What does anxiety mean?
The easiest way to think about it: Emotion happens in the body. Anxiety is a bodily reaction in response to a perceived threat that causes bodily symptoms such as sweating, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, dry mouth, tight chest, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, trembling, "deer in the headlights" stare or paralysis, weakness, dizziness, blushing, difficulty swallowing (lump in throat), gastrointestinal (stomach or bowel) problems, insomnia, and many other symptoms.
Notice that we said "perceived threat." It doesn't have to be a real threat. If you believe there's a threat, whether there is one or not, your body will react with fear symptoms.
The more dangerous the perceived threat, the more intense your symptoms.
There's a long list of potential symptoms, and you may experience anxiety differently than your friends. For example, some people have an upset stomach and others don't. So anxiety manifests itself differently in different people.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines fear as the emotional (bodily) response to a real or perceived threat, and defines anxiety as the anticipation of a future threat. When most people talk about fear and anxiety, they use the terms interchangeably.
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When does anxiety become a problem?
Anxiety is normal part of life. It becomes a problem (or disorder) when it gets in the way of your goals and happiness. For example, it can stop you from achieving your goals and dreams for your career, relationships and life. It may stop you from graduating, getting a job, taking a promotion, socializing, networking - this can keep you from realizing your full potential.