The Three Core Features of An Anxiety Disorder You Should Know About

Woman in busy crowded university corridor, sad and thinking. Stress, anxiety and depression

Anxiety is a natural response many experience when under stress or when dealing with perceived or actual threats.

When anxious you may experience tension, apprehension, dread or worry. 

While it’s normal to experience anxiety occasionally, it becomes a cause for concern when it is excessive, doesn’t seem to improve with time, and interferes with your daily functioning.

This article explores the three core features of an anxiety disorder, including signs and symptoms and treatment options that can help.

In the meantime, if you (or someone you know) are experiencing anxiety and would like to speak to a mental health professional about your concerns, help and support are available.

Anxiety is a highly treatable condition, with many people experiencing favourable outcomes during and after treatment.

You are not alone.

Our friendly team is always around to lend a listening ear. 

Contact our recovery centre in Ontario today to learn more about our anxiety disorder treatment program.

What are the different anxiety disorder types?

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses marked by constant worry and fear.

They include a range of conditions, each with its own set of symptoms, diagnostic criteria and specific features.

The main types of anxiety disorder include:

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

It is common for those with GAD to experience persistent and excessive worry about many aspects of life, even when there is no evidence of a threat or cause for concern. 

Generalised anxiety disorder is the feeling of being anxious about pretty much everything for no apparent reason.

For instance, GAD sufferers may worry about a multitude of different things including their health, work, school, or relationships.

The anxious feelings associated with GAD are often persistent and can impair a person’s daily functioning, which usually requires them to seek treatment from a mental health professional.

Social anxiety disorder

Sometimes called social phobia, social anxiety disorder is marked by an intense fear of social situations, including the fear of being humiliated, shamed, or judged in public.

Those with social anxiety disorder may avoid social interactions with family, friends, and work colleagues to avoid distress and humiliation.

Separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder typically affects children and involves extreme distress when a child is separated from home or a vital attachment figure such as a parent or caregiver.

However, although the condition typically affects young children and teenagers, adults can also experience separation anxiety disorder.

Separation anxiety disorder can cause significant distress and problems functioning at school or work and can be triggered by life events that result in separation from a loved one.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder involves sudden, recurrent panic attacks, marked by extreme or intense fear. 

The physical symptoms of panic disorder can include sweating, trembling, shortness of breath and a racing heart. 

Individuals with panic disorder may develop a fear of having another panic attack in the future. You must seek treatment if you feel your symptoms are getting out of control or are becoming difficult for you to manage.

Other anxiety disorder types

selective focus of doctor in glasses writing diagnosis near sad bearded man

Other types of anxiety disorder include:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Health anxiety
  • Agoraphobia
  • Specific phobias such as an extreme or irrational fear of a particular object, activity, or situation, such as a fear of spiders, heights, enclosed spaces, or flying

The three core features of an anxiety disorder you should know about

Although each anxiety disorder has its unique symptoms and behaviours, researchers have identified three core features that all anxiety disorders tend to have in common regardless of type.

Let’s explore them in more detail.

1. Somatic symptoms

No matter the type, someone with an anxiety disorder will often experience physical symptoms as part of their condition.

These symptoms may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Physical aches and pains in the body
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Researchers have noted that bodily symptoms are prevalent in anxiety sufferers and occur due to the body’s heightened “fight or flight” response, even when there is no evidence of danger or threat.

Psychologist and researcher Deborah R. Glasofer explains how anxiety can bring about psychological and physical symptoms—both of which can be overwhelming. 

“Anticipating future threats, the body gears up for a fight-or-flight moment. The brain activates the heart, lungs, and muscles so you’ll be ready to engage or flee. With that, the heart beats faster, you begin to sweat, and your muscles tense, among other involuntary responses.”(Getting to Know The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety, verywell mind, Deborah R. Glasofer, PhD, December 4, 2023.)

Glasofer explains that because of the extreme physical reactions often experienced by anxiety sufferers, treatment providers must consider these responses when diagnosing (and treating) anxiety disorders.

2. Excessive fear and worry

Pensive and worried caucasian mature man with hands on face sitting on a bench

Excessive worry and fear tend to go hand-in-hand with anxiety disorders and are a core feature of these conditions.

Fear and worry are a common thread for many anxiety sufferers and often involve persistent and excessive concerns about various aspects of life, including health, work, finances, relationships, or daily tasks and activities. 

These pervasive concerns are usually disproportionate to the situation at hand and can be challenging for an individual to control or get a handle on.

