Guide
Fact Checked

The Complete Anxiety Guide: How to Live Anxiety-Free

Micah Abraham, BSc
The Complete Anxiety Guide: How to Live Anxiety-Free

What if you could cure your anxiety?

Welcome to our anxiety guide. We have compiled over 400 pages  on anxiety, including anxiety symptoms, anxiety types, anxiety causes,  anxiety help strategies, anxiety treatments, and much more, with  detailed and specific information that outlines every single question  you may have about anxiety.

The more you understand about anxiety, the better opportunity you  have to beat it. As you continue through this guide, we encourage you to  read further by clicking on the links that are most interesting to you,  and the ones that speak to your struggles.

We also recommend you consider bookmarking this guide to explore  later, because as you continue along your journey to cure anxiety,  you'll find that you'll have new questions and new challenges that need  to be overcome.

Anxiety can be beaten. But it starts with knowledge. We hope that  this in-depth guide gives you the tools you need to beat anxiety once  and for all.

... So What is Anxiety?

Throughout your life, you’re going to be faced with a variety of  challenges. Feeling worried, stressed, or anxious about those challenges  is normal – sometimes even healthy.

But for nearly 20% of the population, every day is filled with worry  that go beyond normal – feelings of physical and emotional nervousness  that seem to be trigged for no reason at all.

This is anxiety.

Anxiety comes in many different shapes and forms. There’s anxiety  that’s physical, anxiety that’s emotional, anxiety that’s mental, and  anxiety that are all three at once. There is anxiety caused by traumatic  events, and anxiety caused by seemingly nothing at all.

Welcome to the CalmClinic guide to anxiety. This guide, along with  the rest of the CalmClinic site, is dedicated to helping you understand  your anxiety better, with detailed pages about:

We cover every topic possible, from Agoraphobia to the Zung Self  Rating Scale, with the goal to provide you with objective articles on  every topic available.

Need Help Now? Here’s How to Start

We invite you to explore the guide at length and learn as much as you  can about anxiety, because when it comes to anxiety, knowledge really  is power. The more you know and understand it, the more you’ll be able  to control it.

But for those that are struggling with anxiety right now – right at  this very moment – and need help finding some temporary or permanent  relief, start with the following:

These are some helpful starter articles to give you more information  about how to control your anxiety right now. If you’re just looking for  immediate anxiety help, start there, and then bookmark this page so that  you can come back to it when you’re ready.

Introduction to Anxiety

For those that stayed with us, let’s give some background on anxiety, and yes, that means you’re about to read about cavemen:

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, early man was faced with many  dangers. From large predators to small poisonous snakes, they needed a  way to make sure that if they were faced with danger, they could react  quickly and keep themselves away from harm.

This is called the fight or flight response. It is your body’s natural reaction to danger.

It is triggered by a part of your brain known as the amygdala. The  amygdala sends messages to your body that you’re in danger, increasing  your heart rate (so that you can run faster), causing you to sweat (to  keep you cool), and so on.

At its core, this fight or flight system is critical for your life and safety.

Unfortunately, many people find that their fight/flight system has  gone haywire, and is causing them to experience significant distress  even when no immediate danger is present. When your body is reacting  like it’s in danger without any threat to your safety, you have anxiety.

So… What is Anxiety?

It is because anxiety is the activation of your fight or flight  system that anxiety, at its core, is a good thing. Without anxiety, you  would walk into dark alleys alone at night, get into fights with people  10 times your size, and drive 150 miles per hour in a residential area.  Anxiety is designed to keep you safe.

The problem is when you are experiencing anxiety when you should not  be, or when that anxiety is more severe than it should be in the  situation. That’s when you have anxiety, which can manifest itself in  many different ways:

Picture This: You have trouble controlling your  thoughts and worries. When you have a conversation with someone, you  worry that they didn’t enjoy it. You worry that they don’t want to talk  to you again. You worry that they may not like you.

Then you realize you have a big project due in the morning, and you  are worried you won’t complete it on time. All day, every day, you find  yourself physically or emotionally worried, and no matter how hard you  try you cannot seem to relax.

Picture This: Your feel some pain in your chest. You  feel like you can’t take a deep breath. Your heartbeat is speeding up.  It feels like something is wrong – like a heart attack. It’s getting  worse. Your mind is racing. You feel lightheaded. Is this it? Are you  going to die? Suddenly it peaks!

Then it all melts away, slowly. You Google your latest symptom and see if there is something new to ask your doctor about.

Picture This: The idea of being around others is  terrifying. It’s intimidating. It’s so hard to talk. Are they judging  you? Are they seeing something? You feel naked, exposed. All you want to  do is escape, but you know if you do that you’ll be all alone again.

You escape anyway. It’s just too much. Maybe next time.

