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What do I need to know about anxiety?

Anxiety is a condition that causes you to feel worry or fear. Family or work stress, smoking, caffeine, and alcohol can increase your risk for anxiety. Certain medicines or health conditions can also increase your risk. Anxiety may begin gradually and can become a long-term condition if it is not managed or treated.

What other common signs and symptoms may occur with anxiety?

  • Fatigue or muscle tightness
  • Shaking, restlessness, or irritability
  • Problems focusing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling jumpy, easily startled, or dizzy
  • Rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath

How is anxiety diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask when your symptoms began, what triggers them, and if anxiety affects your daily activities. He will also ask about your medical history and if you have family members with a similar condition. He may ask about your past and present alcohol, nicotine, or drug use.

  • Blood tests are done to check your thyroid hormone levels. These tests can also give information about your overall health, and may help find the cause of your symptoms.
  • An EKG test records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats. It may be used to see if a heart problem is causing your symptoms.

How is anxiety treated?

You may get medicines to help you feel calm and relaxed, and decrease your symptoms. Healthcare providers will treat any medical condition that may be causing your symptoms.

How can I manage anxiety?

  • Go to counseling as directed. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you understand and change how you react to events that trigger your symptoms.
  • Find ways to manage your symptoms. Activities such as exercise, meditation, or listening to music can help you relax.
  • Practice deep breathing. Breathing can change how your body reacts to stress. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths several times a day, or during an anxiety attack. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can increase your anxiety. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
  • Do not have caffeine. Caffeine can make your symptoms worse. Do not have foods or drinks that are meant to increase your energy level.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Ask your healthcare provider if alcohol is safe for you. You may not be able to drink alcohol if you take certain anxiety or depression medicines. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day if you are a woman. Limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day if you are a man. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

Call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain, tightness, or heaviness that may spread to your shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back.
  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You feel dizzy, lightheaded, or faint.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not get better with treatment.
  • You think your medicine may be causing side effects.
  • Your anxiety keeps you from doing your regular daily activities.
  • You have new symptoms since your last visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.