A Beginner’s Guide to Anxiety: Everything You Need to Know

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Did you know that an estimated 284 million people experience some type of anxiety disorder?

Anxiety is more common than you may expect, and it can be difficult to self-assess. However, it’s crucial to understand it in order to treat it.

What exactly causes anxiety? Is it possible to recover from an anxiety disorder?

We’re here to fill you in. Keep reading the guide to anxiety below to learn everything you need to know.

Anxiety at Its Core

Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. Like happiness or fear, anxiety is a feeling. However, it can manifest more intensely as a mental illness or disorder as well.

Many people feel anxiety when triggered by external forces, like a big work deadline or a large group of people. However, anxiety can surface at seemingly nothing—in fact, many anxiety sufferers often struggle to pinpoint what triggers their anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety shows itself in different ways for different people. However, it’s often as much a physical experience as a mental one.

If you’re experiencing intense anxiety, you’ll likely find it hard to concentrate. Many will also feel an impending sense of doom or fear.

Anxiety can result in restlessness and nervousness. Many will often face intrusive thoughts and depersonalization, which is the feeling of being detached from oneself or reality.

Anxiety often also results in shaking or sweating. It’s often accompanied by an increased heart rate and trouble breathing. This only exacerbates the fear that many people are already experiencing.

Anxiety can also cause gastrointestinal problems and make it difficult to sleep. Due to all these symptoms, a singular anxiety episode can be incredibly draining and taxing on the body.

Guide to Anxiety Disorders

There isn’t one singular cause for anxiety, and everyone experiences it differently. There are several different major anxiety disorders that help people pinpoint where the majority of their triggers lie. If they’re able to identify the root of their anxiety, it’s easier to treat and manage it.

It’s important to remember that everyone’s anxiety triggers are different. However, there are a few common disorders that are useful in learning about in order to understand how anxiety can manifest in different people.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Many people assume that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a desire to be clean or extremely organized. However, that’s a major negative misconception.

People with OCD have obsessive and intrusive thoughts, which lead to repeated compulsive behaviors. Often these thoughts are highly irrational, but someone with OCD will feel anxious if they don’t follow through on the behavior to pacify the intrusive thoughts. Many have rituals and behaviors they must perform over and over again in order to keep their anxiety at bay.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety manifests in several ways. Sometimes it’s anxiety at the fear of interacting with others, while it’s a fear of being separated from people for others.

Agoraphobia is a fear of being in crowded places or situations outside of the home. It’s both a type of social anxiety and also a fear of being in a situation that is inescapable or could prove to be embarrassing or dangerous.

Separation anxiety is the anxiety of being separated from a comforting person. This is a common type of anxiety in children, who have a fear of being separated from their parents.

A more general social anxiety disorder is rooted in fear of embarrassing oneself in front of others or being viewed negatively by others.

Trauma-Related Anxiety

Trauma-related anxiety manifests after a traumatic experience. This can result in more specific conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Trauma-related anxiety is often unexpected. It’s typically triggered by situations that resemble the situation in which the traumatic incident took place. Common traumatic events include domestic abuse, sexual assault, the sudden death of a loved one, and war or terrorism-related trauma.


Phobias, in general, are fears of very specific things or situations. As mentioned above, agoraphobia is a fear of places or situations that could cause helplessness or embarrassment. However, it’s only one of many common phobias.

Arachnophobia is the extreme fear of spiders, and it’s another frequently discussed phobia. Many people are also familiar with claustrophobia, the fear of confined spaces.

Generalized Anxiety

Generalized anxiety is a broader term that encompasses a variety of anxieties. Someone with generalized anxiety can experience anxiety over various things, be it social situations or stress-related causes.

There’s less of a pattern when it comes to generalized anxiety. Someone with generalized anxiety may find their anxiety easy to manage one day. However, their anxiety may be completely overwhelming the next day.

Generalized anxiety often is paired with more specific anxiety disorders, as well as depression and other mental illnesses.

Treating Anxiety

There is no singular magical guide to anxiety treatment. However, there are several ways to approach managing anxiety, whether you prefer a more holistic or clinical approach.

Comorbidity is common with anxiety disorders. Comorbidity is the existence of more than one disease or condition in an individual.

Depression, for example, is often comorbid with anxiety. Often the two feed off one other—the more anxious you are, the more depressed you’ll become—and contribute to a rather vicious cycle.

The existence of comorbid conditions can sometimes make it difficult to target the source of anxiety and come up with a comprehensive treatment plan. However, lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication are all incredibly useful—especially when used in conjunction with one another.

Lifestyle Changes

Depending on the source and severity of one’s anxiety, they may be able to treat it on their own through healthy methods.

Sometimes simply modifying one’s diet and incorporating physical fitness into their routine can help to alleviate anxiety. Developing stress-management techniques is another great way to cope with anxiety.

Some people find success in managing anxiety through yoga. Practicing mindfulness is another at-home treatment that has shown to be successful in minimizing anxiety. Talking to family and friends can also help to get the anxiety off your chest.


A variety of therapies have proven to be successful in minimizing anxiety in patients. One of the more common therapies is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Through CBT, patients are taught how to identify negative thinking patterns and modify the way they process these emotions.

Prolonged exposure therapy is a type of therapy where patients are exposed to memories or triggers of trauma in a safe environment. A therapist will help the patient to navigate the triggers through healthy coping mechanisms.


Along with therapy, medication for anxiety can prove helpful for many individuals.

Antidepressants are often prescribed by clinicians used to treat anxiety, along with beta-blockers and medications like Buspirone. Buspirone, for example, works by increasing action at the serotonin receptors in your brain, which helps to dispel anxiety.

Fluoxetine is another common medication used to treat anxiety. It’s in the antidepressant family, and it works by affecting neurotransmitters and increasing serotonin.

Most anxiety medications, like Fluoxetine and Buspirone, aim to increase serotonin levels. Increased serotonin improves things like mood, sleep, and appetite—all of which can greatly affect anxiety levels.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is such a broad disorder that it’s difficult to define it completely. In order to effectively treat it, you must understand what is triggering the anxiety, whether it’s anything from a phobia to general stress.

You can then work with your physician to develop a treatment plan, ideally by using a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. The guide to anxiety above will help you as you or a loved one starts on the journey towards managing anxiety.

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