Picture This: It seems that every minute of every  day, you cannot get this vision out of your mind. It’s violent. It’s  graphic. It’s disgusting. You hate it. You have no interest in it, but  why do you keep having the thought? Why won’t it go away? Does it mean  something about you?

You’ve found that the only thing that gets it out of your mind is  counting prime numbers in your head. It’s the only relief you get from  this horrible image.

Picture This: You went through a trauma. It’s over.  Yet it seems like you’re going through it again, every day. Every loud  noise takes you back to that moment. Every dream takes you back to the  feelings. The smallest bit of stress feels overwhelming. You jump. You  startle. It should be getting better, but it seems like the trauma never  ended.

Picture This: AH! A SPIDER!

Each one of these is just one example of the many ways anxiety can affect you.

Types of Anxiety

Why does anxiety have different “types”? That’s not entirely clear. But anxiety isn’t the same for all people.

Some people experience constant, low levels of anxiety that don’t  stop them from living their life, but affect everything they do.

Others experience huge bursts of ONLY physical anxiety symptoms, so  severe that they think they’re dying, only to go away 15 minutes later  as though nothing was wrong.

It’s why anxiety is so complex, and why education and understanding  of anxiety is so important. For more about each type of anxiety, click  on the different types below:

Symptoms of Anxiety

Everyone, even if they have never experienced any form of severe  anxiety, has some idea of its symptoms. They’re the same symptoms that  you experience when you’re scared or in danger, including:

These are all very common. But what you may not know is that anxiety,  and the many different types of anxiety disorders, can cause hundreds  of different symptoms – from the common to the rare.

Indeed, you may know that anxiety can cause lightheadedness, but did you know that it can cause a sore throat? You may have guessed that anxiety can cause nausea, but did you know it can cause both arm pain and joint pain?

There are hundreds of different anxiety symptoms, and some of them  seem to have no relationship to anxiety at all. But that’s because  anxiety isn’t just anxiety. When you have anxiety, you often struggle  with supplementary issues, such as:

These, in turn, lead to their own symptoms. For example, when you’re  stressed you may find yourself with slightly blurry vision, which in  turn leads to squinting, which in turn leads to eye pain. When you’re not sleeping, your body may not be recovering, which can lead to muscle pain, temporary nerve damage, and more.

Stress also affects digestion, which means you may not be processing  food correctly, which THEN means you may be experiencing symptoms  associated with nutritional deficiencies.

In addition, anxiety has a symptom known as “hypersensitivity.” This  is when your brain is highly sensitive to the way your body feels. Even  if you experience a tiny pain or discomfort that 99% of people ignore,  YOU will ALWAYS notice it, and that makes it feel more severe than  others experience.

As you can see, the symptoms of anxiety are vast, because it’s not  just anxiety. It’s also the symptoms of the issues that anxiety causes.

That said, anxiety symptoms can often be broken down into the following groups.

Mental Anxiety Symptoms

Many anxiety symptoms are mental. That means they are related to  thoughts. For some people, thoughts are what characterize the disorder.  For example, obsessive compulsive disorder is caused by persistent,  uncontrollable thoughts. Generalized anxiety disorder can cause frequent  worries about otherwise inconsequential things.

The list of mental anxiety symptoms is extensive, but for a brief overview of some of the most common, start here:

Most of these types of thoughts trigger physical symptoms as well.  But not all of them. There are people living with anxiety that struggle  with these thoughts but don’t necessarily “feel” anxious. They still  have anxiety, because anxiety affects people in different ways.

In addition, thoughts can change. If we asked you right now “what  types of thoughts are you having?” you might say scary thoughts or  irrational thoughts. But if we ask you again in two weeks, you might say  weird or racing. So don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to one  type of mental symptom.

Physical Anxiety Symptoms

As we talked about earlier, there are also considerable physical  anxiety symptoms. So many, in fact, that listing them here would be  almost impossible to navigate.

That’s why we want to invite you to use our search feature, located in the top right corner of this page. It looks like this:

We have hundreds of different physical anxiety symptom pages on this  site, so that you can find the information you want to read about most.  But for those that would like some help getting started, here are a few  of our most common pages and searches:

If you read the previous section on mental anxiety symptoms, you’ll  notice we said there are some people that experience mental anxiety  symptoms with no (or close to no) physical symptoms. They worry often or  have anxious thoughts, but physically they feel fine.

Similarly, there are millions of people that have the physical  anxiety symptoms with NO mental symptoms. These individuals feel fine  mentally, without too many worries, but physically their bodies are  reacting as though they’re in danger. Many people with panic attacks  report that their panic attacks seem to come from nowhere, when they’re  not even feeling stressed.

Again, all of this is normal. You don’t hear about it very much from  psychologists and in media, but there’s no right or wrong way to  experience anxiety. Millions of people experience it different ways.

