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Is it normal worry or an anxiety disorder?

by Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD /
elenaleonova / Getty Images
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We all worry from time to time, and that’s a normal part of life. But how can you tell when normal everyday worries turn into a true anxiety disorder? It’s not an easy task, so it’s important to understand the basics of anxiety disorders, and how they differ from the normal ups and downs of life.

The good news is that you don’t have to live with anxiety. Help is out there to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Here are some top warning signs of anxiety.

  • Excessive worrying about everyday things that occupies much of your day
  • Irrational fears, like exaggerated health concerns or safety of loved ones
  • Thinking only about “what if” worst case scenarios of daily situations
  • Being irritable or feeling “on edge”
  • An overwhelming sense of dread
  • Fear and loathing of social situations

Anxiety can cause physical symptoms as well as emotional ones, including feeling light-headed, out of breath, sweating, dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, and difficulty sleeping.

While the causes of anxiety disorders are not fully understood, contributing factors include a family history, a stressful life, or a traumatic event.

Check out this video to learn more about anxiety, and effective treatment options like talk therapy and medications. You CAN feel much better when you take action.

Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, is NBC News Health Editor. She’s the author of "Don’t Eat This If You’re Taking That—The Hidden Risks of Mixing Food and Medicine."

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