Anxiety is a normal emotion that alerts our brains to stress and danger.1 Everyone feels anxious sometimes, like before a big event or tough choice. Anxiety disorders, though, bring constant and intense worry and fear.1 They make it hard for someone to lead a normal life and avoid certain things.1 In the U.S., around 40 million adults are affected by these disorders, making them very common.1

These disorders come in various forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and several others.1 It’s vital to know the different anxiety disorders and their signs to begin getting help and manage this condition.

Key Takeaways

  • Anxiety is a normal emotion, but anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that cause persistent and overwhelming anxiety and fear.
  • Anxiety disorders can significantly interfere with daily life and lead to avoidance of certain situations.
  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the United States, affecting around 40 million adults.
  • There are various types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and separation anxiety disorder.
  • Understanding the different types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms is the first step in seeking appropriate treatment and managing this mental health condition.

What is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorder is a mental health issue. It makes people feel intense fear and dread in certain situations. These situations may make their heart pound and cause them to sweat.2 It’s normal to feel anxious sometimes. But, anxiety disorder makes daily life hard because the fear and worry are too much to handle.

Defining Anxiety Disorder

The main difference between normal anxiety and anxiety disorder is how it impacts life. Everyday anxiety is a brief reaction to stress. But with anxiety disorder, the fear is constant and can stop you from living your life.1 This fear is often more than the situation deserves, and it makes people change their lives to avoid it.

Difference Between Normal Anxiety and Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety turns into a disorder when it messes with your daily tasks and enjoyment of life.2 People are diagnosed with anxiety disorder when fear lingers, becomes too strong, and makes life difficult. This fear must not be explained by another health issue or drug use.

When Does Anxiety Become a Disorder?

Anxiety disorder leads to constant, extreme worry that’s tough to handle.2 It interferes with daily life and might make people avoid places or events.

Who is at Risk for Anxiety Disorders?

Some traits and behaviors can make someone more likely to get an anxiety disorder. For instance, being shy, finding new situations difficult, or having low self-esteem play a part.3 If you worry a lot, that could be a hint too.3

And if you’ve had tough or very stressful times, especially when you were young, that’s also a risk factor.2 Knowing that anxiety runs in your family might increase your chances of having it.2

Traumatic Experiences and Stressful Events

Terrible things like childhood trauma, neglect, or losing someone you love can make getting an anxiety disorder more likely.2 It’s not just big traumas; little stressful events can add up too.3 This includes things like big changes in your life, health troubles, or money problems.3

Family History and Genetics

If anxiety disorders are common in your family, genes might be a reason.2 Just the presence of anxiety in a close family member can up your risk.2 Scientists say it takes a mix of your genes and the world around you to make anxiety more likely.2

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders vary in form. Each has its unique symptoms and triggers.4 They include GAD, panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, agoraphobia, and separation anxiety.2 Although each type differs in symptoms, they share persistent, excessive fears that can disrupt everyday life.3

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is marked by constant worry about many issues. This includes work, health, or money.4 Those with GAD often feel anxious without a clear cause.3 Physical signs include restlessness, trouble focusing, and sleep issues.3

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder brings sudden and overwhelming terror. It includes symptoms like a pounding heart or sweating.4 These attacks might happen without warning or be triggered by situations.3 Those with panic disorder fear another attack and avoid triggering places.3


Phobias are strong, irrational fears of certain things like heights or flying.4 This fear is often more than the actual risk.3 They go to great lengths to avoid what scares them, affecting daily life.3

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder causes deep worry and self-consciousness in social settings.4 Those with it fear judgment or embarrassment, avoiding social situations.3


Agoraphobia is fear of situations where escape seems hard. This can include crowds or enclosed spaces.4 It may lead to avoiding such places and, severely, not leaving home.3

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Seen more in children but can affect adults too.4 It’s the fear of being away from a loved one, like a parent.3 This fear can make one avoid leaving home without the loved one.3

Understanding Anxiety: Types, Symptoms, and Management

Anxiety disorders have many varieties, each unique in its symptoms and causes. These include panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety.1 Each may show different symptoms but share feelings of fear, worry, or dread that impact life.
The key to dealing with these issues is to know about the types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms. This knowledge helps in seeking the right treatments and managing these conditions better.

1 Anxiety problems affect the U.S. with nearly 40 million suffering.1 Almost 30% of adults face these disorders at some point.1 They usually start in childhood, teenage years, or early adulthood. Additionally,1 women tend to have them more than men do.
Having certain physical issues or a family history of anxiety increases the risk. This makes understanding anxiety and its context crucial to deal with it.

2 There are many types of anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. Also, there’s Social Anxiety Disorder, Phobias, and many more. These conditions can appear at any stage of life and can be triggered by various factors.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Feeling anxious can make your heart race and make you sweat. Sometimes, you might feel like everything is shaking. Breathing can be hard, the chest might hurt, and you may have tummy troubles.3 These feelings are our body’s way of getting ready to fight or run when it feels stressed or threatened. They are so strong that they might cause us to worry more and avoid things that make us feel this way.

