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When Your Mind Plays Tricks: Understanding The Cognitive Symptoms of Anxiety

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

It’s important to know that anxiety is a bunch of symptoms and often come and go, shift, and change. It is highly treatable and often can be improved with cognitive behavior therapy and medication. Often anxiety starts with feelings of excessive fear or excessive worry repeatedly about life events. Many people feel uncomfortable in this state and find it difficult to feel better using their own methods to alleviate the suffering. Most of the discomfort is out of proportion to the situation and it can feel debilitating (worry about missing appointments or someone will respond to an uncomfortable situation). You might find it hard to stop the worrying once you start. Often someone can feel restless, keyed up and activated, irritable, trouble with sleep, easily fatigued, trouble with focus and attention, and feeling muscle tension. 

Dr. Whitney Mcfadden, MD

May 15,  2023

"Often there is a fear of a heart attack because it can feel like one."

What are the symptoms of panic?

Panic disorder is when people have many unexpected panic attacks often without a trigger and can start with shortness of breath, sweating, sweaty palms, feeling of impending doom, tingling, rapid heart rate, chest pain, stomach pain, sudden wave of fear and loss of control. Often there is a fear of a heart attack because it can feel like one. They can also lead to worry about the next panic attack and a cycle of fear that can come when the heart starts to race and the body starts to sweat and feel anxiety. This cycle can cause more suffering than just the panic attacks themselves. Panic attacks are also treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and medications.  

If you’d like to complete a self assessment of generalized anxiety disorder please check out


Newman, M. G., Zuellig, A. R., Kachin, K. E., Constantino, M. J., Przeworski, A., Erickson, T., & Cashman-McGrath, L. (2002). Preliminary reliability and validity of the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire-IV: A revised self-report diagnostic measure of generalized anxiety disorder. Behavior Therapy, 33, 215-233. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(02)80026-0

Panic Disorder: When fear overwhelms. National Institute of Mental Health.