What if you could cure your anxiety?
Welcome to our anxiety guide. We have compiled over 600 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.
- You have a big test coming up? Feeling nervous is normal.
- You have a first date with your long time crush? Feeling jittery is normal.
- You’re called into the boss’s office and you don’t know why? Feeling worried is very normal.
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:
- Treatments, and More
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:
- Start Here: Learn to Cure Anxiety
- How to Stop Anxiety Quickly
- Anxiety Reduction Techniques and Strategies
- Is Anxiety Too Much? Start Here
- Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Panic
- How I Calmed My Anxiety in One Evening
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:
- Racing Thoughts
- Weird Thoughts
- Strange Thoughts
- Obsessive Thoughts
- Bad Thoughts
- Irrational Thoughts
- Crazy Thoughts
- Scary Thoughts
- Recurring Thoughts
- Unwanted Thoughts
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:
- Stomach Pain
- Head Pressure
- Chest Pain
- Lump in Throat
- Feeling Ill
- Chest Tightness
- Shortness of Breath
- Muscle Tension
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:
- Rapid Heartbeat (Heart Palpitations)
- Trouble Breathing
- Chest Pains
- Urge to Urinate
- Intense Feelings of Doom/Danger
- Rapid Thoughts/Trouble Thinking
- Feelings of Losing Control
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:
- “I have anxiety because my parents didn’t let me have social experiences.”
- “I have anxiety because I was treated poorly as a child.”
- “I have anxiety because my workplace is stressful.”
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:
- If you have anxiety
- How severe your anxiety is
- What type of anxiety you have
For that, we invite you to take our free 7 minute anxiety test. This test will help score your anxiety symptoms, see how their severity compares to others, show you what type(s) of anxiety you struggle with, and provide strategies you can use to treat it. It’s free to use and can teach you a lot about your anxiety.
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 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:
- Behavioral Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, specifically)
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
Finally, there are self-help techniques for anxiety. Most people trying to cure anxiety want to find a method that works at home. If you take our free 7 minute anxiety test, we’ll give you some background on some self-help techniques that we think will help you control your 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.
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:
- DIY Exposure Therapy
- Positive Self-Talk
- Self-Hypnosis for Anxiety
- Panic Attacks Self-Help
- Anxiety Disorder Self-Help
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.
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.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Feb 26, 2018.