Anxiety Disorders: Symptoms, Types, and Treatments (2023)

Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. But when anxiety feels extreme and gets in the way of your daily life, this might indicate an anxiety disorder.

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Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. So if you’re feeling concerned about your anxiety, know that you’re not alone.

In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that almost one-third of U.S. adults will have an anxiety disorder during their lifetimes.

While anxiety can feel overwhelming at times, there are many ways to cope. With the right tools, you can manage your anxiety and start feeling less anxious.

Keep reading to learn about the different types of anxiety disorders, symptoms and treatments, and tips to help you manage your anxiety.

Anxiety refers to feelings of nervousness, fear, or worry. Most people will feel anxious before a job interview, when taking a test, or on their first day at a new job or school.

Anxiety disorders involve excessive fear, anxiety, or worries that interfere with your well-being and ability to function. For example, recurring anxious thoughts and behaviors can have a big impact on your work life, school life, hobbies, or relationships.

Anxiety disorders are defined by the situations or objects that cause your anxiety. Some anxiety disorders have different symptoms and types of negative thoughts associated with them.

Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The focus of your anxiety isn’t on one thing but several things when you have GAD. This could include health, social interactions, or work. These worries appear on more days than not for at least 6 months.
  • Panic disorder. This disorder involves recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic disorder can lead to worry or stress about future panic attacks. It’s important to note that having panic attacks doesn’t always mean you have panic disorder.
  • Agoraphobia. This condition involves an intense fear of a situation that might be difficult to escape from. This might include open spaces, enclosed spaces, or public transport. For some people, these fears make it difficult to leave the house.
  • Social anxiety disorder. Previously known as social phobia, this is an intense fear of social situations or performing in front of others. The anxieties are linked with a fear of negative judgement from others, and a fear of showing signs of anxiety or embarrassment in public.
  • Specific phobias. Also known as simple phobias, this involves an intense fear of a certain object or situation. The fear is out of proportion with the actual danger posed. Common phobias people have involve animals, heights, flying, and injections.
  • Separation anxiety disorder. This condition involves intense anxiety about being separated from people you feel close to. This can affect both children and adults.

Other mental health conditions may feature anxiety symptoms, though they’re not labeled as a type of anxiety disorder under the DSM-5:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. The symptoms typically develop within 3 months of the trauma, but sometimes they don’t arise until years later.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD involves recurring, uncontrollable thoughts or behaviors. The obsessions or compulsions linked with OCD can create intense anxiety.

Specific phobias are the most common anxiety disorders in the United States. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that specific phobias affect 19 million adults, or 8.7% of the U.S. population.

The ADAA also says that social anxiety disorder affects around 15 million adults, and GAD affects at least 6.8 million U.S. adults.

(Video) Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - causes, symptoms & treatment

Anxiety disorders are characterized by strong feelings of fear or worry that impact your well-being and daily functioning. This can go from test anxiety to social anxiety.

Intense anxiety often leads to changes in behavior. Anxiety feels very unpleasant, so people tend to avoid situations or objects that might provoke their anxiety.

Anxiety symptoms arise when the body feels under threat. This is part of the fight, flight, or freeze response.

Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol increase to prepare the body for action, which makes the heart pump faster, speeds up our breathing, and prepares our muscles for movement.

Anxiety has both physical and mental effects. These include:

  • racing thoughts
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid heart rate or feeling like your heart is pounding hard
  • upset stomach
  • dry mouth
  • feeling dizzy
  • feelings of dread or panic
  • sweating
  • tunnel vision
  • feeling restless
  • muscle tension
  • physical weakness
  • poor memory
  • confusion
  • trouble concentrating
  • constant worry
  • dissociation

Most of these symptoms will feel familiar even if you don’t have significant problems with anxiety. But when they’re severe, recurring, and upsetting enough to make you feel extremely uncomfortable, out of control, or helpless, this might signal an anxiety disorder.

