A woman with a stressed expression and anxiety doodles at the background. A woman with a stressed expression and anxiety doodles at the background.

Is Anxiety an Emotion? Everything You Need to Know

What exactly do we mean by anxiety? Is anxiety an emotion or a mental disorder? Are people getting anxiety attacks mentally ill?

There are a lot of myths about anxiety. Anxiety is an emotional stress response1. Many people confuse anxiety and mental disorders.  Anxiety has been defined as the situation caused when a person is nervous, tense, or afraid about something. Anxiety is accompanied by physical symptoms such as panting, sweating, and increased blood pressure.

1. A Little about Anxiety

Anxiety can be caused due to sudden tension or constant worry about something. It can be caused when one feels a little nervous about any situation, incident, or other. It is a natural emotion expressed by a person when he/she is tense.

Fear and anxiety also have a co-relation sometimes. For example, suppose you have a viva an upcoming interview, or an important event. In that case, it is quite obvious that you will develop anxiety symptoms until the task is completed. Work stress can also trigger anxiety in working professionals when meeting deadlines. When people find it hard to keep up with their daily tasks, they start becoming tense, and as a result, some develop anxiety.

If this anxiety issue increases and becomes intense it changes into an anxiety disorder2.

In this article, we will discuss whether anxiety is an emotion.

2. Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Most anxiety disorders accompany physical signs such as sweating, panting, inability to concentrate or focus on the present, and feeling restless.

Other symptoms might include sudden panic attacks, increased blood pressure, disturbed sleeping schedule, and difficulty concentrating.

Lack of concentration is another symptom. Sometimes people also show defensive behavior 3as a response to the anxiety disorder. Others might show offensive behavior.

3. Types of Anxiety Disorders

Sudden anxiety disorders are responses to sudden changes happening in a person. For example, sudden bad or good news can lead to a generation of such emotional responses, creating anxious feelings in people.

A past account of anxiety in the family is likely to reflect on the past. Some people have to deal with an anxiety disorder because of family history. These anxious feelings might not always be dominant but do gain more anxiety. Sometimes, people get anxiety attacks when nostalgic emotional memories hit them.

This disorder can be seen in those people who are deeply attached to the past, and instantaneous emotional arousal causes an unbalanced emotion regulation causing anxiety symptoms and making people wonder if anxiety is an emotion.

A black and white image of a woman crying.
by Juan Pablo// Pexels// copyright 2022

4. Causes of Anxiety Disorders 

Before we further discuss the question of whether anxiety is an emotion, we should first be aware of the reasons that trigger anxiety disorders.

4.1. A Specific Phobia

This is another cause of anxiety disorder4. When a person is phobic about something, going near that particular place or thing also makes him/her anxious. For example, if a person is hydrophobic, it is natural that he will have anxious thoughts whenever he goes close to the water. Similar findings are reported in the case of an acrophobic person on encounter with heights, a pyrophobic person with fire, or a cynophobic person with dogs.

4.2. Social Phobia

Also known as social anxiety disorder, this disorder is usually seen in introverts. They can develop this type of anxiety if people start making fun or if they’re being introverted and are taken negatively. The prime reason people develop this type of disorder is they might be afraid of being made fun of in public for any one small wrong step they take due to a tragic childhood or public shaming at any point in life.

4.3. Stress

Stress is one of the primary reasons why people feel anxious. Nowadays, people’s stress is too high due to their strenuous lifestyle. Lack of stress management in our daily schedule generates worried thoughts triggering anxiety disorders among people, especially in today’s youth.

4.4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The National Institute of Mental Health has categorized this also as an anxiety disorder that may be developed due to some physical harm. This type of disorder is developed when a person cannot overcome the trauma caused due to any physical damage resulting from accidents, injuries, or violent blows.

4.5. Pathological Anxiety

Also known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD), this anxiety disorder is characterized by recurring intrusive thoughts of obsession about cleanliness. People suffering from this disorder show symptoms such as washing hands frequently, bathing, and obsessively cleaning surroundings at very small times or intervals.

This disorder is problematic not only to the suffering person but also to the surrounding ones. Many people, including celebrities, have talked about this, thus easing the taboo around mental health.

