What is Situational Anxiety? 10 Ways to Cope

this is a drawing of a person having situational anxiety

What is Situational Anxiety?

How To Deal With Situational Anxiety

Situational anxiety occurs when a specific situation occurs that creates a unique form of anxiety for you. These situations are unique to each person, but usually, everyday actions that someone else would find normal. The anxiety can show up in many different ways ranging from sweaty palms to diarrhea.

Here is What is Situational Anxiety? 10 Ways to Cope.

In this blog I am going to go over some of the situations in your day that could induce your anxiety, if you ever have though “Anxiety Is Ruining My Life.” Sometimes the smallest things such as having to wait in line at your local coffee shop can be stressful.

Below you will find these questions and tips on situational anxiety.

You know it when you feel it – the pounding heart, sweaty palms, or incessant worry. Your anxiety disorder can trigger a variety of symptoms, some that can look quite different from the next person. An anxiety disorder can also stem from several causes because not all anxiety is the same.

Your situation is unique, which is one reason why situational anxiety is one major type of anxiety among a handful of others. And because your situation is unique, this blog is by no means meant to serve as a guide for self-diagnosis, but rather give you useful information you can connect and relate to – reminding you that despite your unique symptoms, causes, and triggers, you are never alone.

What is situational anxiety?

Situational anxiety is a type of anxiety that occurs in response to a specific situation. Situational anxiety is highly common and, in many cases, it is normal, as it can occur in response to things like public speaking, going to the gym or a job interview.

Read: Can Exercise Make Anxiety Worse?

While situational anxiety is not recognized as a distinct anxiety disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), if an individual’s symptoms interfere enough with their daily life, they may meet the criteria for phobia.

What are six major types of anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by exaggerated worry, even if there is little or nothing occurring to trigger your feelings. With GAD, you may worry about various things throughout the day as your mind bounces around from one thing to the next. Generalized anxiety disorder can contribute to difficulty sleeping and concentrating and restlessness.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by repeated and unexpected episodes of intense fear, which can trigger panic attacks. A panic attack may cause sweating, chest pain, heart palpitations, or feeling like you’re choking. Apart from a panic attack and its set of symptoms, panic disorder may cause dizziness, shortness of breath, or abdominal distress.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop after being exposed to a terrifying event or repeated trauma. One common symptom that people with PTSD experience is reliving their traumatic episode, experiencing an inability to separate their trauma from reality.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by recurrent thoughts and behaviors an individual feels they must follow through with to avoid harm or consequences. People with OCD will complete things like daily rituals and have other unwanted thoughts that will interfere with their daily life and cause excessive stress.


Phobia is characterized by an intense fear of a specific situation or object that can lead to avoidance behaviors. An individual with a phobia fears something irrational that will most likely not impact their life, although their phobias will, as this is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders. For example, one may be afraid of heights, small spaces, insects, or social situations.

Social Phobia

Social phobia is characterized by excessive self-consciousness in social settings. This overwhelming social anxiety experienced in everyday social situations may contribute to a fear of certain situations such as speaking or eating in front of others. For others, it can be more severe, and they might experience it almost anytime they are around others.

What are the symptoms of situational anxiety?

Situational anxiety symptoms are similar to those of general anxiety disorder but can be caused by different situations, settings, or experiences. The important distinction to remember is that generalized anxiety disorder involves a constant state of general worry rather than worry or fear over a specific situation.

Some common symptoms:

  • Diarrhea (Can Anxiety Cause Diarrhea & Nausea?)
  • Dizziness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Trembling
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Trouble sleeping

If you relate to any of these, you should look over our article on Anxiety Relief.

What causes anxiety disorders?

There is no clear-cut cause for anxiety disorders, but a variety of factors can contribute to their development. There are environmental and hereditary factors, along with chemical imbalances, caused by stress, that can control your mood. These same three potential causes hold true for situational anxiety.

What are the possible triggers of situational anxiety?

