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A Deep Dive into Anxiety: What It Is, Why It Happens, and How to Manage It

Written by Nishant Garund
Medically Reviewed by Dr.Varuni Agarwal

Dr. Varuni Agarwal is an esteemed Ayurvedic physician specializing in
diagnosing diseases through Ayurvedic dosha imbalances and providing personalized treatments. She focuses on ahara (diet) and vihara (lifestyle) to manage and heal various ailments.

A Deep Dive into Anxiety: What It Is, Why It Happens, and How to Manage It

Anxiety is a natural human response to stress. It's the feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease that arises when we anticipate a future threat or perceive a current situation as dangerous. While occasional anxiety is a normal part of life, for some people, it can become overwhelming and disruptive, impacting daily activities and overall well-being. This blog post delves into the world of anxiety, exploring its meaning, symptoms, different types, and causes. We'll also differentiate between anxiety and panic attacks, equipping you with a deeper understanding of this prevalent emotional state.

Anxiety Meaning

Anxiety, in its simplest form, is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or apprehension. It's a complex emotion that manifests both physically and mentally. When faced with a perceived threat, the body goes into "fight-or-flight" mode, releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure, preparing you to react quickly to a potentially dangerous situation. While this response is crucial for survival in the face of immediate danger, it can become problematic when triggered by non-threatening events or chronic stress.

Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety can manifest in various ways, both physically and emotionally. Some common symptoms include:

  • Physical Symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Emotional Symptoms:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Detachment from surroundings
  • Fear of the unknown or future events


      It's important to note that not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. The severity and type of symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the specific situation triggering the anxiety.

      anxiety reasons

      Anxiety Disorders

      When anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, and interferes with daily life, it can develop into an anxiety disorder. These are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive anxiety and related behavioral patterns. 

      What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

      The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but it's likely a combination of factors. Some potential contributors include:

      • Genetics: A family history of anxiety disorders increases your risk.
      • Brain chemistry: Imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin and GABA, which regulate mood and emotions, could play a role.
      • Life experiences: Stressful life events, trauma, or childhood experiences can trigger anxiety disorders.
      • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions can cause or worsen anxiety symptoms like heart conditions, diabetes, thyroid problems or chronic pain. 
      • Substance abuse: Alcohol, drugs, and caffeine can exacerbate anxiety.

      Types of Anxiety Disorders

      As mentioned earlier, there are various anxiety disorders, each with distinct characteristics:

      • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People with GAD experience excessive worry and anxiety about many things, often without a specific reason. They may constantly worry about finances, health, relationships, or everyday tasks.
      • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Individuals with SAD have an intense fear of social situations and scrutiny from others. They may fear being embarrassed, judged, or humiliated in public settings. This fear can lead them to avoid social interactions altogether.
      • Panic Disorder: People with panic disorder experience sudden and recurrent episodes of intense fear or discomfort known as panic attacks. These attacks come on abruptly and can peak within minutes, causing physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, shortness of breath, and dizziness. The fear of having another panic attack can further amplify anxiety.
      • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD experience intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) aimed at reducing anxiety associated with these thoughts. The obsessions often focus on contamination, orderliness, or harm, and the compulsions may involve excessive cleaning, checking rituals, or arranging things in a specific way.
      • Phobias: Phobias are intense and irrational fears of specific objects or situations. These fears can be so severe that they interfere with daily life and activities. Common phobias include phobias of heights (acrophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), and more. 
      • Selective Mutism: This childhood disorder is characterized by a consistent inability to speak in specific settings, like school, despite having normal speech capabilities in other environments such as at home with family. This selective silence can significantly interfere with a child's social and academic functioning.
      • Separation Anxiety Disorder: This disorder affects children and is characterized by anxiety that is excessive or inappropriate for their developmental level. It's primarily triggered by separation from caregivers or those who fulfil parental roles. Children with separation anxiety disorder may experience excessive worry, distress, and even physical symptoms like stomach aches or headaches when separated from their attachment figures.

      Risk Factors for Developing Anxiety Disorders

      While the exact cause of anxiety disorders remains unknown, several factors can increase your vulnerability:

      • Exposure to Trauma: Childhood abuse, witnessing traumatic events, or experiencing serious accidents can significantly elevate the risk of anxiety disorders. These experiences can alter brain development and stress response systems, making individuals more susceptible to anxiety later in life.
      • Chronic Health Conditions: Living with a serious illness can be a significant source of worry and stress. The uncertainty surrounding treatment outcomes and potential complications can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.
      • Accumulated Stress: Major life events like a death in the family, job loss, or financial strain can trigger overwhelming anxiety. Even a continuous build-up of smaller stressors can contribute – work deadlines, relationship troubles, or juggling childcare responsibilities.
      • Personality Traits: Individuals with certain personality traits, such as shyness, perfectionism, or neuroticism, may be more prone to developing anxiety disorders. These traits can lead to a tendency to overthink situations, anticipate negative outcomes, and struggle with uncertainty.
      • Comorbid Mental Health Conditions: Anxiety disorders often co-occur with other mental health conditions like depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The presence of one condition can worsen the symptoms of the other, creating a complex web of challenges.
      • Family History: Anxiety disorders can have a genetic component. If you have close relatives with an anxiety disorder, you may be at a higher risk of developing one yourself. However, it's important to remember that genetics is not a deterministic factor, and many other influences play a role.
      • Substance Use: Drug and alcohol abuse or misuse can both trigger and exacerbate anxiety symptoms. These substances can disrupt brain chemistry and heighten feelings of fear and nervousness.

