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Anxiety: The Basics


Written by Corry Hawkins, Clinical Director for KPS

Anxiety is a part of daily life. Life changes and stressful situations can make anyone feel anxious. Normal anxieties inspire us to prepare and improve ourselves and our circumstances. However, sometimes anxiety becomes overwhelming and debilitating. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States. Feelings of intense fear and distress can disrupt a person’s life, relationships, physical health, and overall functioning. Anxiety can lead to other mental concerns, such as depression or substance use, especially if left untreated.

Risk Factors

Children, teenagers, and adults can develop anxiety. While anxiety disorders vary in presentation, they are typically caused by a combination of stressful circumstances and genetic factors.


Anxiety disorders are experienced differently depending on the individual and their circumstances. In general, most anxiety disorders consist of emotional and physical symptoms, operating in a feedback loop that keeps the anxiety coming back.

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Feelings of fear or dread

  • Feeling tense or jumpy

  • Feeling irritable or restless

  • Fear of danger and anticipating the worst

Physical Symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Feeling out of breath

  • Sweating

  • Tremors or twitches

  • Headaches and/or digestive problems

  • Insomnia and/or fatigue

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety can take many forms, and the emotional and physical symptoms experienced can vary depending on the person and what triggers their feelings of fear and dread. Below is a list of diagnosable anxiety disorders.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • Social Anxiety Disorder

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder (diagnosed in children)

  • Panic Disorder

  • Specific Phobias


Each type of anxiety disorder is different and has its own course of treatment. Symptoms of anxiety can also resemble medical disorders, so it is important to start with making an appointment with your physician. Typically, treatment for anxiety includes a combination of medication and mental health therapy. Relaxation techniques and stress reduction are crucial components of treating anxiety. If you feel treatment is not effective, talk with your physician and mental health provider.

Remember, anxiety is common, but that does not mean you have to live with worry and dread every day. If you are unsure if your anxiety requires treatment, make an appointment with a physician or mental health professional and find out. The worst thing you can do is not ask!

For more information about anxiety, see this Anxiety Disorders Fact Sheet produced by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


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