Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. But when anxiety feels extreme and gets in the way of your daily life, this might indicate an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. So if you’re feeling concerned about your anxiety, know that you’re not alone.
In fact, the
While anxiety can feel overwhelming at times, there are many ways to cope. With the right tools, you can manage your anxiety and start feeling less anxious.
Keep reading to learn about the different types of anxiety disorders, symptoms and treatments, and tips to help you manage your anxiety.
Anxiety refers to feelings of nervousness, fear, or worry. Most people will feel anxious before a job interview, when taking a test, or on their first day at a new job or school.
Anxiety disorders involve excessive fear, anxiety, or worries that interfere with your well-being and ability to function. For example, recurring anxious thoughts and behaviors can have a big impact on your work life, school life, hobbies, or relationships.
Anxiety disorders are defined by the situations or objects that cause your anxiety. Some anxiety disorders have different symptoms and types of negative thoughts associated with them.
Types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The focus of your anxiety isn’t on one thing but several things when you have GAD. This could include health, social interactions, or work. These worries appear on more days than not for at least 6 months.
- Panic disorder. This disorder involves recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic disorder can lead to worry or stress about future panic attacks. It’s important to note that having panic attacks doesn’t always mean you have panic disorder.
- Agoraphobia. This condition involves an intense fear of a situation that might be difficult to escape from. This might include open spaces, enclosed spaces, or public transport. For some people, these fears make it difficult to leave the house.
- Social anxiety disorder. Previously known as social phobia, this is an intense fear of social situations or performing in front of others. The anxieties are linked with a fear of negative judgement from others, and a fear of showing signs of anxiety or embarrassment in public.
- Specific phobias. Also known as simple phobias, this involves an intense fear of a certain object or situation. The fear is out of proportion with the actual danger posed. Common phobias people have involve animals, heights, flying, and injections.
- Separation anxiety disorder. This condition involves intense anxiety about being separated from people you feel close to. This can affect both children and adults.
Other mental health conditions may feature anxiety symptoms, though they’re not labeled as a type of anxiety disorder under the DSM-5:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop after experiencing a traumatic event. The symptoms typically develop within
3 monthsof the trauma, but sometimes they don’t arise until years later.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD involves recurring, uncontrollable thoughts or behaviors. The obsessions or compulsions linked with OCD can create intense anxiety.
Specific phobias are the most common anxiety disorders in the United States. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that specific phobias affect 19 million adults, or 8.7% of the U.S. population.
The ADAA also says that social anxiety disorder affects around 15 million adults, and GAD affects at least 6.8 million U.S. adults.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by strong feelings of fear or worry that impact your well-being and daily functioning. This can go from test anxiety to social anxiety.
Intense anxiety often leads to changes in behavior. Anxiety feels very unpleasant, so people tend to avoid situations or objects that might provoke their anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms arise when the body feels under threat. This is part of the fight, flight, or freeze response.
Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol increase to prepare the body for action, which makes the heart pump faster, speeds up our breathing, and prepares our muscles for movement.
Anxiety has both physical and mental effects. These include:
- racing thoughts
- shortness of breath
- rapid heart rate or feeling like your heart is pounding hard
- upset stomach
- dry mouth
- feeling dizzy
- feelings of dread or panic
- tunnel vision
- feeling restless
- muscle tension
- physical weakness
- poor memory
- trouble concentrating
- constant worry
Most of these symptoms will feel familiar even if you don’t have significant problems with anxiety. But when they’re severe, recurring, and upsetting enough to make you feel extremely uncomfortable, out of control, or helpless, this might signal an anxiety disorder.
Wondering if what you’re experiencing might be an anxiety disorder? You can check out our anxiety test to find out.
For tips on what to do if you’re feeling anxious right now, read this.
Anxiety disorders, like many other mental health conditions, are likely caused by a complex combination of elements, including environmental and genetic factors.
