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Anxiety Disorders: Symptoms, Types, Causes, and Treatment

Anxiety is a good thing when we are in a threatening or dangerous situation because it helps us respond appropriately. Other times anxiety can be a problem when it happens for no reason and is caused by irrational fears that just won't go away. People who have these irrational fears and a lot of anxiety for no reason have an anxiety disorder. In this article, we will discuss, in detail, the Symptoms, Types, Causes, and Treatment of different anxiety disorders.

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders refer to a range of conditions characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, or anxiety. These disorders are more than just temporary feelings of stress or nervousness; they can interfere with one's ability to function and enjoy life.

There are many types of anxiety disorders, including panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and different phobias. Some people experience these feelings so severely that it interferes with their ability to cope with daily life.

It's not uncommon for people to suffer from more than one type of anxiety disorder - for example, someone experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder may also feel frequent panic attacks. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can also be tied to depression, and so on.

There is help - whether it's therapy or medication there is a solution out there that can help you regain control of your life. A qualified professional can guide you to the right treatment for your anxiety, no matter what you are suffering from.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Anxiety can strike without warning. Most of us know when we are being attacked by stress. However, how would you feel if that level of panic permeated through your day, every day? This is what it feels like to suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

A person who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder never loses feelings of stress or panic. They constantly operate with a level of fear and worry coursing through their veins. They cannot control their worry and their stress is not central to any one activity or idea.

If you are an adult who has a Generalized Anxiety Disorder you may worry to the extreme over very common stressors such as money, family matters, your health or the health of a loved one, or issues at work.

In addition, children are known to exhibit issues with Generalized Anxiety Disorders and those who suffer from this tend to express an overt amount of stress and energy worrying about their performance in school sports, the approval of a parent, or a grade on a test. A child who suffers from anxiety might also exhibit other problems in social settings and they may have a hard time making friends. (See hereGAD in Children)

Finally, there are also physical symptoms involved when an individual has an anxiety disorder. Sometimes these symptoms mimic a heart attack and other times can be associated with feelings of tiredness and exhaustion, as well as issues with falling asleep easily or staying asleep. A person is also likely to feel nauseous, have stomach pains, and feel lightheaded.

An anxiety disorder also will leave a person feeling on edge and someone who suffers from this problem can have problems with concentrating and show symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Anxiety has also been proven to manifest itself through other issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and incontinence.

  Read more here onSome of the Anxiety Disorder Symptoms which are commonly experienced.

If you exhibit any of these feelings or if you feel out of control with worry, you must contact a health professional.

Anxiety Disorder Causes

The direct cause of an anxiety disorder cannot be pinpointed nor can it be attributed to a certain type of person or behavior. However, some studies suggest an anxiety disorder could be genetic and possibly be suffered by multiple members of a family.

Some underlying conditions can be a trigger for an anxiety disorder including hyperthyroidism. It will be necessary for your physician to do a thyroid test to make sure that your anxiety does not stem from a glandular issue.

Finally, it is wise to consult with your doctor if you currently use or are on a variety of medications that could cause additional stress, erratic behavior, and/or increased anxiety. Medications and drugs such as caffeine and any drug that is made with amphetamines, such as Ritalin, could make anxiety symptoms worse.

Additionally, if you suffer from anxiety it is always wise to avoid the use of illegal stimulant drugs such as cocaine, which can be detrimental to the health of your heart and nervous system.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is one of the most diagnosed types of anxiety disorder conditions and is characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not based on any sort of rational fear or any threat to your well-being.

At some point in each person's life, they experience some form of generalized anxiety. The unwarranted lack of ability to shake off stress and worry can manifest itself into Anxiety. Anything you find difficult to deal with can trigger nervousness and anticipation but if the feelings are more intense and prominent than you feel the situation needs cause, you are most likely to be suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

People with GAD have a hard time explaining just what they are so worried about and fearful of. It can last for as long as six months or more and is characterized by symptoms that include dizziness, racing heartbeat, terrible headaches, trouble sleeping, and other physical symptoms that can come on with little or no warning.

Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder include:
  • Exaggerated Worry
  • Shaking
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is among the most common treatable mental disorders. Behavioral therapy and/or relaxation techniques are the most common treatment for this disorder.

[Read more here on → Generalized Anxiety Disorder]


Other people have an anxiety disorder called a phobia, which is an irrational fear of a place, a thing or a situation not based on any real danger. Everyone has things they are afraid of but with a phobia, the fear is much more intense and felt very strongly.

This type of anxiety disorder causes people to feel sick to their stomachs, causes their hearts to race, and makes them feel shaky and out of breath.

[Read more here on → Phobia]

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD occurs after a person faces an extremely physically (or emotionally) dangerous, threatening, or traumatic event in his life (e.g., an accident, witnessing a crime, or the death of a loved one). Elevated stress at this level is caused usually by a person being harmed themselves or being witness to a harmful event.

