What Do Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms Look Like?

Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations. A little anxiety can even have a positive impact. Anxiety can motivate people to study for a test, to work hard at their job, to solve problems in their life, or to heed that gut instinct that danger or trouble is lurking. However in some people, anxiety is relentless and intense, leading to physical and mental symptoms that can be debilitating.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of U.S. adults have an anxiety disorder, while 31% will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. The risk of anxiety disorders is higher in women than in men. An estimated 23% of women and 14% of men have had an anxiety disorder in the past year.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can impact the body, mind and emotions. Different people may experience different symptoms, or their anxiety may manifest in different ways. The symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be non-specific and can mimic those of many other conditions. Symptoms can also be mild or severe.

Emotional/psychological signs of anxiety disorders:

  • Nervousness, feelings of panic or fear
  • Irritability, agitation or anger
  • A general sense of uneasiness, that something isn’t right
  • Sleep problems or insomnia
  • Worrying excessively, occurring almost all day or most days of the week, and lasting for several months at a time
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Waking up with the mind racing
  • Trouble with concentration, attention, and memory
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Physical signs of anxiety disorders

  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Cold, sweaty hands or feet
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Startles easily
  • Tense muscles
  • Indigestion or chronic digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse, elevated heart rate and difficulty breathing at times
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Generalized Anxiety Disorder is persistent and excessive worry about multiple topics, events or aspects of life, such as money, health, family, work or relationships. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to find relief from their worry and have a level of worry that is disproportionate to the actual risk. They often expect the worst, worry more than necessary for a given set of circumstances, and experience trouble setting aside their worries. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, GAD is diagnosed in adults when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms including:

  • Edginess or restlessness
  • Frequently tired; more fatigued than usual
  • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank
  • Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)
  • Increased muscle aches or soreness
  • Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep)

Generalized anxiety disorder may make it difficult to carry out day to day activities, and people may seek constant reassurance from others.

Panic disorder: Panic attacks or panic disorder is a sense of fear and helplessness that strikes suddenly and lasts several minutes. During a panic attack, individuals may experience a pounding or racing heartbeat, chest pain, stomach pain, weakness or dizziness, difficult breathing or a choking sensation.

Social anxiety disorder: Also called social phobia, people with social anxiety may experience blushing, sweating, trembling and difficulty talking in ordinary social situation. Social anxiety disorder causes overwhelming worry leading up to social situations, and self-consciousness that can make attending parties or other events extremely uncomfortable. A person with this disorder fixates on being judged by others, embarrassed or ridiculed.

Phobias: Phobias are intense or irrational fears related to a specific object or situation, such as heights, flying or leaving the house. The fear goes beyond what’s appropriate and may cause the person to avoid ordinary situations.

Suffering from anxiety disorder can have a negative impact on all aspects of life, but it doesn’t have to. Bluff can help you or your loved one through anxiety disorder treatment so you can feel more relaxed, more comfortable in your own skin, and have the confidence to get out and enjoy life.


When people are feeling anxious, they may turn to a glass of wine or a beer. But for some, the use of alcohol and drugs to cope with the stress of an anxiety disorder can easily spin out of control.

According to a systematic review of studies looking at the link between substance use, mood and anxiety disorders, people with an alcohol use disorder were twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as those who didn’t drink excessively. The analysis also found strong connections between drug use and major depression and anxiety disorders.

Men and women with anxiety disorders may use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. They assume substance use will reduce their symptoms of anxiety, take their mind off what’s troubling them, and make them feel better. People with social anxiety, for example, may drink to relax or lessen their inhibitions when interacting with others.

Alcohol is a poor coping tool to treat anxiety disorders. You may feel better for a short time, but there is evidence that substance use, and alcohol in particular, can lead to anxiety. Alcohol makes anxiety disorders worse by affecting the central nervous system and changing levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. When alcohol wears off, people can feel more anxious. This can contribute to a cycle in which people drink to feel better, feel anxious as the alcohol leaves their body, and start drinking again. Alcohol withdrawal is associated with symptoms such as shaky hands, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sweating – and anxiety.

Alcohol abuse has other ways of making anxiety disorders worse. Alcoholism causes many types of problems in work, relationships and health – divorce, job loss, isolation from friends and family, and damage to relationships with children or the loss of custody of children. If a person is already prone to anxiety, substance use can wreak havoc by creating more reasons to worry leading to loss of sleep and fear of the future.


Like other mental illnesses, anxiety disorders are complex. Researchers believe there are a number of causes, including predispositions people are born with as well as stressful life situations that can trigger anxiety.

Biological factors: Anxiety disorders run in families, although researchers have not yet pinpointed specific genes associated with anxiety disorders.

Other studies have found differences in the brain structure of people with anxiety disorders compared to those without. Certain areas of the brain, especially those that help regulate fear, memory, and stress, may contribute to making someone feel excessively anxious. Still additional research has found that abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine may be associated with anxiety.

Environmental factors: Illness experienced by oneself or a family member, grief over the loss of a loved one, or psychological or physical abuse can all contribute to making a person feel worried and anxious.

Anxiety disorders are also associated with eating disorders, mood disorders such as depression, substance use disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Anxiety Treatment at Bluff

Anxiety disorders are not only one of the most common mental illnesses, but also the most treatable. Bluff in Augusta, Georgia, is a leading anxiety treatment center and provider of rehab for alcohol, drugs and co-occurring disorders. Our multidisciplinary team includes psychiatric providers, addiction medicine professionals, registered nurses, therapists and counselors who have the expertise to help men and women not only manage and treat anxiety disorders but also break free from the cycle of addiction and worry. Because anxiety disorders are a predictor of relapse, Bluff is committed to helping patients develop skills and tools to manage stress and anxiety.

During detox, symptoms of anxiety are carefully monitored and managed with medications by our compassionate, expert team at Bluff. We help people get through those first few days when alcohol and drugs are leaving their body, keeping them comfortable and making sure they feel safe and supported.

While in rehab for alcohol and drugs, anxiety disorder treatment continues with the use of medications and psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven effective in relieving symptoms of anxiety disorder. CBT helps people change their thinking patterns and reactions to situations that trigger anxiety.

Holistic practices such as yoga, meditation, horticulture, art, equine-assisted therapy and nature hikes also help to calm thoughts, promote relaxation and treat anxiety. Finally, an important aspect of treating anxiety disorders and substance use is addressing sleep problems. Bluff works with patients to help them overcome insomnia associated with substance use and anxiety. Restorative sleep can help people feel more resilient and better able to cope with stress and anxiety.


"*" indicates required fields