Research hasn’t yet explained why some people will experience a panic attack or develop a phobia while others who grew up in the same family or have shared experiences do not.
Many factors may contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder, including:
- childhood development
- psychological factors
- personality development
- social and environmental cues
- protective factors
Learn more about the causes of anxiety disorders.
While the causes differ between the types of anxiety disorders, risk factors for anxiety disorders in general may include:
- being exposed to stressful events, either in childhood or adulthood
- a family history of anxiety or other mental health conditions
- certain physical health conditions, including thyroid problems or heart arrhythmia
- shyness in childhood
Anxiety disorders are more common in females, affecting an
Communities that face discrimination often have higher rates of anxiety disorders.
For example, 39% of LGBTQ+ people reported having a mental health condition in the past year, and they’re more likely to deal with conditions like anxiety and depression than heterosexual, gender-conforming people.
For many people, anxiety treatment has two primary elements: psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medications, if indicated.
Anxiety disorders are very treatable, though the ADAA estimates that only 36.9% of people receive treatment.
The most effective type of treatment can depend on the type of anxiety disorder.
Even without professional help, you can reduce your anxiety levels by using everyday coping methods. Different methods work better for different people, so it’s worth trying out a few strategies to see what works best for you.
Most types of anxiety respond well to psychotherapy alone.
CBT provides a safe space and expert guidance to gently adjust the person’s ways of thinking about and reacting to objects or situations that produce anxiety.
One type of therapy that can be helpful for certain anxiety disorders, like phobias, is exposure response prevention (ERP) therapy. This involves working with a mental health professional to slowly and safely expose you to what causes your anxiety.
Anxiety medications don’t cure anxiety, but they can provide relief from symptoms.
Depending on the type of medication, people may take them on an as-needed basis for the specific situation that causes anxiety or panic, for relief from physical symptoms, or on a daily basis.
Benzodiazepines are a common class of anti-anxiety medication usually taken as needed. They tend to be fast-acting and leave the body fairly quickly compared to other psychiatric medications, which can take weeks or months to leave the system and also be slower to kick in.
Black box warning
It’s important to note that benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Ativan, have a black box warning from the FDA and may cause physical dependence or withdrawal.
The most common types of medications taken for anxiety disorders include:
- anti-anxiety drugs
Everyday coping methods
Working out what’s best for you can involve some trial and error. It’s important to go at your own pace and do what feels comfortable. Then, keep doing what feels helpful for you.
You can’t always predict when anxiety or a panic attack is going to occur, but making a plan of what to do can help you feel more in control. This can make it easier to manage.
Many people find that relaxation methods are a powerful tool for soothing anxiety. These include:
- Deep breathing exercises. Take a few deep breaths in and out, focusing on each breath. This make you feel more grounded and in control of your body. Deep breathing can soothe the body’s stress response.
- Mindfulness meditation. When you feel anxious, mindfulness can create calm and give you some breathing space. Practicing mindfulness regularly, even when you’re not feeling anxious, can provide you with the tools to bring your anxiety under control when it does arise.
Exercising regularly can also be a really helpful way to manage anxiety. If this feels difficult, try starting out gently by taking a walk, or standing up and stretching for a few minutes.
Movement and activity generates endorphins, which are our feel-good hormones. These hormones boost your mood and reduce anxiety.
For some people, caffeine and certain medications can produce anxiety symptoms or make their symptoms worse. In these cases, limiting caffeine and alcohol can help reduce anxiety.
Read about 15 small steps you can take to improve your anxiety.
Anxiety can sometimes make people feel alone or cut off from their surroundings, but anxiety disorders are more common than many people realize.
Peer support for anxiety disorders can be a helpful part of treatment. This could be through online communities or in-person meetings.
There are a number of resources online that can help:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). They provide links to education and support groups, tips for coping with anxiety disorders, and how to help others with anxiety.
- Mental Health America. Find a list of specialized online and local support groups.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline. Reach out 24/7 to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for help finding local assistance and support.
