Stress and Anxiety: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Related Disorders, Treatments and Outlook

People may report feeling stressed when multiple competing demands are placed on them.

Most people experience stress and anxiety from time to time. Stress is any demands made on your brain or physical body.

Being stressed can be triggered by an event that makes you feel frustrated or nervous. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or restlessness.

It can be a stress reaction, or it can occur in people who cannot identify significant stressors in their life.

Stress and anxiety are not always bad. They can help you overcome a challenge or dangerous situation in the short term.

Examples of everyday stress and anxiety include worrying about finding a job, feeling nervous before a big test, or feeling embarrassed in certain social situations.

If we do not experience some anxiety, we may not be motivated to do what we need to do (study for that big test, for example).


However, if stress and anxiety interfere with your daily life, it may indicate a more severe problem.

If you avoid situations due to irrational fears, constantly worrying, or experiencing severe anxiety about a traumatic event weeks after it happened, it may be time to seek help.


Stress and anxiety can produce physical and psychological symptoms. People experience stress and anxiety differently. Common physical symptoms include:

  • Stomach ache.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Headache.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Perspiration.
  • Shake.
  • Dizziness.
  • Frequent urination
  • Change in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fatigue.

Stress and anxiety can cause mental or emotional symptoms and physical ones. These may include:

  • Feelings of impending doom.
  • Panic or nervousness, especially in social settings.
  • Difficult to focus.
  • Irrational anger.
  • Restlessness.

People who have stress and anxiety for long periods can experience adverse health outcomes. They are more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes and may even develop depression and panic disorder.

What Causes Stress and Anxiety?

For most people, stress, and anxiety come and go. They usually occur after particular life events but then disappear.

Common causes

Common stressors include:

  • Emotion.
  • We are starting a new school or job.
  • Have an illness or injury.
  • I was having a sick or injured friend or family member.
  • Death of a family member or friend.
  • Get marry.
  • To have a baby.

Drugs and Medications

Stimulant-containing drugs can make symptoms of stress and anxiety worse. Regular use of caffeine, illicit drugs like cocaine, and even alcohol can worsen symptoms.

Prescription medications that can make symptoms worse include:

  • Thyroid medications.
  • Asthma inhalers.
  • Diet pills

Stress and anxiety-related disorders

Stress and anxiety that occur frequently or seem out of proportion to the stressor can be signs of an anxiety disorder. An estimated 40 million Americans are living with some anxiety disorder.

People with these disorders may feel anxious and stressed daily and for long periods. These disorders include the following:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder characterized by uncontrollable worrying.
  • Panic disorder is a condition that causes panic attacks, which are moments of extreme fear accompanied by a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and fear of impending death.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that causes flashbacks or anxiety as a result of a traumatic experience.
  • Social phobia is a condition that causes intense feelings of anxiety in situations that involve interaction with others.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a condition that causes repetitive thoughts and the compulsion to complete specific ritual actions.

When to seek help?

If you are thinking of harming yourself or others, you should seek immediate medical help. Stress and anxiety are treatable conditions, and many resources, strategies, and treatments can help.

If you cannot control your worries and stress affecting your daily life, talk with your primary care provider about ways to manage stress and anxiety.

Treatments for stress and anxiety

It is normal to experience stress and anxiety from time to time, and there are strategies you can use to make them more manageable.

Pay attention to how your body and mind respond to stressful and anxiety-generating situations. The next time a stressful experience occurs, you can anticipate your reaction, which may be less disruptive.

Specific lifestyle changes can help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety. These techniques can be used in conjunction with medical treatments for anxiety. Techniques to reduce stress and anxiety include:

  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Limit the consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • To meditate.
  • Hobby hours.
  • I am keeping a journal of your feelings.
  • We practiced deep breathing.
  • Recognize the factors that trigger your stress.
  • I was talking to a friend.

Consider if you tend to use substances like alcohol or drugs as ways to deal with stress and anxiety. This can lead to serious substance abuse problems that can make stress and anxiety worse.

Seeking professional help for stress and anxiety

You should call your doctor when you cannot identify the source of your stress or anxiety and if the condition continues or comes and goes.

If, together with your friends, family, or spiritual or personal advisers, you cannot identify a source or solution for your stress or anxiety, your next resource may be your doctor.

A physical problem may be causing your symptoms. Or there may be a hidden cause that requires the assistance of a counselor to help uncover.

Once your doctor has ruled out a medical cause for your symptoms, your doctor can be a great resource for other options in treating your symptoms of stress or anxiety.

Primary care physicians have many resources they can use to help get to the source of your stress or anxiety. You should never be ashamed of your situation or the fact that you are seeking help. The role of the doctor is to help.

Remember, the sooner you get help, the sooner you will feel better. If you have physical symptoms that seem unrelated or that are worse than what you have experienced in the past, you should see your doctor immediately.

There are many ways to seek treatment for stress and anxiety. If you feel like you can’t deal with stress and anxiety, your primary care provider may suggest that you see a mental health provider.

They may use psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, to help you overcome your stress and anxiety. Your therapist can also teach you applied relaxation techniques to help you manage stress.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular and effective method used to control anxiety. This type of therapy teaches you to recognize anxious thoughts and behaviors and change them for more positive ones.

Exposure therapy and systematic desensitization can be effective in treating phobias. They involve gradually exposing him to anxiety-provoking stimuli to help control his feelings of fear.


Your primary care provider may also recommend medications to help treat a diagnosed anxiety disorder. These may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as sertraline (Zoloft) or paroxetine (Paxil).

Providers sometimes use anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines), such as diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan), but these approaches are generally used short-term due to the risk of addiction.

What’s the long-term outlook for stress and anxiety?

Stress and anxiety can be unpleasant to handle. They can also have negative effects on your physical health if left untreated for long periods of time.

While a certain amount of stress and anxiety is expected in life and should not be a cause for concern, it is important to recognize when stress in your life is causing negative consequences.

If you feel like your stress and anxiety are becoming unmanageable, seek professional help or ask others to help you find the support you need.

The prognosis for people who suffer from the effects of stress or anxiety is almost always excellent. Most people make a full recovery once the stressor is identified and a plan is devised to eliminate or control it.

Complications of poorly managed or overwhelming stress or anxiety can include persistent feelings of depression, adopting unhealthy lifestyle habits such as using alcohol or other substances to “treat” the problem, worsening of certain medical conditions, and even self-harm or suicide.

The key is to seek help early and be an active partner in your care. Just worrying about your problems will only make them worse. Call your friends, family, clergy and doctors to help you get back to a full and productive lifestyle.