Anxiety often gets a bad rap. It comes in when we have doubt and fear, or apprehension about the uncertainty of the future like those experienced in the relative discomfort of social situations, job interviews, life transition, or even public speaking. It’s true that too much anxiety can leave us feeling exhausted and frustrated. Ordinary (or existential) anxiety comes and goes, but if feelings associated with anxiety are extreme, last longer than six months, and interfere with how we function, it suggests there is more going on and might benefit from additional support.

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress and helps give us motivation. Understanding how anxiety works can help us understand how to gain better control over the negative behaviors associated with overwhelm. The thing to know is that each of us experiences anxiety differently and this makes it important to know all the ways anxiety can present itself. Symptoms of general anxiety include

  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping (or falling asleep)
  • More physical symptoms when we experience an anxiety or panic attack

The common denominator of several disorders include anxiety, such as panic disorder, phobia (excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity), social anxiety disorder (extreme fear of being judged or criticized by others), obsessive-compulsive disorder (recurring irrational thoughts that lead to specific, repeated behaviors), separation anxiety disorder, illness anxiety disorder (formerly known as hypochondria), and PTSD (anxiety following a traumatic event).

Anxiety often informs us of our sense of safety in the world or a particular situation. All of this happens in the autonomic nervous system and it is based on survival instincts and a part of the brain called the amygdala and the physiological response of the HPA-axis…blah blah blah… it’s bunch of cool science. Research suggests that even the foods we eat, like salmon, turmeric, and dark chocolate can positively impact the brain if we frequently experience anxiety.


Anxiety disorders and issues can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both. For those who have mild anxiety issues or a fear of something that can be avoided rather easily, treatment might not be considered. Along with therapy, lifestyle changes such as meditation, regular sleep and exercise, and a reduction and/or avoidance of alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine are natural ways to care for ourselves. For moderate to severe cases, treatment consists of tools and strategies to help better cope with, and manage, symptoms that interfere with daily tasks.

Anxiety disorders and issues can be treated, even in more severe cases. This is to say, the symptoms can be managed and, while anxiety is part of the human experience and the issues impact each individual differently, therapy is also unique, and we can learn to live healthier lives through better understanding of how life’s issues influence our mood and functioning.