By Lee Katz

Those who are constantly feeling nervous may be wondering if they are suffering from anxiety. What is anxiety, and what are some of the anxiety symptoms that may surface when someone is feeling nervous? Anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, and they can range from really severe to surprisingly mild. Anxiety is a common mental health problem and affects nearly 20% of the population. More women than men are affected, and anxiety symptoms come in several different forms, which make diagnosing them problematic.

People who are experiencing anxiety symptoms may have a variety of different feelings. They may have trouble getting to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, a racing heart, hot flashes, nausea, faintness, cold flashes, weight loss, weight gain and more. Looking at this list, it may seem that no matter what someone does or feels, they are bound to be experiencing one anxiety symptom or another.

Anxiety is the body’s response to a situation where there may be danger. Despite what is commonly thought, these anxiety symptoms can actually be helpful, because they get a person’s heart racing and give them an extra burst of energy.

When we feel that we are in danger, our body’s nervous system kicks into overdrive and tries to protect us. The sympathetic nervous system puts us into ‘red alert’ mode and we experience typical anxiety symptoms. In fact, the only job of the sympathetic nervous system is to alert us in danger and get our body ready. Going into the ‘red alert’ mode is often called the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Our brains also have a role to play in causing anxiety symptoms. When danger messages are sent to the hypothalamus, it tells the body to secrete adrenaline. We have all heard of adrenaline helping people to accomplish amazing things, like lifting a car that someone is trapped under. Most people, however, have not heard that adrenaline is also a cause of anxiety and nervousness. Adrenaline is why we often keep feeling anxiety symptoms long after the danger is gone.

The nervous system detects danger at different levels. With a small level of danger, you might not even realize that your nervous system and brain are working together, but the more danger that is detected, the more likely it is that you will experience anxiety symptoms.

How do you get your body to relax? That is the job of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system has the job of regulating the sympathetic nervous system. You don’t want your nervous system to send your brain alarm bells every time someone around you sneezes. The parasympathetic nervous system will help to prevent anxiety symptoms from coming about.

The cause of anxiety may be difficult to understand, because it involves both a person’s brain and their nervous system. Even today, scientists and doctors are still trying to understand how they can help to relieve anxiety symptoms.