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Anxiety Disorders

Most people experience feelings of anxiety. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that fill people's lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear that are chronic, unremitting, and can grow progressively worse.

Research & Statistics

  • National Institute of Mental Health: Statistics

    Provides prevalence statistics for various mental disorders.

  • PubMedPubMed comprises more than 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.

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Most people experience feelings of anxiety. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that fill people's lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear that are chronic, unremitting, and can grow progressively worse. More than 19 million American adults are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year. Children and adolescents can also develop anxiety disorders.

What Are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?

Panic Disorder Repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying. 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Repeated, unwanted thoughts or compulsive behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as rape or other criminal assault, war, child abuse, natural or human-caused disasters, or crashes. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable or distracted and being easily startled are common. For more information, choose 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders' from the Topics List.

Phobias Two major types of phobias are social phobia and specific phobia. People with social phobia have an overwhelming and disabling fear of scrutiny, embarrassment, or humiliation in social situations, which leads to avoidance of many potentially pleasurable and meaningful activities. People with specific phobia experience extreme, disabling, and irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives unnecessarily. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Constant, exaggerated worrisome thoughts and tension about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months. Almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it; accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.

What Are Effective Treatments for Anxiety Disorders?
A number of medications that were originally approved for treating depression have been found to be effective for anxiety disorders as well. Other anti-anxiety medications include groups of drugs called benzodiazepines and beta-blockers. If one medication is not effective, others can be tried.

Two clinically-proven effective forms of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders are behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy focuses on changing specific actions and uses several techniques to stop unwanted behaviors. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to understand and change their thinking patterns so they can react differently to the situations that cause them anxiety.

Do Anxiety Disorders Co-Exist with Other Physical or Mental Disorders?

It is common for an anxiety disorder to accompany depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, or another anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can also co-exist with illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. In such instances, the accompanying disorders will also need to be treated.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health