Physical Symptoms

Feeling anxious comes with a lot of physical signs.2 You might feel really scared, uneasy, or have trouble sleeping. Your body could shake, and your heart may beat fast. You might also have stomach issues, feel dizzy, and find it hard to focus.2 Our bodies do this to protect us from what it thinks is dangerous, starting a fight-or-flight response.

Cognitive and Emotional Symptoms

Anxiety can mess with how we think and feel, too. It can make us worry all the time or find it hard to focus. We might feel like something really bad is about to happen or that our thoughts and feelings are too much to handle.3 Also, we could feel grumpy, not be able to sit still, or just be on edge all the time.

Behavioral Symptoms

Dealing with all this worry and fear can change how we act. We might try to stay away from things that make us anxious.3 This might make us avoid our fears a lot and make our anxiety even stronger. It could stop us from seeing people or doing normal things.2 And sometimes, we might find it hard to sleep, feel restless, or start using alcohol or drugs because of how anxious we are.

anxiety disorder symptoms

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

The exact causes of anxiety disorders are not fully known. But, both biological and environmental factors are thought to cause them.3 Issues like brain chemistry imbalances with neurotransmitters could be a reason. Also, genetic predispositions from families play a part.2 Diseases like thyroid disorders and trouble with breathing or heartbeats can make anxiety worse.

Biological Factors

Brain chemistry imbalances might cause anxiety disorders. This includes issues with serotonin and norepinephrine.3 If anxiety issues run in the family, you might be more at risk.1

Environmental Factors

Stress and bad life experiences can up your chance of anxiety.3 Things like abuse, neglect, or losing someone can make anxiety start. If you’re already at risk due to family history or biology, this is more likely.2 Daily stress and facing lots of little problems might also lead to anxiety disorders over time.

Medical Conditions and Substance Abuse

Anxiety might be because of other health issues or drug problems.3 For example, some medical conditions can look like anxiety.2 Using alcohol, drugs, or stopping certain medicines could make anxiety symptoms worse.

Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorders

When someone is worried about their anxiety, the first step is to get a medical checkup. The doctor will ask about their past health, check their body, and might do some tests. The goal is to make sure there’s no hidden health issue causing the anxiety.2

If it’s not a physical problem, the next step is to see a mental health expert. This could be a psychiatrist or a psychologist. They will assess the person’s mental state. This involves talking, filling out forms, and using special tests to understand the anxiety’s effects. They follow guidelines to decide if it’s an anxiety disorder and what type.2

Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders

Medicines and talking to someone can both help treat anxiety. Doctors often start with drugs like SSRIs and SNRIs. These help balance certain chemicals in the brain.4 For quick relief, they might use benzodiazepines or beta-blockers. But, the treatment changes based on what each person needs.

Medications for Anxiety

Talking with a therapist, especially through CBT, is very helpful.4 CBT teaches people to change their bad thoughts and actions. This makes them less anxious. There are other kinds of therapy that can work too, like facing fears or living in the moment. Seeing a therapist can teach people ways to handle anxiety better over time.

Psychotherapy and Counseling

Aside from pills and therapy, changing your lifestyle can make a big difference in anxiety. This includes working out, sleeping well, and finding ways to relax. Eating a balanced diet is important too.4 It’s best to steer clear of alcohol and drugs, since they can make anxiety worse. Taking care of yourself and having friends and family around for support can really help too.

Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care

treatment for anxiety disorders

Managing Anxiety Disorders in Children

Children and teens can be affected by anxiety disorders too. It’s normal for them to be a bit worried or scared, especially in new situations. But when this worry starts to stop them from doing regular things, like going to school, it might be an anxiety disorder.5 Signs of anxiety in kids include always being worried, not wanting to do things with others, feeling sick often, and finding it tough to be away from family.5

Signs of Childhood Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can make life hard for children. For example, they might be too scared to leave their parents or have a strong fear of something, like dogs.6 They could also be very afraid of places with many people.6 Some children might worry a lot about the future and things going wrong.6 Others might have sudden episodes of intense fear, which can lead to physical symptoms.6

Helping Children Cope with Anxiety

If a child is dealing with anxiety, they need support and understanding from their parents or caregivers. Teaching them how to relax, like with deep breaths or thinking of a calm place, can help. It’s also good to help them see that their fears are not always true.5 Gradually facing fears, maybe with a professional’s help, is another good step.5 Showing kids how to cope in a healthy way and keeping up a normal routine is important too. It includes sleep, exercise, and spending time with friends.5

Seeking Professional Help for Anxiety

If anxiety is making daily life hard, professional help is key.1 Around 40 million Americans get anxiety disorders. Nearly 30% of adults will face these challenges at some point.1 Getting help early really matters. It can help manage anxiety and stop it from getting worse.

A healthcare provider or mental health pro can find your anxiety type and set up a plan.7 The main ways to treat anxiety are talking therapy and medicine. Often, using both works best together.7 Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is very good for anxiety disorders.

With the right help, those with anxiety can get better.7 Medicines like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, plus lifestyle changes, can help a lot. These changes include staying active, not using alcohol or drugs, and managing stress well.7

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