Nearly everyone feels worried, nervous or uneasy from time to time. Sometimes these feelings can become overwhelming or continue for a long time. Learn more about anxiety, anxiety disorders and what you can do to feel better.

Types of anxiety disorders

Some of the most common anxiety disorders are:

  • Acute stress disorder (ASD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social anxiety disorder

Signs of an anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorders can interfere with your daily activities, such as:

  • Job performance
  • Relationships
  • Schoolwork
  • Self-esteem

Anxiety may express itself through:

  • Physical symptoms
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rise in blood pressure

Anxious behaviors

  • Avoiding anxiety-provoking situations
  • Compulsive behaviors, like checking, repeating and making things “just right”
  • Overpreparing
  • Restlessness or fidgeting
  • Seeking reassurance

Lifestyle tips

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  • Avoid caffeine. This can help address sleep issues that drive anxiety and stress.
  • Eat a healthful diet. Don’t skip meals.
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Get regular aerobic exercise to promote oxygen circulation through your blood. Consider:

  • Aerobics classes
  • Biking or spin classes
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Dancing
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Jogging
  • Kickboxing
  • Swimming
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Get adequate rest—at least seven to eight hours a night. If anxiety keeps you up at night, establish a relaxing bedtime ritual that helps you disconnect from anxious thoughts.

Stress management
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  • Avoid potentially dangerous ways of coping with anxiety, like smoking, alcohol use, drug dependence or disordered eating patterns.
  • Avoid taking on more responsibilities. Practice saying no. For example, “No. I’d love to, but I need to focus on ______ right now.”
  • Eliminate as many nonessential activities as possible from your daily routine. Figure out what you need help with and delegate (assign chores to your kids, have your groceries delivered, etc.).
  • Find people you can express your feelings to safely. This could be a trusted family member, friend, mentor or counselor.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, yoga or mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Treatment options

Talk to your health care professional about treatment options for anxiety. Common treatments include: 

  • Medication – Helps combat anxiety; if your therapist or counselor recommends medication, you’ll get a referral to a psychiatrist. 
  • Psychotherapy – Discover what caused an anxiety disorder and ways to cope by talking with a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist or counselor 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – is a “solution-oriented” type of psychotherapy focusing on modifying dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and thoughts by changing negative or irrational beliefs. “Cognitive” relates to changing the thinking patterns that support fears, and “behavioral” relates to changing the reaction to anxiety-provoking situations.

Frequently asked questions

How common are anxiety disorders?
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Anxiety disorders are very common. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that as many as 33% of American men and women may experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. And 18% of adult men and women (40 million people) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. Most types of anxiety disorders are twice as common in women as in men.

What causes anxiety disorders?
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Anxiety disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of several factors:

  • Biological, chemical or genetic factors
  • Psychosocial factors like a stressful work environment, family situation or adverse life event can cause anxiety
  • Certain medical conditions or medications
What if I don’t treat my anxiety?
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Symptoms of anxiety and depression can go away and come back throughout your life if you do not get treatment. 

Chronic anxiety can cause problems with relationships, sleep, work, your nervous system and your cardiovascular system. According to recent research, women with anxiety are far more likely to show reduced blood flow to the heart (ischemia) during physical activity than women without anxiety.

Contact us

Talk to a care navigator or schedule an appointment at the Women’s Health & Wellness Center.