Wondering if what you’re experiencing might be an anxiety disorder? You can check out our anxiety test to find out.

For tips on what to do if you’re feeling anxious right now, read this.

Anxiety disorders, like many other mental health conditions, are likely caused by a complex combination of elements, including environmental and genetic factors.

Research hasn’t yet explained why some people will experience a panic attack or develop a phobia while others who grew up in the same family or have shared experiences do not.

(Video) Anxiety - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments and More

Many factors may contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder, including:

  • childhood development
  • genetics
  • neurobiology
  • psychological factors
  • personality development
  • social and environmental cues
  • protective factors

Learn more about the causes of anxiety disorders.

While the causes differ between the types of anxiety disorders, risk factors for anxiety disorders in general may include:

  • being exposed to stressful events, either in childhood or adulthood
  • a family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
  • certain physical health conditions, including thyroid problems or heart arrhythmia
  • shyness in childhood

Anxiety disorders are more common in females, affecting an estimated 23.4% of females and 14.3% of males.

Communities that face discrimination often have higher rates of anxiety disorders.

For example, 39% of LGBTQ+ people reported having a mental health condition in the past year, and they’re more likely to deal with conditions like anxiety and depression than heterosexual, gender-conforming people.

For many people, anxiety treatment has two primary elements: psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medications, if indicated.

Anxiety disorders are very treatable, though the ADAA estimates that only 36.9% of people receive treatment.

The most effective type of treatment can depend on the type of anxiety disorder.

Even without professional help, you can reduce your anxiety levels by using everyday coping methods. Different methods work better for different people, so it’s worth trying out a few strategies to see what works best for you.

(Video) Anxiety : What is anxiety, Symptoms, types and treatment/cure in Hindi

Psychotherapy

Most types of anxiety respond well to psychotherapy alone.

In particular, research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other behavioral therapies are effective for many people.

CBT provides a safe space and expert guidance to gently adjust the person’s ways of thinking about and reacting to objects or situations that produce anxiety.

One type of therapy that can be helpful for certain anxiety disorders, like phobias, is exposure response prevention (ERP) therapy. This involves working with a mental health professional to slowly and safely expose you to what causes your anxiety.

Medication

Anxiety medications don’t cure anxiety, but they can provide relief from symptoms.

Depending on the type of medication, people may take them on an as-needed basis for the specific situation that causes anxiety or panic, for relief from physical symptoms, or on a daily basis.

Benzodiazepines are a common class of anti-anxiety medication usually taken as needed. They tend to be fast-acting and leave the body fairly quickly compared to other psychiatric medications, which can take weeks or months to leave the system and also be slower to kick in.

The most common types of medications taken for anxiety disorders include:

  • anti-anxiety drugs
  • antidepressants
  • beta-blockers

Everyday coping methods

Working out what’s best for you can involve some trial and error. It’s important to go at your own pace and do what feels comfortable. Then, keep doing what feels helpful for you.

You can’t always predict when anxiety or a panic attack is going to occur, but making a plan of what to do can help you feel more in control. This can make it easier to manage.

Many people find that relaxation methods are a powerful tool for soothing anxiety. These include:

(Video) Anxiety - Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatment Dr.Meghna Verma MBBS, MS, PGDMH(CMC Vellore), MBA(ISB)

  • Deep breathing exercises. Take a few deep breaths in and out, focusing on each breath. This make you feel more grounded and in control of your body. Deep breathing can soothe the body’s stress response.
  • Mindfulness meditation. When you feel anxious, mindfulness can create calm and give you some breathing space. Practicing mindfulness regularly, even when you’re not feeling anxious, can provide you with the tools to bring your anxiety under control when it does arise.

Exercising regularly can also be a really helpful way to manage anxiety. If this feels difficult, try starting out gently by taking a walk, or standing up and stretching for a few minutes.

