Anxiety Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) is a diagnosis of exclusion. That means that the mental health professional (Social Worker, Therapist, Psychiatrist, or Psychologist) must judge you to be clinically anxious, but that you do not meet the diagnostic criteria laid out for the other anxiety disorders.
If you have been given a diagnosis of anxiety disorder NOS, it can often mean that while you are dealing with a real anxiety problem that needs to be addressed, you are not experiencing symptoms severe enough to warrant a full diagnosis such as panic disorder. They must also have excluded the other anxiety disorders like OCD, GAD, and SAnD before you would be eligible for the NOS diagnosis.
There is another possibility. Diagnoses do carry some cultural stigma with them, and whether you have received a particular diagnosis could become relevant in legal proceedings, work related inquiries and other scenarios. A mental health provider is ethically bound to provide a diagnosis that is minimally stigmatizing.
Anxiety disorder NOS is has a high rate of comorbidity; epidemiological studies have shown it may be as high as 65% in some populations. This means that if you have been diagnosed with anxiety nos there is a high likelihood that you would qualify for an additional diagnosis. The most typical disorder that is co-diagnosed is depression.
Depressive symptoms are extremely common in anxious people, particularly in women. If you have had a 2 week long episode of depression, you may also qualify for a major depressive disorder (MADD) diagnosis. Even if you do not have depression severe enough for MADD, it’s quite common to have some sadness, and tearing. Anxiety symptoms in women often include some chronic sadness, even if it has not reached depression levels.
The anxiety you experience cannot be related to drugs, as a feature of another disorder, or due to a medical condition. For instance, post traumatic stress disorder includes hypervigilant and anxious features. If you were not anxious prior to an event which lead to PTSD, you would not qualify for the anxiety NOS diagnosis. Similarly, if you were a chronic coffee drinker, this could cause a level of anxiety to be maintained, as coffee stimulates norepinephrine (an adrenaline-like neurotransmitter in your brain) as well as acetylcholine receptors, which actives your sympathetic nervous system and simulates anxiety. Obviously, overdoing it with coffee shouldn’t lead you to a psychiatric diagnosis!
Luckily, because anxiety is such a common issue, there has been a lot of intense research and work done around building programs to eliminate people’s anxiety. The NOS anxiety disorder diagnosis does not mean that you are stuck with anxiety.
Because anxiety is largely an over activation of the sympathetic nervous system, there are many behavioral and cognitive (thought) techniques that you can use to influence it quickly. It is possible to reverse an anxiety attack before it comes on, and to lower and finally eliminate the amount of anxiety you feel in general. It is not a matter of creating a whole litany of new habits which are hard to maintain, but rather a specific activity you can consciously engage in to immediately reduce and eliminate anxiety.