Find a local treatment provider.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.
- Text “HOME” to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
Not in the U.S.? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
- Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. ...
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
- Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. ...
- Use stress management and relaxation techniques. ...
- Make sleep a priority. ...
- Eat healthy.
- cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
- exposure therapy (behaviour therapy)
- interpersonal therapy (IPT)
- mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
- positive psychology.
- narrative therapy.
Anxiety disorders are a type of mental health condition. Anxiety makes it difficult to get through your day. Symptoms include feelings of nervousness, panic and fear as well as sweating and a rapid heartbeat. Treatments include medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.What is the first treatment for anxiety? ›
Antidepressants, including medications in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) classes, are the first line medication treatments.What is the safest treatment for anxiety? ›
SSRIs and SNRIs are often the first-line treatment for anxiety. Common SSRI brands are Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, and Zoloft, and common SNRI brands are Pristiq, Cymbalta, and Effexor XR. Pros: They are effective for a lot of people and they have a solid safety profile.What is the main symptoms of anxiety? ›
- Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
- Having an increased heart rate.
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Feeling weak or tired.
- Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.
- Stay active. ...
- Steer clear of alcohol. ...
- Consider quitting smoking cigarettes. ...
- Limit caffeine intake. ...
- Prioritize getting a good night's rest. ...
- Meditate and practice mindfulness. ...
- Eat a balanced diet. ...
- Practice deep breathing.
Anxiety disorders should be treated with psychological therapy, pharmacotherapy, or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be regarded as the psychotherapy with the highest level of evidence.What are 3 Treatments for anxiety? ›
Stress management techniques, such as exercise, mindfulness, and meditation, also can reduce anxiety symptoms and enhance the effects of psychotherapy. You can learn more about how these techniques benefit your treatment by talking with a health care provider.Can anxiety symptoms be cured? ›
Anxiety is not curable, but there are ways to keep it from being a big problem. Getting the right treatment for your anxiety will help you dial back your out-of-control worries so that you can get on with life. There are many ways to do this.
Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.What is the highest form of anxiety? ›
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
The main symptom of GAD is excessive worrying about different activities and events.
A person has panic attacks, which are intense, overwhelming and often uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD, is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.How long is treatment for anxiety? ›
Success of treatment varies, but most people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with professional care. Benefits of CBT are usually seen in 12 to 16 weeks. Medication may be a short-term or long-term treatment option, depending on severity of symptoms, other medical conditions and individual circumstances.How do I get tested for anxiety? ›
To diagnose an anxiety disorder, a doctor performs a physical exam, asks about your symptoms, and recommends a blood test, which helps the doctor determine if another condition, such as hypothyroidism, may be causing your symptoms. The doctor may also ask about any medications you are taking.Does anxiety increase with age? ›
Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults. This may be due to a number of factors, including changes in the brain and nervous system as we age, and being more likely to experience stressful life events that can trigger anxiety.Where does anxiety come from? ›
Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.What causes anxiety in the brain? ›
Anxiety happens when a part of the brain, the amygdala, senses trouble. When it senses threat, real or imagined, it surges the body with hormones (including cortisol, the stress hormone) and adrenaline to make the body strong, fast and powerful.How can I overcome anxiety permanently? ›
- Breathing techniques. One of the most important things to remember when you start to feel anxious is to breathe. ...
- Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is an excellent way to help reduce anxiety. ...
- Healthy diet. ...
- Reduce caffeine. ...
- Get outdoors. ...
- Aerobic exercise. ...
- Yoga and meditation. ...