People with PTSD have a sudden and severe reaction to stimuli like a person, place, or situation that reminds them of the traumatic event they went through and that brings on their post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was originally recognized and brought to our attention by war veterans, although it can be induced by any variety of traumatic incidents including natural disasters.

Not every person involved in a traumatic incident develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The symptoms would usually take form within three months of the incident but in rare cases, they may not initially take effect for some years.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder include:
  • Easily Startled
  • Emotionally Numb
  • Irritable
  • Aggressive
A combination of psychotherapy and anti-depressants is most frequently used to treat PTSD.

Is PTSD an anxiety disorder?

In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), PTSD is classified as a trauma and stressor-related disorder, rather than an anxiety disorder. This is because the DSM-5 criteria for PTSD focus on the symptoms that are specifically caused by a traumatic event, rather than the symptoms that are shared with anxiety disorders.

Here are some of the reasons why PTSD is no longer considered an anxiety disorder:
  • PTSD is triggered by a specific event, while anxiety disorders are typically triggered by a general fear of the unknown.
  • PTSD symptoms are more severe than anxiety disorder symptoms.
  • PTSD symptoms can last for months or even years, while anxiety disorder symptoms typically go away within a few weeks or months.
However, there is still some debate about whether PTSD should be classified as an anxiety disorder. Some experts believe that the symptoms of PTSD are so similar to those of anxiety disorders that it makes sense to classify them together. Others believe that the unique features of PTSD, such as the requirement for a traumatic event, warrant a separate classification.

There are strong arguments to be made on both sides. However, we need to remember that the DSM-5 is a living document, and the classification of mental disorders can change over time. It is possible that PTSD will be classified as an anxiety disorder in future editions of the DSM.

I think that PTSD is a unique disorder that shares some similarities with anxiety disorders but also has some important differences. I think that it is important to recognize the unique features of PTSD so that people can get the best possible treatment.

[Read more here on → Post-traumatic stress disorder]

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD causes people to have thoughts and ideas in their head that they just cannot get rid of so they are forced to act on these thoughts over and over again. They simply are not able to get the fears, thoughts, or ideas out of their mind.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often used to describe people in an offhand manner for being an extremely meticulous person.

Although this is not entirely incorrect, a person suffering from this disorder is often characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions. These rituals when performed attempt to neutralize the obsession somewhat and create a feeling of control.

Someone carrying such traits as perfectionism or fixation is not necessarily suffering from OCD; you must have either obsessions and/or compulsions and the individual must realize these are excessive.

Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder include:
  • Persistent Thoughts/Impulses
  • Reoccurring Images
  • Repetitive Behaviors
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder usually responds well to certain medications but exposure-based psychotherapy has proven most beneficial to individuals suffering from a common compulsion.

[Read more here on → Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)]

Panic Disorder

Whilst suffering from panic disorder you are susceptible to having feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. You will likely suffer from anxiety between episodes due to the fact you cannot predict when the next attack will occur.

Because of the unpredictability of this and the constant worry, it is very common for depression or alcoholism to accompany this type of disorder. Panic Disorder often causes a phobia of the specific place your panic attack previously occurred and may cause you to avoid such a place again.

Panic disorder often affects young adults between the age of 18 and 24 and can last from a few months to many years depending on how the symptoms are treated.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder:
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Elevated Heart Beat
  • Trouble Breathing
In most cases, medication is issued and the panic attacks will clear in a matter of weeks, but in other instances, counseling may be required to help you cope with reoccurring panic attacks.

[Read more here on → Panic and Anxiety Disorder]

Social Anxiety Disorder: Social Phobia

Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of people and social situations which is typically caused by not wanting to be judged negatively, embarrassed, or criticized, be it publicly or on a one-to-one level.

People with this condition dread everyday activities such as working, school, shopping and generally socializing. This forms such an ordeal with them as they are marked by persistent feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness.

More specific deeper rooted causes are the phobia of speaking in public, eating in public, and dealing with authority figures.

Physical symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Sweating
The two treatments to manage social phobia are psychological counseling and medicines. These two may be used in combination.

Read more here on → Social Anxiety Disorder

Read also: Glossophobia: Fear of public speaking

Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks

People suffering from many anxiety disorders (including social anxiety) commonly experience anxiety attacks, which, many times, are also called panic attacks. An anxiety attack is far more intense than just feeling anxious or stressed.

The symptoms of an anxiety attack include:
  • a raging heartbeat,
  • difficulty breathing,
  • hyperventilating,
  • paralyzing terror,
  • dizziness,
  • light-headedness,
  • nausea,
  • trembling,
  • sweating,
  • shaking,
  • choking,
  • chest pains,
  • hot flashes,
  • sudden chills,
  • tingling fingers or toes,
  • fear that you are losing your mind or dying.
A person may experience all, or some, of these symptoms during a panic attack. Different people will experience the symptoms to varying degrees.

If a person who has never experienced an anxiety attack before has one, it can be a very frightening experience. Statistics show that one out of every seventy-five people will experience at least one anxiety attack within their lifetime.

