It’s normal to feel anxious when facing a challenging situation, such as a job interview, a tough exam or a blind date. But if your worries and fears seem overwhelming, and interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. There are many different types of anxiety disorders and many effective treatments and coping strategies. Once you understand your anxiety disorder, there are steps you can take to reduce your symptoms, and regain control of your life. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults, or 18 percent of the population at any point in time. They include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorders, and phobias. Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders or substance misuse, and some people are diagnosed with more than one type of anxiety disorder concurrently. The experience of an anxiety disorder or panic attacks may look and feel different from person to person. Some symptoms of an anxiety disorder include.

  • constant feelings of worry or edginess
  • believing that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way
  • anticipating danger and catastrophe around every corner
  • frequent feelings of inadequacy or impending failure
  • heart palpitations or chest pain
  • trouble breathing or choking sensation
  • hyperventilation
  • trembling or shaking
  • nausea or stomach cramps
  • low appetite or binge eating
  • insomnia
  • feeling detached or unreal

Untreated, anxiety disorders can be disabling and prevent a person from fully participating in his or her work, school, social or family life. While anxiety may begin with someone experiencing stress in a specific situation or context, over time it can become more generalized, and lead to someone feeling overwhelmed by all aspects of his or her life and avoiding the world in general. These unhealthy thoughts and behaviors can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, and even medical problems related to chronic stress. Without appropriate coping strategies, some individuals also may use alcohol or other substances to try to manage the overwhelming feelings of anxiety disorders such as a sense of impending doom and hopeless.


Combination of many factors may cause anxiety disorders:

  • Genetics. Some families will have a higher than average numbers of members experiencing anxiety issues, and studies support the evidence that anxiety disorders run in families. This can be a factor in someone developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Environment. A stressful or traumatic event such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence or prolonged illness is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder.
  • The physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder can be easily confused with other medical conditions like heart disease or hyperthyroidism. Therefore, a doctor will likely perform an evaluation involving a physical examination, an interview and lab tests. After ruling out a medical illness, the doctor may recommend a person see a mental health professional to make a diagnosis. Using theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) a mental health professional is able to identify the specific type of anxiety disorder causing the symptoms as well as any other possible disorders including depression, ADHD or substance abuse which may be involved. Tackling all disorders through comprehensive treatment is the best recovery strategy.


    As each anxiety disorder has a different set of symptoms, the types of treatment that a mental health professional may suggest also can vary. But there are common types of treatment that are used:

  • Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Medications, including antianxiety medications and antidepressants
  • approaches, including stress and relaxation techniques
  • Related Conditions

    Anxiety disorders can be seen with other mental health conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • ADHD
  • Eating disorders
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety can often make these related conditions worse, so talk with a mental health care professional if anxiety begins to interfere on a daily basis.