Questions About Cancer? 1-800-4-CANCER
  • Print
  • email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest

Table 3. Common Worry versus Anxiety Disordersa

Symptoms of Common or Normal Worry More Serious Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders 
aAdapted from Nicholas.[17]
Worry comes and goes.Worry seems constant.
Has some difficulty in concentrating.Is unable to concentrate.
Is able to "turn off thoughts" most of the time.Is unable to "turn off thoughts" most of the time.
Has occasional trouble falling asleep.Has trouble falling asleep and/or wakes up early most nights.
Has occasional crying spells that seem to provide some relief.Has frequent crying spells that interfere with daily activities.
Fear and apprehension are clearly connected to some upcoming event (e.g., start of treatment, doctor appointment, or receipt of test results).Fear and apprehension are more "free floating" and seem to be present most of the time.
Has few, if any, physical symptoms (e.g., racing heart, dry mouth, shaky hands, or restlessness).Has many physical symptoms (e.g., racing heart, dry mouth, shaky hands, restlessness, fidgetiness, or feeling keyed up).
Has ways to reduce anxiety (e.g., distraction by staying busy).Has few, if any, ways to reduce anxiety.


  1. Nicholas DR: Emotional Side Effects of Cancer: Distinguishing Normal Distress from Mental Disorders [brochure]. Muncie, Ind: Ball Memorial Hospital and Ball State University, 2008.