Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorder is a cover term for a variety of mental illnesses in which severe anxiety is a salient symptom. Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults age 18 years and older in a given year (about 18 percent). Women are 60% more likely than men to experience  an anxiety disorder over their lifetime. Non-hispanic blacks are 20% less likely, and Hispanics are 30% less likely, than non-Hispanic whites to experience an anxiety disorder. In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Treatment choices depend on the problem and the person's preference. Medication cannot cure anxiety disorders, but can help keep it under control while someone struggling with anxiety receives psychotherapy, behavioral therapy or other professional treatment. 

Some common anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic Disorder - A mental illness in which debilitating anxiety and fear arise frequently and without reasonable cause.


  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) -  An anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions or compulsions. Symptoms of the disorder include excessive washing or cleaning, repeated checking, extreme hoarding, preoccupation sexual, violent or religious thoughts; relationship related obsessions, aversion to particular numbers, and nervous rituals, such as opening and closing a door a certain number of times before entering or leaving a room. These symptoms can be alienating and time consuming, and often cause severe emotional or financial distress. The acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and potentially psychotic. However, OCD sufferers generally recognize their obsessions and compulsions as irrational and may be become further distressed by this realization.


  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - A condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occuring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constan vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.


  • Phobias - a phobia is a disabling and irrational fear of something that really poses little or no actual danger for most people. This fear can be very disabling when it leads to avoidance of objects or situations that may cause extreme feelings of dread, terror and panic. "Specific" phobias center on particular objects (e.g., caterpillars, dogs) or situations (e.g., being on a bridge, flying on an airplane). Many people are very sensitive to being criticized and are ashamed of their phobias which can lead to problems with self-esteem.


  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder - A severe, chronic, exaggerated worrying about everyday events is the most common symptom in people with GAD. This is a worrying that lasts for at least six months, makes it difficult to concentrate and to carry out routine activities, and happens for many hours each day in some people. Some people with this disorder anticipate the worst and often experience physical symptoms of fatigue, tension, headaches and nausea due to the severity of their anxiety.


  • Social Anxiety Disorder - An intense fear of social situations that leads to difficulties with personal relationships and at the workplace or in school is most common in people with social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety disorder often have an irrational fear of being humiliated in public for “saying something stupid,” or “not knowing what to say.” People with this illness may have symptoms similar to “panic attacks” (e.g., heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath) or may experience severe sweating (hyperhidrosis) when in social situations. This leads to avoidance of social situations, which can make it difficult to go to parties, school, or even family gatherings.


Some other recognized anxiety disorders include, agoraphobia, acute stress disorder, anxiety disorder due to medical conditions, such as thyroid abnormalities, and substance-induced anxiety disorder, such as from too much caffiene.