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Anxiety

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Everyone feels worried, anxious, or nervous sometimes. But when anxiety affects your daily life, it's time to take action.

You can use breathing exercises to help you feel less anxious and more in control. If that's not enough, additional treatment may be needed including counseling, medication, or both.

Anxiety disorders often occur with other problems, including:

Learn about mental health services at Kaiser Permanente.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety affects your thoughts, feelings, mood, and body.

Anxiety or fear of a specific situation can trigger many of these symptoms. Some people get anxiety disorders when the symptoms happen without a known cause.

Physical symptoms

  • feeling edgy or restless
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty sleeping
  • sweaty or cold, clammy hands
  • trembling, twitching, or shaking
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • muscle tension, aches, or soreness

Emotional symptoms

  • fear
  • worry
  • anger
  • irritability
  • panic or fear of panic

Panic attack symptoms

Panic attacks cause feelings of fear even though there is no clear cause or danger. Symptoms include:

  • faster breathing
  • shaking
  • feeling faint
  • increased heart beat

Preventing anxiety

Help prevent anxiety — or stop an attack — with these simple tools and tips.

Get enough sleep
Anxiety can cause sleeping problems, but lack of sleep can also lead to feelings of anxiety. If you have trouble sleeping, get help for insomnia.

Deep breathing
Take slow, deep breaths to reduce anxiety symptoms.

Relax with guided imagery
Use guided imagery to help ease your anxiety with soft music and powerful mental pictures.

Reach out
Facing anxiety alone can be challenging. Talk to friends and loved ones who can support you.

Positive talk
Try to calm yourself by using this phrase: "This isn't an emergency. I'm okay. I'm not in danger. I can keep going, even though I feel anxious." Learn how to use positive thinking to prevent or control anxiety.

Have fun
Get out and do something you enjoy, such as going to a funny movie or taking a walk or a hike.

Plan your day
Having too much or too little to do can make you more anxious.

Schedule "worry time"
Set aside 15 to 30 minutes each day to do your worrying. Spend the whole time thinking of all of your fears. Write them down in detail. When worries come to mind during other parts of the day, jot them down for the next worry time.

Cut down on caffeine
Drink no more than 12 ounces of coffee or soda per day. Caffeine makes anxious feelings worse, and can interfere with sleep.

Avoid other stimulants
Do not use alcohol, illegal drugs, or tobacco to cope with your feelings of anxiety. They can increase your symptoms and make you feel worse.

Stay active
Exercise can help with anxiety. Try to get 30 minutes of activity most days. The more you move, the easier it is to reduce your anxiety.

Taking herbs and supplements

Some herbs are used to treat anxiety, but it is not certain how effective they are. They can also have serious side effects. Ask your doctor before using herbs to see if they are safe for you.

Visit our Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database to find reliable information on herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements and natural products.

Source: Copyrighted material of The Permanente Medical Group, Inc.

Reviewed by: Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD and Craig Robbins, MD, July 2013
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2013 Kaiser Permanente