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What does anxiety mean?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), anxiety is anticipation of future threat. Occasional anxiety is expected and natural. However, it may be considered a disorder once the anxiety persists and interferes with social, academic, occupational (work), or other important areas of functioning. 

Adult anxiety struggling mental health
Where does it come from?

"Anxiety is the result of constant chatter between a number of different brain regions" - referred to as "a fear network." While this may be a simple way of describing anxiety, many of these brain regions developed functions to help keep us safe:

  • Amygdala

  • Prefrontal Cortex

  • Hippocampus

To learn more about the neurobiology and science behind anxiety, check out these articles: The Neurobiology of Anxiety Disorders and The Neurocircuitry of Fear, Stress, and Anxiety Disorders.

Science behind anxiety
Anxiety in your body

Many are aware of these symptoms related to anxiety:

  • Racing thoughts

  • Uncontrollable over-thinking

  • Feelings of dread or impending doom

  • Feeling panic and uneasiness

  • Nightmares

  • Repeated thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences

  • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Heightened alertness

  • Difficulties sleeping

  • Feeling disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings

What is anxiety.png

However, there are many other symptoms that often get overlooked. Many of these more "physical" symptoms of anxiety may look like:

  • Heart palpitations or racing heart

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Cold or sweaty hands, or generalized sweating

  • Dry mouth 

  • Nausea, stomach pain, or digestive issues

  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet

  • Muscle tension or aches

  • Dizziness 

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The nervous system has several different divisions: central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) innervates the rest of our body, outside of the brain and spinal cord. The PNS is also divided into further systems:


Fight, Flight, or Freeze


Rest and Digest


Gastrointestinal control

It is important to understand that anxiety is a very complex process. Anxiety can be related to organic medical conditions, result after a traumatic experience, or stem from certain lifestyle choices. Likewise, treatment for anxiety can be multi-faceted.


Worry and fear can be helpful at times; they help you prepare for what might be coming. However, constantly living in a state of worry or fear is not healthy and can easily become your new normal without even realizing it. 

Seeking therapy or treatment for anxiety can be life-changing. 

Check back for more information coming soon!

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