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Anxiety

What is anxiety?


Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion. For example, you may feel nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.

Anxiety disorders are different, though. They are a group of mental illnesses, and the distress they cause can keep you from carrying on with your life normally.

For people who have one, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling. But with treatment, many people can manage those feelings and get back to a fulfilling life.


Types of Disorders

Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that includes different conditions:


Symptoms

All anxiety disorders share some general symptoms:


Causes

Researchers don’t know exactly what brings on anxiety disorders. Like other forms of mental illness, they stem from a combination of things, including changes in your brain and environmental stress, and even your genes. The disorders can run in families and could be linked to faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and other emotions.


Diagnosis

If you have symptoms, your doctor will examine you and ask for your medical history. She may run tests to rule out medical illnesses that might be causing your symptoms. No lab tests can specifically diagnose anxiety disorders.

If your doctor doesn’t find any medical reason for how you’re feeling, she may send you to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health specialist. Those doctors will ask you questions and use tools and testing to find out if you may have an anxiety disorder.

Your doctor will consider how long and how intense your symptoms are when diagnosing you. She’ll also check to see if the symptoms keep you from carrying out your normal activities.


Treatments

Most people with the condition try one or more of these therapies:


Managing Symptoms

These tips may help you control or lessen your symptoms:


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on June 12, 2017