Anxiety Information

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety (fear) is a natural human feeling, but it can become a serious problem when it persists to the point of becoming an Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life and ability to function on a daily basis. The feeling can range in severity; some people experience mild anxiety from time to time while others suffer from chronic anxiety on a daily basis.

When one’s level of anxiety is persistent but not debilitating, they are known to have high functioning anxiety. Daily tasks may be completed without any issues, and work or school performance is not usually affected. In fact, people with high functioning anxiety are known to achieve above average results in school and at work. However, this usually relates to a fear of failure and panic about performance and punctuality. High functioning anxiety eventually takes its toll, wearing away at the well-being of our nervous system until we come to a point of burnout or breakdown.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

While we all feel anxiety from time to time, some people suffer for extended periods. When it becomes more intense, a person may suffer from chronic anxiety, where they suffer from the symptoms of anxiety on a daily basis.

The five general categories of Anxiety Disorder are1:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Panic Disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The most common type of anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)2,a long term anxiety disorder in which sufferers typically:

  • Feel anxious about many situations

  • Catastrophize about the future

  • Forget the last time they felt relaxed

GAD is characterized by a number of key physical and psychological symptoms that include3:

  • Irrational fears

  • Constant feelings of worry persisting for more than six months

  • Panic and a sense of unease or discomfort for no clear reason

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Withdrawal from friends and family

  • Decline in relationships

  • Decline in work or school performance

  • Misuse or abuse of substances and other compulsive behaviors

The psychological symptoms of GAD can take a toll on the physical body. Physical symptoms of GAD include4:

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Chest and/or stomach pain

  • Shortness of breath, tightness in chest and throat

  • Muscle tension (high shoulders/collapsed posture)

  • Nausea

  • Headaches

  • Dry mouth

  • Stuttering, disordered speech

  • Increased heart rate

  • Fatigue

  • Sweating

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Numbness of extremities

What Causes Anxiety?

Due to the nature of the condition, many people who suffer from anxiety believe it to be a personal fault or sign of weakness. However, this is far from true. Anxiety usually develops for a number of different reasons, but it is not a sign of weakness or failure in any way.

Each case of anxiety is as unique as the individual experiencing it. There are some common factors that contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, including5:

  • A family history of anxiety

  • A history of trauma (childhood abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, exposure to anything that overwhelms the nervous system)

  • Burnout

  • Pre-existing psychological illness, such as depression

  • Chemical/hormonal imbalance

  • Misuse and abuse of substances (substances can lead to the development of anxiety or can exacerbate symptoms if anxiety is already present)

Anxiety and Addiction

Those suffering from an anxiety disorder may turn to substance use such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs to self-medicate. This is done to relieve the uncomfortable and often overwhelming symptoms associated with the condition. However, using substances to relieve these symptoms only serves to worsen one’s condition in the long-term because as soon the substance wears off, the feelings of stress and discomfort return.

With any drug, tolerance in the body builds up over time. This means that a person will have to take more of their chosen substance to achieve the relief they are seeking. As substances are taken more frequently and in higher doses, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of dependence, where a person feels that they need the substance to continue functioning in daily life. Dependence then becomes addiction, which can make treatment for anxiety much more complicated.

Substance use and anxiety create a vicious cycle. One of the biggest problems with anxiety is that many people do not seek treatment or try to self-medicate.

Professional Help is Available

As with any disorder, anxiety should be dealt with by a trained professional. It is a disorder that can only be effectively managed when help is sought. Symptoms of anxiety can be managed with anti-anxiety medications, and various types of therapy can be used to approach the root causes of the condition.

At Heather R. Hayes & Associates, we have seen first hand that anxiety does not have to take full control over a person’s life. If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from anxiety and potentially a substance misuse problem, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We boast a team of expert mental health and recovery specialists who can offer the necessary support and guidance to anyone who reaches out.



1 “NIMH » Anxiety Disorders”. Nimh.Nih.Gov, Accessed 16 Oct 2020.

2 “Facts & Statistics | Anxiety And Depression Association Of America, ADAA”. Adaa.Org, Accessed 16 Oct 2020.

3 “NIMH » Anxiety Disorders”. Nimh.Nih.Gov, Accessed 16 Oct 2020.

4 “Generalised Anxiety Disorder In Adults – Symptoms”. Nhs.Uk, Accessed 16 Oct 2020.

5 Bystritsky, Alexander et al. “Current diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders.” P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management vol. 38,1 (2013): 30-57.

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