What is anxiety?

Maybe you’re feeling worried about a problem at work, school, or home. Maybe you have butterflies in your stomach while waiting for the results of a test. Maybe you get nervous when you have to speak in front of a crowd. Maybe you get nervous when driving home in rush-hour traffic as cars speed by and weave between lanes.

In life, everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. This includes both adults and children. For most people, feelings of anxiety come and go, only lasting a short time. Some moments of anxiety are more brief than others, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.

But for some people, these feelings of anxiety are more than just passing worries or a stressful day at work or school. Your anxiety may not go away for many weeks, months, or years. It can worsen over time, sometimes becoming so severe that it interferes with your daily life. When this happens, it’s said that you may have an anxiety disorder.

While anxiety symptoms vary from person to person, in general the body reacts in a very specific way to anxiety. When you feel anxious, your body goes on high alert, looking for possible danger and activating your fight or flight responses.

Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance

Anxiety is often treated successfully using therapy, medication or both. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective options, in which patients learn to identify problematic thought patterns and change how they respond. Mindfulness meditation is another effective technique for some.


Psychology Today