This page is for informational purposes only — if you need help for an anxiety disorder, please contact Vertava Health to connect with a professional and receive individualized treatment and support today.

Overview Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is a feeling that people have from time to time, but it shouldn’t be frequent or severe enough to interfere with daily life. When anxiety occurs often and becomes hard to control, anxiety disorders can develop.

Since these disorders can lead to serious complications, such as health issues, depression, and substance misuse, it’s important to seek treatment. Managing anxiety disorders can lead to an improved quality of life and a lower risk of complications.

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Types Of Anxiety Disorders

Several kinds of anxiety disorders can occur. Some of these, such as generalized anxiety disorder, are more common than others. Here are some common anxiety disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) refers to anxiety that occurs regularly. People with GAD typically deal with severe anxiety in several areas of their everyday life, such as work, school, or interpersonal relationships.

GAD may cause anxiety that is considered severe or excessive compared to the actual event or situation. Some individuals with GAD also struggle with other disorders, such as depression, substance use, or another type of anxiety disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, occurs when people experience excessive or frequent fear and anxiety in social situations. These feelings can cause people to avoid social situations as much as possible out of fear that others will be watching or judging them.

Social anxiety disorder often causes people to feel highly self-conscious when they’re around others, including loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes frequent or recurring panic attacks. These attacks typically come on suddenly and can include alarming symptoms, such as chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and feelings of terror or doom.

Since panic attacks are so intense, they can lead to ongoing anxiety about having them, causing people to avoid certain situations that seem to trigger them.

Phobia Disorders

Phobia disorders occur when a specific situation or object causes feelings of intense anxiety and fear. For example, people with a phobia of flying might experience sudden and severe anxiety when they’re on an airplane.

In some cases, phobias can cause panic attacks to occur. People with a phobia disorder typically avoid the situation or object that triggers this anxiety as much as possible.

Other Anxiety Disorders

Other types of anxiety disorders can occur in both children and adults, including:

  • agoraphobia
  • anxiety disorder with a medical condition
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • selective mutism
  • separation anxiety disorder
  • substance-induced anxiety disorder

Common Symptoms Of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on which type of disorder is present. Symptoms can be mild or severe, and people can experience different anxiety symptoms at different times.

For example, some people might develop bouts of gastrointestinal symptoms with anxiety or go through periods of experiencing sleep problems.

Some of the more common symptoms that can occur with anxiety disorders include:

  • feelings of restlessness or nervousness
  • feeling a sense of panic or danger
  • having difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • rapid breathing
  • faster heart rate
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • sweating

Causes And Risk Factors

The exact causes of anxiety disorders aren’t fully understood. These disorders can occur due to environmental causes, genetic causes, or both. Some possible causes of anxiety disorders include:

  • traumatic events
  • inherited traits
  • underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, chronic pain, or drug/alcohol misuse
  • side effects of medication

Certain risk factors can increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder, such as trauma or chronic stress. Other risk factors include certain personality types, a family history of anxiety disorders, depression or other mental health disorders, and stress caused by serious illnesses.

How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed?

Anxiety disorders can be difficult to diagnose since they sometimes occur with other mental or behavioral health disorders. Primary care doctors can check for underlying medical conditions that might be linked to anxiety symptoms and provide treatment as needed.

Mental health professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, typically use psychological evaluations and diagnostic criteria to formally diagnose anxiety disorders.

Evaluations involve having patients discuss their thoughts and feelings and provide information on how often anxiety symptoms occur and how severe they are. Diagnostic criteria come from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Treating Anxiety Disorders

Treatment options for anxiety disorders are based on the specific type of disorder and other factors, such as the presence of other mental health disorders or medical conditions. Some of the more common methods of treating anxiety disorders include:

  • Psychotherapy: talk therapy or counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to reduce symptoms
  • Medication: anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, or sedatives and other types of medication for short-term relief
  • Alternative health approaches: herbal remedies are taken with a doctor’s supervision and lifestyle changes, such as physical activity and stress management techniques