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New-Onset Anxiety: A Beginner’s Guide

Real-Life Examples

Kevin, a successful entrepreneur, husband, and dad broke down. “I’m afraid,” he said. “I can’t sleep. I feel like I can’t breathe.” Kevin had recently experienced a scary medical event. This event, now resolved, left him feeling unsettled. Despite returning to health, he found himself overcome by the fear of dying and leaving his family. At 55 years old, Kevin experienced powerful anxiety for the first time in his life.

Amy, a nurse and single mom, googled “severe insomnia”. Her 18-year-old son had just moved away to attend college. Life suddenly felt very different. Amy found herself awake, night after night, thoughts of the future zooming through her mind. At 47 years old, Amy experienced anxiety that caused difficulty sleeping.

Miles, a high school student, felt sick to his stomach and had trouble concentrating at school. His girlfriend had broken up with him.  Miles worried he would never find another girlfriend. At age 17, Miles experienced his first brush with anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

According to the American Psychological Association, “Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Anxiety is common and affects about one in three adolescents and adults. Some of the most common types of anxiety include the following:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Panic disorder

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Social anxiety disorder.

Although anxiety is common, when you experience it, the feeling is often overwhelming. It can be hard to believe you will get through it and feel better again. Keep reading, because the good news is that there are many effective ways to treat anxiety. There are even some options you can start immediately.


Symptoms of anxiety generally fall into two main categories. These are physical (like a stomach ache) and mental/emotional (like fear). The list of possible symptoms caused by anxiety is long and includes the following:

  • Restlessness

  • Feeling ‘on edge’

  • A sense of dread or fear

  • Being easily fatigued

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Muscle tension

  • Sleep disturbances, such as the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Difficulty staying asleep

  • Sleep feels restless or unsatisfying

  • Stomach ache or nausea

  • Heart palpitations (strong, fast, and/or irregular heartbeat)

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Dry mouth

  • Sweating

  • Shortness of breath

  • Headache

Not everyone experiences anxiety the same way. And luckily, most people don’t experience every symptom on this list. As we saw in the real-life examples, each person’s experience of anxiety is unique.

Triggers and Causes

Like for Kevin, Amy, and Miles in the real-life examples, anxiety is often triggered by stress. For instance, a person is more likely to develop anxiety if they have experienced certain negative life events like abuse, neglect, or bullying. Some medical or mental conditions can contribute to the development of anxiety. Major life changes, such as divorce, job loss, or a big move, can trigger anxiety. In the real-life examples, anxiety was triggered by a medical problem, a life change, and a break-up.


Luckily, plenty of simple and effective remedies and treatments exist for managing anxiety. Most of these are easy to begin at home today.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and noticing what’s happening right now. Anxiety involves worrying about events that might (or might not) happen in the future. Mindfulness works as a treatment for anxiety by helping shift our minds away from future thoughts and toward what’s happening right now. Meditation is one way to practice mindfulness. 

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry found that mindfulness-based stress reduction was as effective as medication in the treatment of anxiety. This finding is great news because mindfulness is easily accessible. Many free online resources teach you how to start practicing mindfulness right away.


Exercise is an effective treatment for reducing anxiety. Like mindfulness, it is also accessible to almost anyone. Exercise helps your body regulate the hormones and neurotransmitters involved in mood. It is also a good distraction from worrying. You don’t have to be a gym buff to participate in anxiety-reducing exercise. A simple neighborhood walk is often enough.

Lifestyle Habits

Like exercise, other easy-to-implement lifestyle habits aid in treating anxiety. Examples include limiting alcohol and caffeine, getting adequate sleep, and eating a healthy diet. Most people find these lifestyle habits simple to modify when they experience anxiety.

Social Interaction

Anxiety is also reduced by an effect called social buffering. The mere presence of a familiar friend, family member, or partner can reduce anxiety symptoms. Sometimes, anxiety feels embarrassing. Many people are tempted to hide it. However, letting others know what you are experiencing helps many people start to feel better. Also, remember that about 30 to 40% of the population experiences anxiety, so it’s likely people you know have been through it too.

Professional Support

Some people find they benefit from exploring their anxiety with a counselor or therapist. These professionals help dissect the underlying reasons you experience anxiety. By understanding the causes, you can then address them and eventually feel better. One form of therapy is called CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). It is very effective in the treatment of anxiety.

For some anxiety sufferers, medication is a useful treatment option. Seeing a mental health professional can help determine if this choice is right for you. If you decide to try taking medication, they can also monitor how you are doing and make adjustments as needed. Medication should always be taken under the supervision of a medical professional.


If you are new to experiencing anxiety, or even if you’ve been through it before, the experience can be scary and overwhelming. But don’t despair. There are many simple and effective treatment options. Most of these options are available to start immediately, in your home, today. Hang in there, get started with treatment, and you’ll likely be feeling better very soon. 


American Psychological Association. Anxiety. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from

Anderson E, Shivakumar G. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Front Psychiatry. 2013 Apr 23;4:27. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027. PMID: 23630504; PMCID: PMC3632802.

Gründahl, M., Weiß, M., Stenzel, K., Deckert, J., Hein, G. The effects of everyday-life social interactions on anxiety-related autonomic responses differ between men and women. Sci Rep 13, 9498 (2023).

Hoge EA, Bui E, Mete M, Dutton MA, Baker AW, Simon NM. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs Escitalopram for the Treatment of Adults With Anxiety Disorders: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry.2023;80(1):13–21. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2022.3679

Kaczkurkin AN, Foa EB. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2015 Sep;17(3):337-46. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2015.17.3/akaczkurkin. PMID: 26487814; PMCID: PMC4610618.

National Institute of Mental Health. Any Anxiety Disorder. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from

Newman, KM, Ho, J. (2023, November 15). Free Meditation Apps Worthy of Your Attention. Mindful.

50 views2 comments




Extremely well written with helpful ideas and resources to use when suffering from episodes of anxiety.


Aw, thank you! I've been through this myself, and know how scary it can be. Conversely, every time, I feel better later! It has been a process of figuring out which self care options work best for me.

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