When it comes to situational anxiety, there are countless factors that can contribute to it, but the majority of situational anxiety symptoms tend to be triggered by new or changing situations. Anxious feelings arise when we do not know how to respond to something or what to expect. On the other hand, feelings of anxiety can occur in situations where people have had a similar uncomfortable or negative experience in the past such as being in a car accident and then having sudden anxiety and fear of driving.

Read: Driving Anxiety Is Ruining My Life: How To Stop It.

How To Cope With Situational Anxiety

Challenge your thoughts

Anxiety is what happens in our minds that causes things to seem worse than they typically are. Pause and take some time to consider the worst outcome, the best outcome, and the likely outcome. Merely brainstorming these outcomes in a diary can help you become more aware of the irrationality behind some of your thoughts.

Just breathe

Breathing techniques are incredibly helpful for promoting a sense of calm. For one, concentrating on the breath helps pull and channel your focus toward something other than your thoughts. Additionally, breathing techniques that involve taking deep diaphragmatic breaths impact your central nervous system and take you out of anxious states.

Get prepared

A lot of generalized anxiety can stem from feeling unprepared, which means a little more planning or even rehearsing can go a long way. If there is a particular upcoming event that has you feeling anxious, try practicing your role beforehand in front of others you feel more comfortable with. It is likely the anxiety you are feeling is regarding when and where you may mess up, even if you might not end up messing up at all. In either case, it’s better just to find out through a trial run.

Bring a friend

There’s a reason why we all bring friends along to events or new things, and it’s not only for the added fun and company. Having a friend with you for something you feel anxious about can help you feel supported and, therefore, more at ease. If you need help explaining your anxiety to a friend, this will help.

Have an escape plan

This is not to say that you can simply escape your anxiety, but rather to say that it is okay to have a place to turn to when you feel overwhelmed by your anxiety in a stressful situation. So really, your escape plan is like a backup plan for when the going gets tough. This plan may even incorporate the coping tip above, meaning it could look like having a friend or family member on standby to show up or talk you through something you orginally ventured into alone.

Take baby steps

Take a note from exposure therapy and confront the thing that makes you anxious rather than avoid it. Through this technique, you can begin to overcome your fears and anxieties in a controlled environment. Say, for instance, you are feeling really anxious about an upcoming exam. You might start by creating or answering a set of questions on a study guide. After an hour or so of searching through a few pages of text, finding answers, and writing them down, you might end up realizing it is not as scary as you’ve been making it out to be.

Educate yourself

Learn as much as you can about the anxiety disorder you have, whether it is situational anxiety, OCD, or something else. The more you know, the more you can develop even more effective coping techniques and better understand where your thoughts, symptoms, or behaviors are coming from. This can also help you better explain your anxiety disorder to people you love and trust and can depend on for support. If those closest to you do not understand you, then read this article How To Explain Anxiety To Someone Who Doesn’t Have It.

Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake

Caffeine can exacerbate your feelings of anxiety by increasing your levels of alertness. Meanwhile, alcohol can worsen your anxiety by triggering other underlying symptoms. Both can also greatly impact sleep, and a lack of sleep or good quality sleep impacts your mental health. This can cause you to want to up your intake of either one or both, leading to a vicious cycle.

Seek professional help

Your anxiety can negatively impact many elements of your life. It can be a burden every single day, and every single day that burden can become worse. If you are struggling to cope on your own, there is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of about seeking help from a source or therapist who understands and does not judge. Let me show you How To Email A Therapist For The First Time and then get comfortable with What To Talk About In Therapy.

Shift your perspective

You may be used to sitting with the uncomfortable feelings and thoughts of anxiety, hoping that soon they will pass. But how often do you stop to consider what is helpful about your anxiety or stress?

Notice when and how the added energy and adrenaline help you handle situations. Ask yourself, is there is a silver lining?

It is important that you keep working on these ways to cope, but have you ever considered that your anxiety has made you more relatable?

Have you been able to help someone else?

Have you become a better, more empathetic friend?

If You Have Situational Anxiety

Situational anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of others feel the same anxiety that you do.

One of the best ways to overcome this is to accept that it happens to you and you will overcome it in time.

To start this process, I’d love to hear what form your situational anxiety shows up as.

Leave a comment below to show others that they are not alone ❤️

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