Anxiety and anxiety disorders: symptoms, causes and treatment


Anxiety is a term widely used to indicate a complex of cognitive, behavioral and physiological reactions that occur following the perception of a stimulus considered threatening and towards which we do not consider ourselves sufficiently capable of reacting.

What is anxiety

Anxiety itself, however, is not an abnormal phenomenon. It is a basic emotion, which involves a state of activation of the organism when a situation is subjectively perceived as dangerous.

Anxiety symptoms Cognitive symptoms of anxiety

From a cognitive point of view, the typical symptoms of anxiety are:

the sense of mental emptiness
a growing sense of alarm and danger
the induction of negative images, memories and thoughts
the implementation of cognitive protective behaviors
the marked feeling of being observed and being at the center of other people’s attention.

Behavioral symptoms of anxiety

In the human species, anxiety translates into an immediate tendency to explore the environment, in the search for explanations, reassurance and escape routes. The main instinctive strategy for managing anxiety is also the avoidance of the feared situation (strategy “better safe than sorry” – “better to be safe than sorry”).

Protective behaviors (being accompanied, taking anxiolytics as needed, etc.), anassertive and submissive behaviors are also frequent.

Physical symptoms of anxiety

Furthermore, anxiety is often accompanied by physical and physiological manifestations such as:

increased heart rate
tingling in the extremities and around the mouth
derealization and depersonalization.

Below we will better describe some physical symptoms of anxiety, how they manifest themselves and what are the possible consequences:


It is necessary, as far as possible, to distinguish between different conditions referable to palpitations: heart palpitations, tachycardia and arrhythmia.

The latter, for example, often occurs with irregular beats even in healthy people, during their daily activities and is more likely to occur when the person is anxious.

It can be induced by a number of agents such as nicotine, caffeine, alcohol and electrolyte imbalance.

Often the interpretation given to this physical symptom during an anxious state is linked to the idea of ​​having a heart attack. This even if at the base there is an increased electrophysiological excitability of the heart muscle that has no negative consequences from a medical point of view.


It is a physical symptom that can occur during periods of high anxiety in the absence of a heart disorder.

It can therefore derive from different sources such as chest breathing and gastrointestinal disorders (eg esophageal reflux or esophageal spasms). When the person catastrophically interprets the benign causes of pain, it is possible that the anxiety state increases, leading to panic as well.

But we actually know that when a very high anxiety state arises, the body secretes adrenaline which causes the heart rate to increase and the body works faster. It is an evolutionary way to better prepare the person to handle dangerous situations.

If adrenaline damaged the heart, how could man have survived to this day? Therefore, the acceleration of the heartbeat due to anxiety does not cause heart attacks; there must be something pathological for this to happen.


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