Twenty-five to thirty-five percent of people will suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety is due to worrying about the future and focusing on things that you can't control.
The common symptoms of anxiety include:
When you are anxious, your body goes into fight or flight mode and releases adrenaline. When you worry about the future or try to control things that you can't control, your primitive brain thinks that you are under threat. Therefore your brain gets your body ready to fight or run by triggering adrenaline to be released.
Adrenaline causes your heart to pump faster, which makes you prone to skipped beats and arrhythmias. You begin to sweat so that you can be cool when you run. You automatically start breathing from your chest instead of from your diaphragm so that you can take in more oxygen. But when you breathe from your chest while you're resting, it's harder to breathe and you feel as if you're being smothered.
Blood is drained away from the nonessential organs like your gastrointestinal tract, which makes you feel nauseous. Your brain becomes hyperactive so that you can detect threats quickly. But it's harder to think clearly. You're more focused on the worst case scenarios, which tends to make you overreact. In other words, adrenaline explains all the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety.
Some medical diseases can also produce these symptoms. I won't list these conditions, because they are much less common than anxiety.
Approximately 90 percent of people who are depressed also feel anxious. Anxiety is such a common symptom of depression that some doctors feel if a patient suffers from anxiety, the first explanation that should be considered is depression.
There are other causes of anxiety. Anxiety is one of the symptoms of PTSD. Substance abuse can cause anxiety symptoms, either directly as in the case of cocaine, or in withdrawal, as in the case of alcohol, tranquilizers, marijuana, and tobacco. Also, individuals who struggle with anxiety sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their anxiety. For more information see the external links below. (Reference: Anxiety and Depression Guide)
Chronic anxiety is exhausting. Your body and mind are not meant to be in overdrive for very long. Chronic anxiety burns up neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin and you become mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Background anxiety usually causes the most consequences. It's the anxiety that you push to the back of your mind and try to ignore that has the biggest effect. For example, relationship issues, work stress, and illness can all take a toll on your body and mind.
Here are some of the physical consequences of chronic anxiety:
These are some of the emotional consequences of chronic anxiety:
For medical treatment of anxiety, refer to the page on anti-anxiety medication. Two important coping skills for overcoming anxiety are the ability to relax and manage stress through mind-body relaxation, and the ability to change negative thinking through cognitive therapy.
1) National Comorbidity Survey Lifetime Prevalence Estimates, http://www.hcp.med.harvard.edu/ncs/
2) B.J. Sadock, V.A. Sadock, Kaplan& Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry 9th ed. (Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2003), p. 552.