When does normal worry become anxiety?

Everyone gets nervous or anxious sometimes when they are faced with an important decision or event such as changing jobs, taking a test or giving a speech. This is a normal human emotion. For some people, everyday demands and pressures create excessive worry that leads to feelings of high anxiety.

Anxiety becomes a concern when it interferes with a person’s daily functioning and relationships.

“There are many situations in life that cause us to worry,” Dawn Finney, Behavioral Health Therapist for Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District, said. “But when worry starts to become consistent and overwhelming, it may lead to anxiety disorders, which can have serious consequences to a person’s well-being.”

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses. People with anxiety disorders persistently have difficulty focusing and concentrating and continually worry about what might happen.

Common types of anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Here are some signs and symptoms of each:


Persistent and exaggerated worry about everyday life with no obvious cause. People with GAD are constantly preparing for possible disaster and have difficulty accepting the unknown. The worry is often unrealistic and interferes with daily functioning. Symptoms include difficulty concentrating, headaches, muscle tension and lethargy.

Panic Disorder

Characterized by sudden attacks of fear that strike without reason or often without warning.  Symptoms include difficulty breathing, stomach ache, pounding heart or chest tightness, feeling of choking, and chills or hot flashes.  A key symptom is the persistent fear of having a future panic attack.


Characterized by obsessive thoughts or feelings that can lead to repetitive behaviors. People with OCD have recurring thoughts or fears they cannot control. They only feel relief when they do or complete certain actions or behaviors in response to the obsessive thought. Common obsessions include fear of germs, fear of making a mistake, excessive doubt and a strong need for order.

Anxiety disorders are treatable and most people can be helped with professional care. Effective treatment of anxiety disorders includes mental or behavioral health counseling, relaxation techniques, medication, or a combination of all three. Treatment choices depend on the person and the intensity of the symptoms.

Before treatment begins, a doctor should conduct an evaluation in order to determine if the symptoms are caused by anxiety disorders or a physical problem.

“It’s important to realize that you don’t have to live with anxiety disorders,” Finney said. “Your healthcare provider can help you figure out the most effective treatment to help you change the pattern of fear and enhance your quality of life.”

To learn more about Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District medical providers, go to Medical Providers.