Movement and activity generates endorphins, which are our feel-good hormones. These hormones boost your mood and reduce anxiety.

For some people, caffeine and certain medications can produce anxiety symptoms or make their symptoms worse. In these cases, limiting caffeine and alcohol can help reduce anxiety.

Read about 15 small steps you can take to improve your anxiety.

Anxiety can sometimes make people feel alone or cut off from their surroundings, but anxiety disorders are more common than many people realize.

Peer support for anxiety disorders can be a helpful part of treatment. This could be through online communities or in-person meetings.

There are a number of resources online that can help:

Find a local treatment provider.

Suicide prevention

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:

Not in the U.S.? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.

(Video) Anxiety: Signs & Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorder | Stanford

FAQs

What is the treatment of anxiety disorder? ›

The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.

What are the five types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms? ›

The five major types of anxiety disorders are:
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder. ...
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) ...
  • Panic Disorder. ...
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) ...
  • Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)

What is the symptoms of anxiety? ›

Signs and Symptoms
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.
  • Being easily fatigued.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Being irritable.
  • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

What can cause anxiety? ›

Common triggers include:
  • work stress or job change.
  • change in living arrangements.
  • pregnancy and giving birth.
  • family and relationship problems.
  • major emotional shock following a stressful or traumatic event.
  • verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma.
  • death or loss of a loved one.

What are 5 treatments for anxiety? ›

Lifestyle and home remedies
  • Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. ...
  • Make sleep a priority. ...
  • Use relaxation techniques. ...
  • Eat healthy. ...
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  • Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking coffee.
13 Oct 2017

What is the first line treatment for anxiety? ›

Antidepressants are the first-line medications in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Anxiolytics may be used for a brief duration, but only if needed while an antidepressant is being initiated and titrated up. Atypical antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants are used mainly to augment antidepressants.

How long does anxiety treatment take? ›

It usually involves meeting with a specially trained and accredited therapist for a 1-hour session every week for 3 to 4 months.

Can anxiety disorder be cured? ›

Anxiety is not curable, but there are ways to keep it from being a big problem. Getting the right treatment for your anxiety will help you dial back your out-of-control worries so that you can get on with life. There are many ways to do this.

How does anxiety affect the body? ›

Anxiety disorders can cause rapid heart rate, palpitations, and chest pain. You may also be at an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. If you already have heart disease, anxiety disorders may raise the risk of coronary events.

What is the most common type of anxiety? ›

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder. The main symptom of GAD is excessive worrying about different activities and events. You may feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD.

How does anxiety affect your daily life? ›

Anxiety makes it harder to try new things, to take risks in your work or personal life, or sometimes to even leave your house. Many people with anxiety feel caged in. They see things they want to do in life but their anxiety keeps them from trying. This can lead to loss of income and unfulfilled potential.

How long does anxiety disorder last? ›

From the time of diagnosis, an anxiety disorder can last from a few months to many years. Most people will have symptoms of an anxiety disorder for a long time before seeking professional help, sometimes up to 15 years³.

Is anxiety a mental health? ›

An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating. It's normal to have some anxiety.

Who is at risk for anxiety disorders? ›

Children who endured abuse or trauma or witnessed traumatic events are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in life. Adults who experience a traumatic event also can develop anxiety disorders. Stress due to an illness.

What foods increase anxiety? ›

Foods (and drinks) that are stress- and anxiety-provoking
  • Alcohol.
  • Caffeine.
  • Sugary drinks and foods.
  • Processed foods, such as chips, cookies, frozen foods and ready-made meals.
  • Foods high in trans fats and excessive saturated fats, such as fried foods, red meat, full-fat dairy, butter and baked goods.
21 Sept 2021

How do they test for anxiety? ›

To diagnose an anxiety disorder, a doctor performs a physical exam, asks about your symptoms, and recommends a blood test, which helps the doctor determine if another condition, such as hypothyroidism, may be causing your symptoms. The doctor may also ask about any medications you are taking.