Please remember to use the search feature above to find even more of the many symptoms anxiety can create.

Emotional Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety is, itself, an emotion. So really all anxiety symptoms are  emotional anxiety symptoms. But there are some specific emotions that  anxiety can trigger. You can find more in our search feature, but some  examples include:

It can also cause depression, as well as anhedonia – a strange temporary symptom where you are unable to feel joy (but may not be depressed or sad).

These are some of the many symptoms of anxiety. It may seem  overwhelming, but keep in mind that the more you learn about each  individual symptom, the more you’ll have the tools to stop it.

Click on the image below to read more about the symptoms of anxiety.

All About Anxiety Attacks

Often when we talk about anxiety symptoms, we’re talking about more  of the general symptoms of anxiety. But there is a form of anxiety that  deserves its own special place – the anxiety attack.

Anxiety attacks are primarily physical anxiety symptoms on a large  scale. They’re traditionally referred to as panic attacks, but there are  “forms” of anxiety attacks that can affect other disorders, such as  severe anxiety at the sight of blood, or severe OCD that triggers an  extreme bump in symptoms.

Still, when talking about anxiety attacks and panic attacks, we’re usually referring to significant,  intense anxiety symptoms that are often so severe, people that  experience them may feel as though they’re having a heart attack.

Symptoms of anxiety attacks include:

Some people even call an ambulance, because the symptoms mimic health problems. They can make you feel like you’re dying.

Anxiety attacks peak at around 10 minutes and then slowly decline  afterwards. They can leave you feeling drained, confused, exhausted, and  scared. Some people develop health anxiety, because the symptoms are so  physical and so real, that it’s hard to believe that they can be caused  by anxiety.

Let’s be clear here: The symptoms of anxiety attacks ARE real. Your  chest pains, lightheadedness, and more are not your imagination. Your  body is really experiencing those problems. The only difference is that  they’re caused by anxiety, and they are not necessarily dangerous. They  just feel like they are.

To start learning more about anxiety attacks, and exploring the many, many symptoms, visit our anxiety attack page here:

What Causes Anxiety?

Any time you struggle with a mental health issue like anxiety, it’s easy to want to seek out the cause.

But for the vast majority of people that have anxiety, there is no obvious cause.

Genetics may play a role, but it does not explain anxiety in full.  Some people may have had past experiences that caused them to develop  anxiety. Others may have simply been under significant stress, which  breaks down your ability to stress cope (stress coping may be linked to  anxiety). Others simply develop it naturally with no clear reason.

Anxiety can also be self-sustaining. For example, if you’re someone  with social anxiety, you may have an experience where you go out in  public, your nervousness causes you to embarrass yourself, and then you  reinforce that anxiety in the future. Similarly, you may be someone that  worries too much, but then something bad happens and suddenly you feel  justified in your worry.

There is some value in identifying what causes your anxiety, but it  shouldn’t necessarily be your primary focus. That’s because it’s easy to  point to something and blame it for your anxiety, even though it may  not actually be the cause:

These may be true. They may also not be true. It’s not possible to  prove what caused your anxiety, but it is easy to find issues to blame.

With that in mind, it does help to explore the causes of anxiety to some degree. Here are some places to start:

Anxiety is also the type of condition that develops through experiences. Let’s look at an example:

Sarah is shy, but otherwise she’s fine socially. Her parents were  also shy, so this is normal. She spends time with a few close friends,  but she’s able to go out to parties. She doesn’t talk to many people,  and she’s a little uncomfortable, but she has no severe issues keeping  her away and occasionally makes a new friend or two. But she’s got a new  job, and she’s struggling. She mishandles a few phone calls and starts  to feel less confident.

That drop in confidence affects her. The next time she’s at a  party, she feels more uncomfortable than usual. Someone tries to talk to  her, but when she tries to talk back she struggles to find the words.  It’s embarrassing. A few weeks later is a birthday. She remembers how  hard it was for her to talk and she feels anxious. That anxiety causes  her to withdraw even further. When she does try to break out of it, her  anxiety makes her struggle even more, which reinforces her fear.

Over the next few years, it develops into a cycle that makes her  more and more anxious, until the very idea of going out in public causes  her extreme anxiety. She has developed social anxiety disorder.

This type of example is how many people develop anxiety. If you’re  looking for specific causes, you can blame genetics (her parents were  shy), or you can blame her stressful workplace (chronic stress can  create anxiety), or you can blame her experiences (mistakes in social  situations caused her anxiety).

But the answer is really some combination of all three.

Learning and understanding this in full can help you make sure you  recognize what can lead to your anxiety. It just also helps to see that  anxiety can be more complicated than one specific “cause.” Some people  have anxiety triggered by one event or trauma, or possibly a health  condition, such as menopause. But for others, the issue is often more  complicated.

