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Gaining Control Over Anxiety

Anxiety is a common feeling that everyone feels at some points.
Anxiety is a common feeling that everyone feels at some points. It can create physical symptoms like sweating, rapid heart beat and stomachaches.

Anyone can experience anxiety – an emotional response that evokes feelings of worry, nervousness, and unease. Anxiety may include physical symptoms like a racing heart, stomach pain, or sweaty palms as well.

While anxiety is common – approximately one-third of adults will experience some form of anxiety, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – veterans tend to experience more severe anxiety than the general population due, in part, to their military service.

“Thinking about the men and women we serve at Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), what they have been through, including combat exposure and related trauma they may have experienced, it is not surprising that veterans have heightened levels of anxiety as well as other mental health challenges,” said Sonal Patel, Ph.D., director of the WWP Talk program.

Anxiety is reported as one of the five most common health issues warriors face, according to the WWP Warrior Survey.*  

Of WWPTM warriors surveyed, 3 of every 10 said they experience mild anxiety, while almost half reported having moderate to severe anxiety symptoms daily. Women warriors had slightly higher rates of anxiety symptoms when compared to their male counterparts.

What is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is marked by excessive worries, often about the future or the unknown, and can last for weeks, months, or longer, said Dr. Patel.

“At some point, everyone feels anxiety, even if it is trying to figure out what to make for dinner or worrying whether they can get their child to dance practice on time,” Dr. Patel said.

Common anxiety symptoms reported in WWP’s Warrior Survey include:

Anxiety symptoms from Warrior Survey

Anxiety symptoms from the most recent WWP Warrior Survey.

  • Becoming easily annoyed or irritable.

  • Having trouble relaxing.

  • Feeling nervous or on edge.

  • Worrying too much and not being able to stop worrying.

  • Feeling afraid.

  • Being restless, jittery, unable to sit still.

When Anxiety Overwhelms

“A bit of heightened awareness when encountering a new situation is common. For instance, military service personnel may experience increased anxiety before a new assignment,” said Dr. Patel. “The challenge is learning to work through the feelings before they negatively affect your long-term health and wellness.”

Although anxiety is manageable for most, Dr. Patel notes that for some veterans, anxiety can become so overwhelming that it interferes with their daily lives due to intense physical or psychological responses.  

Various studies, including one from Yale published in early 2024, have looked at the prevalence and characteristics of anxiety in U.S. veterans. Almost 8% of military servicemen and women screened positive for an anxiety disorder compared to approximately 2.9% of the general population.

There are different types of anxiety disorders, noted Dr. Patel. Some include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), which is marked by prolonged and excessive worry and nervousness that may trigger physical symptoms, including shaking, sweating, or a rapid heartbeat. 

  • Panic disorder, which includes panic attacks.

  • Phobias include fear of leaving the house, fear of separation, and fear of social interaction.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was previously considered a type of anxiety disorder but was reclassified in 2013, although similarities exist between both conditions, according to the American Academy of Neurology. 

Dr. Patel notes that symptoms common in veterans with PTSD can increase anxiety.

“Hypervigilance, sleep disruption, memory issues, and increased alcohol use are all symptoms reported by veterans that can contribute to heightened anxiety,” she said, adding that more than 85% of the WWP warriors who self-reported anxiety in its recent survey also self-reported PTSD as a result of military service.

How WWP Can Help

“Dealing with trauma is difficult, and when anxiety becomes part of the equation, it can feel overwhelming and lead to other issues like depression,” said Dr. Patel. “It is important that veterans and their family members know that there are resources available to help manage anxiety as well as any larger concerns.”

WWP offers a variety of mental health programs to help with anxiety and other emotional challenges.

  • Social connection: The beneficial consequences of social support on well-being are well documented, said Dr. Patel. Although anxiety can hinder a person’s desire to socialize, veterans with significant social support report better physical health and quality of life. The WWP Alumni program offers meaningful opportunities for warriors and families to meet other veterans and families through in-person and virtual connection events. Peer Support Groups are also available to help build relationships and share experiences with others who’ve walked in the same footsteps.

  • Talking it out: WWP Talk is a nonclinical telephonic emotional support and goal-setting program that connects warriors and family members with a dedicated specialist who assists participants in overcoming challenges through the development of coping skills and individualized personal growth plans.

  • Adventure-based healing: Project Odyssey® is a 12-week adventure-based learning program aimed at helping warriors develop better coping and communication skills. It is also available as a couples’ program.

  • Outpatient care at a leading medical center: Warrior Care Network®  is a two-week outpatient program in partnership with four of the nation’s top medical facilities that provide mental health care for veterans with PTSD and brain injuries. Warrior Care Network provides clinical care along with wraparound support to ensure each veteran is getting the best treatment to manage their unique symptoms.

  • Ongoing well-being: WWP offers physical health and wellness activities, including a 90-day coaching program, to help address physical health, mental health, and overall well-being.

For warriors needing additional support, WWP can also provide referrals to community partners or other groups who can help.

Contact: Cynthia Weiss – Public Relations,, 904.738.2589

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers, helping them achieve their highest ambitions. Learn more.

*Warrior Survey, Wave 2 (conducted June 15 - Aug. 24, 2022)

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