Extreme feelings of fear or anxiety that are out of proportion to the actual threat. Irrational fear or worry about different objects or situations. Avoiding the source of your fear or only enduring it with great anxiety. Withdrawing from social situations or isolating yourself from friends and family.What vitamins are good for anxiety? ›
B-complex, vitamin E, vitamin C, GABA, and 5-HTP are 5 vitamins commonly used to help with anxiety and stress.Can I treat anxiety without medication? ›
The even better news: Many people respond well to anxiety treatment without medication. They find that their condition can often be managed entirely, or at least in part, with lifestyle changes and holistic therapies.What happens if anxiety is not cured? ›
Immune system deficiencies. High blood pressure and heart disease. Increased risk for other mental illnesses. Worsening risk for disorders like Cushing Syndrome.Can anxiety be controlled? ›
Some ways to manage anxiety disorders include learning about anxiety, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, correct breathing techniques, dietary adjustments, exercise, learning to be assertive, building self-esteem, cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, structured problem solving, medication and support groups.How serious is anxiety disorder? ›
Anxiety disorders are real, serious medical conditions - just as real and serious as physical disorders such as heart disease or diabetes. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.When is anxiety not normal? ›
Remember: anxiety isn't always a bad thing. We need the adrenaline rush anxiety can provide to stay alert or propel ourselves to action. However, when anxiety is constant, overwhelming, and interferes with your daily life, you may have an anxiety disorder that will require professional treatment.Is anxiety a lifetime condition? ›
Anxiety usually goes away once the triggering event is over, but it may reoccur depending on your life circumstances. An anxiety disorder can become a long-term condition. If left untreated, anxiety disorders can worsen and substantially disrupt your life.What chemical is high in anxiety? ›
However, epinephrine is the primary chemical because it is directly involved in your anxiety symptoms. When you experience an anxious moment, the amount of epinephrine circulating in your body will instantly increase in response to whatever has triggered your anxiety.What type of person has anxiety? ›
Research suggests that people with certain personality traits are more likely to have anxiety. For example, children who are perfectionists, easily flustered, timid, inhibited, lack self-esteem or want to control everything, sometimes develop anxiety during childhood, adolescence or as adults.
Brain imaging can reveal unsuspected causes of your anxiety. Anxiety can be caused by many things, such as neurohormonal imbalances, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or head injuries. Brain scans can offer clues to potential root causes of your anxiety, which can help find the most effective treatment plan.What are 3 treatments for anxiety? ›
Stress management techniques, such as exercise, mindfulness, and meditation, also can reduce anxiety symptoms and enhance the effects of psychotherapy. You can learn more about how these techniques benefit your treatment by talking with a health care provider.What are 3 alternative treatments for anxiety? ›
Progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, biofeedback, meditation, and self hypnosis can help you relax and reduce your anxiety. Music therapy, visual imagery, and aromatherapy may also help reduce feelings of anxiety.How can I reduce anxiety immediately? ›
- Breathe. One of the best things you can do when you start to feel that familiar panicky feeling is to breathe. ...
- Name what you're feeling. ...
- Try the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. ...
- Try the “File It” mind exercise. ...
- Run. ...
- Think about something funny. ...
- Distract yourself. ...
- Take a cold shower (or an ice plunge)
Anxiety disorders are very treatable. Most patients who suffer from anxiety are able to reduce or eliminate symptoms after several (or fewer) months of psychotherapy, and many patients notice improvement after just a few sessions.What are traditional treatments for anxiety? ›
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), supportive psychotherapy, and psychopharmacology are widely used conventional treatments of anxiety.How do hospitals treat anxiety? ›
Psychotherapy is also effective for managing anxiety in the medically ill. Supportive therapy and brief cognitive-behavioral therapy can be readily used at bedside or in an office. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is an option for those patients who are more resilient and whose condition is less acute.How I healed my anxiety without drugs? ›
- Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
- Avoid Stimulants. ...
- Get Enough Sleep. ...
- Just Breathe. ...
- Practice Mindfulness. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Do What You Enjoy. ...
- Where to Get Help.
Carbohydrates are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains — for example, oatmeal, quinoa, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals.How long does anxiety usually last? ›
From the time of diagnosis, an anxiety disorder can last from a few months to many years. Most people will have symptoms of an anxiety disorder for a long time before seeking professional help, sometimes up to 15 years³.