How I healed my anxiety without drugs? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
6 Dec 2017

Does anxiety improve with age? ›

Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults. This may be due to a number of factors, including changes in the brain and nervous system as we age, and being more likely to experience stressful life events that can trigger anxiety.

Why is it important to treat anxiety? ›

Why is it important to seek treatment for these disorders? If left untreated, anxiety disorders can have severe consequences. For example, some people who suffer from recurring panic attacks avoid at all costs putting themselves in a situation that they fear may trigger an attack.

What are 4 treatment options for anxiety disorders? ›

Four major classes of medications are used to treat anxiety disorders: SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), tricyclic antidepressant, and benzodiazepine.

What happens when you go to the doctor for anxiety? ›

Your doctor will probably complete a physical examination and is likely to take blood samples. He or she may also ask you to go for further tests, depending upon his or her initial assessment. This is to rule out any physical causes of your anxiety, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, or heart disease.

When does anxiety disappear? ›

Everyone experiences anxiety at one time or another. Anxiety usually goes away once the triggering event is over, but it may reoccur depending on your life circumstances. An anxiety disorder can become a long-term condition. If left untreated, anxiety disorders can worsen and substantially disrupt your life.

What is the most severe anxiety? ›

Panic disorder

A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration.

What are the 6 major types of anxiety disorders? ›

6 major types of anxiety disorders
  • Phobias. Phobias are intense fears of specific animals, objects or situations. ...
  • Generalized Anxiety. ...
  • Panic Disorder. ...
  • Social Anxiety Disorder. ...
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. ...
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder.
10 Jul 2019

What is false anxiety? ›

Unwanted thoughts are one of the most common examples of false anxiety. Often time we as humans tend to be cynical, thinking about worst case scenarios, 'what if' thoughts so to speak. We tend to get so caught up in our thoughts that we end up getting trapped by them.

What are the 4 levels of anxiety? ›

Anxiety levels are typically classified by the level of distress and impairment experienced into four categories: mild anxiety, moderate anxiety, severe anxiety and panic level anxiety.

How serious is anxiety? ›

Having an anxiety disorder does more than make you worry. It can also lead to, or worsen, other mental and physical conditions, such as: Depression (which often occurs with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders. Substance misuse.

Is anxiety a mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

Is anxiety a mental health? ›

An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating. It's normal to have some anxiety.

Can anxiety disorder be cured? ›

Anxiety is not curable, but there are ways to keep it from being a big problem. Getting the right treatment for your anxiety will help you dial back your out-of-control worries so that you can get on with life. There are many ways to do this.

What is the most common anxiety? ›

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder. The main symptom of GAD is excessive worrying about different activities and events. You may feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD. You might feel 'on edge' and hyper-alert to your surroundings.

What is severe anxiety? ›

Severe anxiety occurs when the body's natural responses to stress exceed healthy levels and interrupt your ability to function and carry out typical day-to-day tasks. While most people experience some anxiety, as with a new experience or challenge, severe anxiety can be overwhelming.

Can anxiety make you sick? ›

Yes, anxiety can cause nausea and other gastrointestinal problems. Outside of your brain, your digestive system contains the second largest number of nerves in your body. Some scientists even call your gut your "second brain."

What is high functioning anxiety? ›

Instead, high-functioning anxiety typically refers to someone who experiences anxiety while still managing daily life quite well. Generally, a person with high-functioning anxiety may appear put together and well- accomplished on the outside, yet experience worry, stress or have obsessive thoughts on the inside.

How I healed my anxiety without drugs? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
6 Dec 2017

What level of anxiety is normal? ›

Normal levels of anxiety lie on one end of a spectrum and may present as low levels of fear or apprehension, mild sensations of muscle tightness and sweating, or doubts about your ability to complete a task. Importantly, symptoms of normal anxiety do not negatively interfere with daily functioning.

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