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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry or discomfort that can cause problems in your life. It can make it hard to sleep, think clearly and concentrate, and can lead you to change your daily routine to avoid things that trigger your anxiety.

Most people experience occasional anxiety, but if you have a severe problem with your anxiety disorder you may need to get help. Treatment includes psychotherapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

Some types of medication can be effective for anxiety disorders, but every person is different and a health care provider will work with you to find the right type of medication. Talking with your provider can help you choose the best drug for you, and they can help you learn how to take it safely so you don’t have negative side effects or interactions with other medications.

Panic attacks (or episodes of extreme fear) and phobias are common symptoms of anxiety. They can start suddenly and then recur regularly, sometimes with a buildup of tension that lasts for hours or even days.

Often, these feelings are accompanied by physical signs of anxiety, such as breathing problems, dizziness or chest pains. These are not a sign of heart attack or other serious problems, but they can be confusing to the person experiencing them.

It’s important to seek medical attention and get a full physical exam to rule out underlying conditions that may be causing your anxiety, such as heart or lung disease. Your doctor can also use psychological tests and questionnaires to determine if you have an anxiety disorder.

Risk factors for developing an anxiety disorder include childhood sexual abuse, low self-esteem and a history of mental health problems like depression. Having a stressful or traumatic experience, such as losing a parent or being diagnosed with a serious illness, can increase your chances of developing an anxiety disorder later in life.

The stress of uncertainty and big changes in your day-to-day life can make you feel anxious too, especially if they are sudden or unexpected. It is also common to develop an anxiety disorder while you’re living with a serious or ongoing physical condition, such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes.

There are many other things that can lead to an anxiety disorder, such as a history of emotional or physical abuse in childhood. You can also get an anxiety disorder if you’ve suffered a traumatic event in your past, such as a homicide or sexual assault.

Your brain is designed to react quickly when a threat is detected. Using physical, emotional and mental signals, your brain activates the part of your body that prepares you to fight or run away from danger. This response, called the “fight-or-flight” reaction, causes adrenalin to rush into your system.

Anxiety primarily manifests in the mind, but it also can manifest physically in the form of physical symptoms, such as stomachaches and sweating. This is a normal response to stress, but it can be very misleading and lead to a cycle of misdiagnosis.

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