      By understanding these risk factors, individuals and healthcare professionals can work together to identify those who may be more susceptible to anxiety disorders and implement preventive measures or early intervention strategies.

      Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks:

      Both anxiety attacks and panic attacks are characterized by feelings of intense fear or discomfort. However, there are key differences:

      • Duration: Anxiety attacks can build gradually and last for minutes or even hours, while panic attacks are sudden and intense, typically peaking within 10 minutes.
      • Cause: Anxiety attacks are often triggered by a perceived threat or worry, while panic attacks can occur seemingly out of the blue.
      • Symptoms: Panic attacks may have a more intense and rapid onset of physical symptoms like chest tightness, dizziness, and shortness of breath compared to anxiety attacks.
      anxiety symptoms

      What Are The Complications After Having Anxiety? 

      The impact of anxiety disorders extends far beyond excessive worry. Left untreated, anxiety can trigger a cascade of negative consequences, impacting both mental and physical well-being. Here's a look at some potential complications:

      • Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions: Anxiety disorders often co-exist with other mental health conditions, particularly depression. The constant worry and stress associated with anxiety can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and low mood characteristic of depression, creating a complex web of challenges.
      • Substance Misuse: Individuals struggling with anxiety may turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, seeking to self-medicate and numb their anxiety symptoms. However, substance use can worsen anxiety in the long run and lead to dependence.
      • Sleep Disruptions: Anxiety can wreak havoc on sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Insomnia can further exacerbate anxiety symptoms, creating a vicious cycle.
      • Digestive Issues: The body's fight-or-flight response triggered by anxiety can manifest in digestive problems like constipation, diarrhoea, or stomach upset.
      • Chronic Pain: Anxiety can heighten pain perception or even lead to chronic pain conditions like headaches or muscle tension. The constant state of worry and stress can amplify pain signals in the brain.
      • Social Isolation: The fear of judgment or negative evaluation associated with social anxiety can lead to social withdrawal and isolation. This lack of connection can worsen anxiety symptoms and contribute to feelings of loneliness.
      • Functional Impairment: Anxiety can significantly impact daily functioning, hindering performance at school or work. Difficulty concentrating, decision-making challenges, and avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations can hinder productivity and overall well-being.
      • Reduced Quality of Life: Chronic anxiety can take a toll on an individual's quality of life. The constant worry, physical symptoms, and social limitations can significantly decrease enjoyment and overall well-being.
      • Suicide Risk: In severe cases, untreated anxiety can elevate the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help immediately. There are resources available, and you don't have to go through this alone.

      So, when should I see a doctor?

      Anxiety is a normal human emotion, but when it becomes excessive, persistent, and interferes with your daily life, it's time to consider seeking professional help. Here are some key indicators that professional support can be beneficial:

      • Impact on Daily Functioning: If your anxiety disrupts your ability to work effectively, maintain healthy relationships, or participate in activities you once enjoyed, it's a sign that professional guidance can help you manage your symptoms and regain control.
      • Difficulty Controlling Worry: When worry feels overwhelming and constant, despite your best efforts to manage it, seeking professional help can equip you with strategies and tools to break free from this cycle of anxiety.
      • Co-occurring Mental Health Concerns: If you experience anxiety alongside other mental health challenges like depression, substance abuse, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, seeking a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all aspects of your well-being is crucial.
      • Physical Health Concerns: Sometimes, anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms. If you suspect your anxiety might be linked to an underlying physical health condition, consulting your doctor can help rule out any medical causes and ensure you receive appropriate treatment.
      • Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors: If you experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it's a dire emergency. Don't hesitate to seek immediate help from your doctor, a crisis hotline, or emergency services. Remember, there is help available, and you don't have to go through this alone.


      Anxiety is a common human experience, but it shouldn't have to control your life. Remember, you're not alone in this; professional help is available, and there are resources to support you on your journey towards a calmer and more fulfilling life.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Q. What are some self-help strategies for managing anxiety? 

      There are various self-help strategies you can try, including relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and practising mindfulness.

      Q. How can I tell the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?

      Normal anxiety is temporary and doesn't significantly impact your daily life. When anxiety becomes excessive, persistent, and interferes with your work, relationships, or daily activities, it might be indicative of an anxiety disorder.

      Q. What are the treatment options for anxiety disorders?

      Treatment options for anxiety disorders typically involve a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Therapy can equip you with coping skills, medication can help regulate your brain chemistry, and lifestyle changes can promote overall well-being.

      Q. Where can I find help for anxiety?

      You can start by talking to your doctor or a mental health professional. There are also online resources, support groups, and crisis hotlines available.

      Q. Is there a cure for anxiety disorders?

      While there's no cure for anxiety disorders, they are highly treatable. With effective treatment, you can learn to manage your anxiety symptoms and live a full and productive life.