To get the help and support you need, you must speak to a mental health professional who can help you manage your worries and concerns in a healthier, more balanced way. 

Worry and fear do not have to be a way of life. There are plenty of ways you can learn to control your anxiety through specific treatment programs such as behavioural therapy.

Contact us today for further information and support on managing anxious thoughts and behaviours.

3. Avoidance behaviours

Another core feature of an anxiety disorder is avoidance behaviours where individuals engage in this pattern of behaviour to help them cope with unpleasant feelings, emotions, and anxious symptoms.

Avoidance behaviours include steering clear of particular situations, people, objects, places or activities that may trigger your anxiety. 

Avoidance coping—avoidant coping, avoidance behaviours, and escape coping—is a maladaptive form of dealing in which a person changes their behaviour to avoid thinking about, feeling, or doing difficult things. (Avoidance Coping and Why It Creates Additional Stress, verywell mind, Elizabeth Scott, PhD, November 13, 2023.)

This all makes sense when considering how profoundly unpleasant anxiety symptoms can be.

However, avoiding specific situations in the long term can be detrimental to your health and well-being. 

For instance, avoidance behaviours can impact your daily functioning and may fuel the cycle of fear and avoidance, hindering various aspects of your life, personally and professionally.

Avoidance behaviours can magnify stress, creating more anxiety in the long run.  

Therefore, you must seek professional help and support if you find yourself engaging in a pattern of avoidance behaviours.

What are the overall symptoms of anxiety disorder?

Although each anxiety disorder type will have its own set of symptoms and features, there are various emotional and physical symptoms associated with these disorders.

Symptoms of anxiety disorder include:

Emotional symptoms

The emotional symptoms of anxiety disorder can include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling on edge or as if something terrible might happen
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoiding people, situations or things that may trigger your anxiety
  • Difficulty controlling your worries or fears

Physical symptoms 

Upset woman placing hand on head and closing eyes while suffering from pain

It is common for individuals with anxiety disorder to experience physical symptoms as well as emotional.

The physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder may include:

  • Muscle tension – you may experience aches or pains in your back, neck, jaw muscles and other body regions due to tension or stress. It is also common for those with anxiety to grind their teeth, feel restless, or fidget when feeling on edge.
  • Digestive problems – many anxiety sufferers experience digestive issues, including constipation, nausea, diarrhoea, and various other stomach complaints. 
  • Fatigue – chronic worry and anxiety can be exhausting, and it is common for people with anxiety to experience fatigue. In addition, anxiety can cause sleep problems, making it challenging for people to fall or stay asleep.  
  • Shortness of breath – is a prevalent anxiety symptom that many people experience and can be terrifying. It can also signify that a person may be having a panic attack and may include other symptoms such as sweating, increased heart rate and high blood pressure.

Anxiety disorder treatment options

There are several effective treatment options available for anxiety disorders.

The type of treatment your physician or therapist recommends will depend on various factors, including the type of anxiety disorder you have, symptom severity, and other variables, such as your background and medical history. 

However, typically, the following treatments are usually recommended for those with anxiety disorders:

Anxiety disorder treatment at Centres for Health and Healing

At Centres for Health and Healing, we provide holistic treatment programs for anxiety disorders shaped around your personal preferences, goals and therapeutic needs.

Our team takes great pride in treating the whole person, not just the symptoms of anxiety disorder, combining traditional treatment methods, ancient wisdom, and the latest research to ensure deep, transformational healing.

Recovery is a lifelong journey. 

Therefore, we are committed to providing a comprehensive aftercare plan to empower and encourage you to maintain lasting well-being and recovery after leaving our treatment centre.

We aim to guide and support you and your loved ones through your recovery transformation and provide the necessary tools for you to lead a positive and fulfilling life.

Please get in touch with us at our recovery centre in Ontario to learn more about our anxiety disorder treatment program and take the first step towards healing and improving your quality of life.

 We are here and ready to help!

Additional resources

  1. Avoidance Coping and Why It Creates Additional Stress, verywell mind, Elizabeth Scott, PhD, November 13, 2023
  2. Getting to Know The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety, verywell mind, Deborah R. Glasofer, PhD, December 4, 2023
  3. Six Signs it’s Time to Seek Anxiety Disorder Inpatient Treatment, Centres for Health and Healing, Lisa Davies, September 22, 2023
  4. Anxiety disorders, Mayo Clinic
Call now
Ready to get help?
Call for treatment options
Need financing?
Payment plans available