Anxiety Symptoms, Causes, Signs & Side Effects

For individuals suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) it is difficult – often impossible – to determine the specific cause for the anxiety. This leads to a state of continued worry and fear.

Understanding Anxiety

Learn More About Anxiety

Those living with GAD have worries that are so pervasive and distressing that it interferes with everyday life.

This incessant anxiety results in an individual experiencing feelings of hopelessness due to their inability to control their reactions. Anxiety leads to a depletion of energy, interruptions in sleep patterns, and physical illness due to a weakened immune system. The longer the body stays in a state of anxiety the more physically and mentally drained you become.

While living with anxiety may seem impossible, there is hope. By learning the causes that lead to your anxiety and how to effectively cope with the associated feelings you can free yourself from the constant state of worry. With appropriate treatment and support from a rehab center you can get ahead of your anxiety and learn to live a life filled with hope and, and support you every step of the way.


Statistics of Anxiety

In the United States it is estimated that 3.1% of adults are diagnosed with GAD a year. Of these, 32.3% are considered to be severe cases, meaning that their lives are severely affected by GAD. The average age of onset for this disorder is 31 years of age and the lifetime prevalence rate for adults is 5.7%. Additionally, women are twice as likely to experience GAD as men.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Learn About Co-Occurring Disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder doesn’t always occur alone; sometimes individuals experience other mental illnesses. The most common co-occurring mental disorders include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Agoraphobia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder


Causes of Anxiety

No one experiences anxiety in the same way; what may cause anxiety in one person may not be anxiety-provoking in another. It is also not completely understood why one individual may develop GAD. It’s likely to be a combination of many different factors. Some of these causes may include:

Genetic:  Those who have a family history of anxiety disorders have a greater likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder themselves. The chances are even greater if it is a first-degree relative like your mother, father, or sibling.

Brain Chemistry: Neurotransmitters, chemicals located in the brain, are responsible for communication between neurons. The neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine all play a role in interpreting physiological arousal and danger cues. When there is a deficiency in these neurotransmitters, they may communicate false messages to the brain that danger is near when it’s not. This may lead to feelings of anxiety.

Brain Structure: There are certain parts of the brain that regulate fear, memory, and emotion. Studies indicate that individuals with GAD, are overly-sensitive to unpredictability and inability to control the world around them. Additionally, the brain may interpret physiological fear reactions such as sweating palms, increased heart rate, and feeling faint as indicators that anxiety is present and produce anxiety reactions in response to the symptoms.

Environmental: Individuals who have experienced severe stressors in their lives such as traumatic events or negative situations may have come to see the world as a cruel and dangerous place. Due to this distorted worldview, these people may be in a state of constant fear and anxiety.

Psychological: As anxiety disorders often occur with other mental illnesses, many of these mental illnesses will increase anxiety symptoms. Additionally, individuals who struggle with untreated anxiety disorders may attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to decrease their symptoms. This self-medication may lead to substance abuse or alcoholism.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

While the symptoms of GAD may decrease at times, this disorder rarely goes away without treatment. Symptoms will vary among individuals. There are a number of signs and symptoms that are common among individuals with GAD. These include:


  • Extreme and unreasonable worries
  • Heightened fear of what people think of you
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear that you are going crazy or losing your mind
  • Anger
  • Lack of patience
  • Depersonalization
  • Depression
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Feeling like things are unreal or in a dream state
  • Agitation
  • Feeling helplessness or hopelessness about the future


  • Avoiding certain situations that may cause anxiety
  • Needing to sit near exits
  • Trouble with decision making
  • Mind going blank
  • Crying for no apparent reason
  • Snapping at others


  • Lethargy
  • Increase or decrease in body temperature
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Chills
  • Blushing or flushed face
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Tingling sensation in hands or feet
  • Muscle strain
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Elevated hearth rate
  • Hyperarousal
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Trouble swallowing


Effects of Anxiety

Individuals who struggle with untreated generalized anxiety disorder will experience a number of unpleasant side effects. Some of the most common effects of GAD include:

  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty maintaining productivity at school and work
  • Problems sleeping
  • Interpersonal relationship strain
  • Family problems
  • Trouble completing daily activities
  • Increasing depression
  • Use of alcohol or drugs to self-medicate away the anxiety
  • Feeling as if it’s impossible to make things better
  • Decreased self-confidence
  • Loss of motivation

Park Royal provided the safe, supportive treatment I needed to overcome my anxiety disorder.  I will forever be thankful for the incredible help I received!

– Anonymous Patient