Overwhelming Anxiety- Signs, Symptoms and Help


Generalized anxiety causes people to have intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. These feelings of anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities and are difficult to control. Most of the time they are out of proportion to the actual danger. However, in the current environment many of us are experiencing these types of symptoms.

Fear and anxiety about a disease like COVID-19 can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in both adults and children. Isolation, boredom, and lack of social interaction increases worry and causes people to engage in what we term catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing causes an increasingly irrational thought process where people imagine the worst that can happen and cannot stop the negative flow of thoughts that repeat over and over again. This leads to a cognitive distortion that prompts people to see an unfavorable outcome to an event and then jump to the worst possible conclusion about the future – leading to increased anxiety and worry.

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
  • Having trouble sleeping • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Anxiety is a useful emotion, however when it becomes out of control it can take a toll on us both mentally and physically. Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age. If left untreated, the anxiety symptoms will keep getting worse.

Because anxiety is so prevalent in our society it has been heavily researched and is easily treated. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most widely-used therapy for anxiety disorders. Research has shown it to be quite effective with all types of anxiety issues. CBT addresses negative patterns and distortions in the way we look at the world and ourselves.

As the name suggests, this involves two main components:

1) Cognitive Therapy examines how negative thoughts, or cognitions contribute to anxiety.

2) Behavioral therapy examines how you behave and react in situations that trigger anxiety.

The basic premise of CBT is that our thoughts—not external events—affect the way we feel. In other words, it’s not the situation you’re in that determines how you feel, but your perception of the situation.

Although some people may need anti-anxiety medication – beginning with therapy is often the best option. Therapy can help you uncover the underlying causes of your worries and fears; learn how to relax; look at situations in new, less frightening ways; and develop better coping and problem-solving skills. Therapy gives you the tools to overcome anxiety and teaches you how to use them.

Anxiety can be brought on by chemical imbalances in your brain – but it can also be due to a highly stressful external situation. Given the current events happening now with COVID-19, even if you have never had anxiety, you may be feeling it now.  Please don’t hesitate to talk with someone and seek help.  Most insurances will cover your getting help.  In addition, many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) which often offer free counseling services.

We are here for you.  Please call for an appointment at (801) 872-5516  or email clientservices@ascendantclinics.com.

Share this article!

Susan Mitchell

Susan Mitchell is a licensed clinical social worker and is clinical director at Ascendant Behavioral Health, located in Lehi. She can be reached at smitchell@ascendantclinics.com or 801-502-3913.