability, sleep problems, racing heartbeat, and nausea.
  • Steps you can take on your own to manage anxiety: be physically active, avoid alcohol and caffeine, make sleep a priority, and practice meditation or other relaxation techniques.

Everyone feels worried or stressed out from time to time. But if your worries make you feel unhealthy or out of control, or if they interfere with your daily life, you may be experiencing anxiety. In this article, we’ll explore what anxiety is, the different types of anxiety, and what treatments are available to help you cope.

If you’re concerned about anxiety, contact your primary care provider—a virtual visit can be a convenient, secure first step.

What is anxiety? 

Worries and fears are a normal part of life. For people with anxiety disorders, however, these fears are intense, excessive and persistent, and they are caused by everyday situations, not life-threatening events. These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control and are out of proportion to the actual dangers or stressors in a person’s life.

What causes anxiety?

The exact causes of anxiety are not completely understood, but many factors can contribute to it. Some research suggests that inherited traits such as brain chemistry can play a role. Environmental factors such as difficult living conditions or traumatic life experiences, including sexual or physical abuse, can trigger anxiety. Some medical conditions—diabetes, respiratory issues, heart disease, chronic pain—can be a factor. And drug or alcohol use can also bring about anxiety in some people.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Anxiety is a broad term that includes many types of disorders and conditions. One of the most common is General Anxiety Disorder. Someone with this condition shows long-term, exaggerated worry about topics like their health, work, social interactions, and everyday life circumstances. This type of anxiety interferes with work or social activity, and it makes everyday tasks more difficult. There are many other types of anxiety disorders, and your doctor can help you learn more about them as he or she evaluates your symptoms and recommends next steps.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can reveal itself in many ways, both physically and emotionally. The symptoms vary from person to person, but here are some common signs:

  • difficulty controlling worry
  • restlessness or irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • problems sleeping
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • racing or pounding heartbeat
  • breathing problems such as rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • trembling
  • tense muscles in the face, neck, back or other areas
  • sweating
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling hands or feet

When to see a doctor for anxiety

You should consult your doctor if you feel that your worries are difficult to control, if they are affecting your work or relationships, if you are having trouble with drugs or alcohol, if you are feeling depressed, or if you have another mental health concern along with your feelings of anxiety.

A virtual video visit with your primary care provider is a great first step for treating anxiety—you can do it from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Learn more about virtual visits at Allina Health. And explore services for mental health and addiction.

How to treat anxiety

Fortunately, many people with anxiety are able to reduce or manage their symptoms and regain control over their lives. Here are some of the most common anxiety treatments:

Psychotherapy

This is also known as talk therapy, and it means working with a therapist to reduce anxiety symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the best-known type of psychotherapy. It helps people manage anxiety by understanding the connections between what they think, how they feel and how they behave.

Anxiety medication

Several types of medications can ease the symptoms of anxiety. For example, some antidepressants can reduce anxiety when used over time. Doctors may also prescribe certain sedatives, benzodiazepines, or beta-blockers to treat short-term symptoms.

Complementary health approaches

Along with medications or psychotherapy, other approaches may help with anxiety. Mindfulness and other forms of meditation, music, relaxation techniques, yoga and exercise are just a few examples.

How to deal with anxiety

Along with treatments prescribed by your health provider, there are other steps you can take to help manage anxiety symptoms:

  • keep physically active

  • avoid alcohol or recreational drugs

  • don’t smoke

  • avoid caffeine

  • use stress-management and relaxation techniques like meditation and visualization

  • make sleep a priority

  • eat a healthy diet

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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