4.6. Physical Changes

One of the reasons for stress is physical changes. Sudden drastic shifts in appearance, such as extreme weight gain or loss, facial pigmentation 5due to underlying causes such as puberty, pregnancy, injury, disease, or medications.

Most of the time, a person’s overall well-being is affected by his outlook, and a drastic shift can change others’ opinions surrounding the constant individual denial, rejection, and public shaming may lead to a person’s lowered self-esteem, further leading to stress and anxious feelings.

5. How to Treat Anxiety?

Anxiety is not always associated with mental health disorders; it can be just a medical disorder.  There are many reasons why people have anxiety, but what is important is how we overcome anxiety. Before we start shaming people with anxiety problems.

A person needs to determine whether anxiety is an emotion or something serious before forming any misconceptions. A victim should feel free to discuss, and his friends, family, and relatives should lend an ear, as listening to a living person is much better than burning candles for a dead one and carrying guilt for a lifetime. Awareness of mental health should be a priority as many people tend to ignore mental health; however, mental health is equal to physical health, if not more, as a sound mind and body are interdependent.

Following are a few ways to treat anxiety :

5.1. Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle

Before considering medical treatment options, one should switch to a healthy lifestyle to manage anxiety. Today people are so indulged in their busy schedules that they have forgotten to take care of their health. Working round the clock and meeting deadlines is too stressful and one of the prime reasons for anxiety disorders6.

Adding a few things in your everyday life, such as meditating for some time, doing exercises or yoga in the morning, or going out for a walk a few minutes in the morning coupled with light calisthenics that can relax your mind, bringing out inner positivity.

Some other remedies are good literature, light music, and engaging in hobby activities like cooking, dancing, and sewing. Apart from this, a person should quit bad habits such as smoking, drinking, consuming alcohol, tobacco, and increased caffeine intake. This will also help to positively manage stress by altering biological psychiatry. Light and homemade food is also an effective tool.

5.2. Regular Sleep

Relaxing is the key. Sleep is the best tool to relax your mind and ease nervousness and increased anxiety. Medical education has already stated the uncountable benefits of taking proper sleep7. Sleeping for at least 8 hours a day is very important as it suppresses the hormones that trigger anxiety, making you feel better.

The psychological review also states that sleeping also increases our concentration and focus. Apart from this, it also repairs the dead cells instilling a healthy metabolism as well as neural correlates, and helps us maintain an overall balance in life.

A woman sleeping on a pillow.
by Andrea Piacquadio// pexels// copyright 2022

The psychological review also states that sleeping also increases our concentration and focus. Apart from this, it also repairs the dead cells instilling a healthy metabolism as well as neural correlates, and helps us maintain an overall balance in life.

5.3. Conveying Your Feelings to Loved Ones

Have a healthy discussion with someone on whether is anxiety an emotion or just a response to certain situations. If yes, sharing our emotions with our near ones will help overcome them. It is a well-accepted fact that when we talk about our troubles and worries with someone our brain relaxes, and we feel a little less stressed. Being around someone we love is also beneficial as talking to them helps in releasing ‘oxytocin’; the ‘feel-good’ hormone that is known to keep the levels of stressful hormones under control.

When we keep things to ourselves, it builds pressure against our hearts and minds like a cloud. However, as a cloud has a limit to carrying vapors and bursts off at a certain point in the form of rain, our mind needs to empty itself of all the anxious feelings; otherwise, it may develop into serious disorders which may be detrimental to physical, mental, social and emotional well being.

5.4. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT focuses on the emotional processing that leads to the anxiety disorder in the person. It studies the overall series of a person’s thoughts and the connection that has led to the subsequent reactions in the person’s behavior. Then they focus on how the person’s thought process can be changed by releasing his stress. The American Psychiatric Association has also confirmed that this therapy can treat many anxiety disorders. It is even beneficial to treat some other post-traumatic stress disorders also.

Instead of consuming medicines, one should first undergo cognitive therapy as it deals with the core fear and anxiety and works on fixing the root cause rather than working on minimizing the effects.