We’ve also explored over 50 different unique causes of anxiety that  we explore throughout the site, so don’t forget to use our search  feature and visit our page on anxiety causes to learn more.

Do You Have Anxiety?

Hopefully you have a better understanding of anxiety, and an idea of  whether or not you or someone you love is struggling with an anxiety  symptom. We also invite you to explore the many pages we have available  that delve further into the individual details about each anxiety,  symptom, cause, and more.

But you may still be wondering:

Treatments for Anxiety

If you struggle with anxiety, chances are you want to treat it. The  problem is that navigating the thousands of potential treatments  available can be difficult. There are dozens of medications, countless  self-help tips, numerous “herbal” and “natural” strategies, many  different types of therapy, and more.

We’ll give you an introduction to all of these different options  below, but if you’re looking to explore anxiety treatments in  significant detail, visit our anxiety treatment handbook at the link  below.

Before we get into the treatments for anxiety, there is one important  thing to note: treating anxiety can be slow. It takes years to develop  anxiety, and anxiety becomes a part of who you are. Commitment to  treatments is important, because most treatments will not work right  away. They take time, and there will be setbacks along the way.

Similarly, just as anxiety is different for different people, so too  are treatments. What works for one person may not work as well for  another. Some are more effective than others. Never give up trying to  treat your anxiety. ALL ANXIETY IS CURABLE. It simply takes finding the right treatment for you.

Medications for Anxiety

Medications are one of the most popular treatments for anxiety,  because they are the only treatment option that is easy and works  quickly. That ease does come at a cost. Many medications have unpleasant  side effects. Medications also can’t “cure” anxiety. They can only  “stop it.”

If you stop taking the medication, anxiety will come back.

So all anxiety medications benefit from supplementary treatments. But  in the beginning? Yes, medications can help, provided you figure out  which one is best for you. Here are some references to start you off:

These are only some of the medications that we’ve featured here on  CalmClinic, but there are countless more. For a complete over view of  all different types of anxiety medications, and details about what to  choose from, please visit our anxiety medication handbook below.

Therapy

Therapy is another type of treatment for anxiety. With therapy, you  meet individually or in group with an expert in mental health, who uses a  series of different therapeutic styles to try to help you overcome your  anxiety.

Not all therapy is created equal, and some forms of therapy are  controversial in their effectiveness. For example, psychodynamic therapy  – popularized by Sigmund Freud – is considered ineffective by some and  the most effective by others.

But therapy, especially certain types of therapy, can be very  effective. If you’re interested in learning more about therapy for  anxiety, here are some places to start:

Therapy is effective. But not all therapy is the same. Hypnotherapy  is controversial. Cognitive behavioral therapy is highly regarded and  effective, but doesn’t work for everyone. Therapy is a great choice, but  don’t feel deflated if it doesn’t work for you or you can’t afford it.

Self-Help Techniques for Anxiety

Self-help treatments can work. You can cure your anxiety at home. The  only problem with self-help techniques is that they require substantial  commitment, and most people that try to cure anxiety at home give up  quickly.

Why?

Because when you’re at home, there’s no one to keep you accountable.  You have to self-motivate, and you have to be okay with setbacks, and  you have to be willing to take a considerable amount of time learning  more about anxiety and learning the right strategies to help you control  it.

Self-help often seems easier, but it does require work. Those willing  to put in that work, however, are more likely to find the results  they’re looking for. Here are some pages to help you get started:

If you research yourself, you’ll probably find a lot of strategies  for self-help. Some of them work. Not all of them do. Don’t be  discouraged if the ones you try aren’t as effective as you hoped.

If you’re ready to truly break into self-help techniques, review our self-help for anxiety handbook below.

Overcoming Anxiety

Anxiety is an overwhelming condition. It takes control of your  thoughts. Its presence is felt in everything that you do. The longer you  live with anxiety, the more it can feel like that’s all there is – as  though there is no other way of being than struggling with an anxiety  disorder.

But that’s simply not the case. Anxiety was formed. Anxiety can also  be eliminated. It takes time, knowledge, the ability to overcome  setbacks, and a commitment to your mental health and wellness, but  anxiety can be beaten. Anxiety is learned. It can be unlearned.

The next steps are up to you. Our advice is to bookmark this  handbook, so that you can keep exploring further and further into  anxiety and how to eliminate it. If you have any struggles, use our  search feature and find out more about it. You can also follow us on Facebook,  where we post new stories and updates about anxiety, and a chance to  interact with others that are also dealing with similar challenges.

Hopefully this anxiety handbook helps you get started, and keep  delving deeper into the other guides we’ve linked to above. In time,  you’ll be an expert on anxiety yourself, and able to find the solutions  that will work best for you.

Share Rate this article:
We’d like your feedback
Was this article helpful?
Yes No