5.5. Medical Help

When the situation becomes intense, the person starts having frequent panic attacks. If he/ she cannot cope with the situation, then he/she should seek medical help as soon as possible. Although medical help should be the last option one should consider, when things go out of control, one shouldn’t hesitate to take medical help. Drug therapy, such as tranquilizers or antidepressants, is the most sought-after alternative in medicine for anxious thoughts8.

5.6. Animal Therapy

A lot can be said to ones who can’t speak but comprehend, just like our furry friends. Psychosomatic research has proven that people with pets are less prone to negative emotions like depression, stress, and anxiety than people who don’t own pets. Having a pet in life is someone who, after being left in the morning, will greet you with wagging tails and sticking out tongues in the evening.

If a person can’t afford to keep a pet or care for him, they should watch birds or play with the strays and feed them, as the joy of helping someone will certainly ease one’s suffering.

An old couple playing with dogs.
by Greta Hoffman// pexels// copyright 2022

6. Is Anxiety an Emotion?

Emotions are a very important role in our daily lives. They help us in expressing how we feel in a particular situation. Feeling happy or sad, feeling stressed or nervous or delighted are all our emotional processes daily.

6.1. An Emotional Stimulus

For every incident happening to us, our brain gives an emotional stimulus. Not every person needs to respond to similar situations similarly. For example, when two people achieve something they have been dreaming of for a long time, they don’t need to respond similarly. One might laugh to express his feelings, while the other might cry because of the same. This is because every person has a different mindset, and so is their reaction to the situations.

6.2. Anxiety Is a Negative Stimuli

Anxiety is also an emotion like all other emotions, such as laughing and crying. As per the emotion theory, anxiety can be referred to as the negative stimuli to stressful scenarios. It isn’t a mental disorder; being anxious is just another type of emotion characterized by people of all ages.

6.3. Anxiety Is Normal and Not a Mental Disorder

The reason why people feel anxious is different for everyone. It can be due to work pressure or any important upcoming event. Everyone has felt anxious many times in their life. It is just a common phase in every person’s life which is nothing to be made fun of.  Some people get nervous too easily, whereas some people are strong-hearted. It is obvious that people who get nervous easily develop anxiety too early.

Anxiety isn’t permanent. It is developed in response to a situation that is not in our control. When the situation gets better, the person also feels better. So relating it to mental disorder is a pure example of illiteracy. Rather what is needed that you should talk to that person, make him/her feel better, talk about his/her insecurities, and help him /her to relax a little?

7. Bottom Line

Being anxious is common; anyone can feel anxious at any point in life due to any unfamiliar reason or situation. Whenever things go beyond our control, we get helpless, lose control, and sometimes become anxious.

It has been proved that anxiety is an emotion only. Therefore, one should ensure that not only physical help is important, but also enough importance shall be given to mental health.

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  3. Fanselow, Michael S. “Neural organization of the defensive behavior system responsible for fear.” Psychonomic bulletin & review 1.4 (1994): 429-438. ↩︎
  4. McNaughton, Neil. “Cognitive dysfunction resulting from hippocampal hyperactivity—a possible cause of anxiety disorder?.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior 56.4 (1997): 603-611. ↩︎
  5. Perez-Bernal, Ana, Miguel A. Munoz-Perez, and Francisco Camacho. “Management of facial hyperpigmentation.” American journal of clinical dermatology 1 (2000): 261-268. ↩︎
  6. Ansseau, Marc, et al. “High prevalence of mental disorders in primary care.” Journal of affective disorders 78.1 (2004): 49-55. ↩︎
  7. Vyazovskiy, Vladyslav V. “Sleep, recovery, and metaregulation: explaining the benefits of sleep.” Nature and science of sleep (2015): 171-184. ↩︎
  8. Compton, Scott N., et al. “Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for anxiety and depressive disorders in children and adolescents: an evidence-based medicine review.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 43.8 (2004): 930-959. ↩︎
  1. I am very interested in topics related to mental health. Your article has enlightened me that I should not take my anxiety quite seriously. Thank you for reassuring me that everyone has this thing once in a while.

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