Anxiety attacks reach their maximum intensity within the first couple of minutes, then slowly diminish over the next several hours. The anxiety attack can even be completely over in as little as thirty minutes. After a person’s first anxiety attack, medical treatment should be sought, to be sure that it was, in fact, an anxiety attack, and not a more serious problem.

Medical researchers have found that there are three different types of anxiety attacks: Spontaneous attacks, specific attacks, and situational predisposed attacks.
  • Spontaneous attacks are associated with panic disorder. These attacks give no warning and can occur for absolutely no apparent reason.
  • Specific anxiety attacks are triggered by a specific feared situation or place. The anxiety attacks that people with Social Anxiety often experience fall into this category.
  • Situationally predisposed attacks are also a sign of panic disorder. Some people may be predisposed to having an anxiety attack in a certain situation or place, even though they have no known fear of the situation or place.
Anxiety attacks are sometimes treated with medication, however, they are best treated with more natural therapy, such as counseling and deep breathing.

While anxiety attacks are not fully understood, often, a person can get to the true cause of the attacks with counseling. Furthermore, just because a person experiences one anxiety attack, it does not necessarily mean that they will ever experience another one in their lives.

    Read more:

Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are treatable, and several effective interventions can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Treatment options may include psychotherapy, medications, and complementary and alternative approaches.


Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely used therapy for anxiety disorders. It helps individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop healthier coping strategies.

Exposure Therapy: This form of therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to feared situations or objects in a controlled and supportive environment. It aims to reduce anxiety and increase tolerance.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT combines elements of CBT with mindfulness practices. It can be helpful for individuals with anxiety disorders who also struggle with emotional regulation and interpersonal difficulties.


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are a class of antidepressant medications commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders. They work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, helping to alleviate symptoms.

Benzodiazepines: These medications can provide short-term relief for severe anxiety symptoms. However, they are typically prescribed cautiously due to the risk of dependence and other potential side effects.

Beta Blockers: Beta blockers are primarily used to manage physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat and trembling. They work by blocking the effects of adrenaline.

Both antidepressants and antianxiety medications are used to treat anxiety disorders. The first medication specifically approved for use to treat OCD was the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine. SSRIs, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline are now used for the treatment of OCD. Paroxetine is used for social anxiety disorder (social phobia), GAD, and panic disorder; and sertraline is used for panic disorder and PTSD. Venlafaxine is used for GAD.

Types of Medications:

  • Anti-Anxiety Drugs such as benzodiazepines, Buspirone, Clonazepam
  • Beta-Blockers such as propranolol
  • SSRIs also known as selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • MAOIs also known as Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors
  • TCAs also known as Tricyclic anti-depressants
  • SNRIs also known as Serotonin and Noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors

Some of the drugs related to SNRIs and SSRIs come with side effects related to sleeplessness, and generally, these side effects will disappear as the medicine works its way into the system of the patient. The medicines, of course, can all have different effects based upon the unique makeup of each patient, and therefore, you must have an open conversation with your doctor about symptoms and the way you feel.

Complementary and Alternative Approaches

Relaxation techniques: Practices like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness-based practices can help individuals cultivate present-moment awareness and develop a non-judgmental attitude toward their thoughts and emotions.

    Read moreMeditation Techniques for Anxiety, Sleep and Panic Attacks

Exercise and physical activity: Regular physical activity has been shown to have mood-enhancing effects and can reduce symptoms of anxiety.

    Read alsoHow to Relieve Stress and Anxiety without Medication

Other Coping Strategies and Lifestyle Changes

In addition to formal treatment, individuals with anxiety disorders can benefit from implementing various coping strategies and making positive lifestyle changes.

Self-care practices

Engaging in self-care activities that promote relaxation and well-being can be beneficial for managing anxiety. This can include activities like taking breaks, practicing hobbies, getting enough sleep, and nurturing social connections.

Stress management techniques

Learning effective stress management techniques can help individuals reduce anxiety levels. These techniques may include time management, setting realistic expectations, practicing assertiveness, and engaging in stress-reducing activities such as yoga or mindfulness.

    Read also11 Must-Know Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Healthy lifestyle habits

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can support overall mental health. This includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, minimizing caffeine and alcohol intake, and getting sufficient sleep. These habits can positively impact anxiety levels.

    Read alsoFoods for Anxiety

Support and Resources

Having access to support networks and resources is crucial for individuals with anxiety disorders. There are several avenues where individuals can seek help, guidance, and connection.

Professional support networks

Mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors, can provide specialized support and treatment for anxiety disorders. Seeking professional help is recommended for accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plans.

Support groups and online communities

Joining support groups or online communities can provide individuals with anxiety disorders a sense of belonging and understanding. These spaces offer opportunities to share experiences, gain insights, and receive support from peers who may be facing similar challenges.

Helplines and crisis hotlines

Helplines and crisis hotlines provide immediate assistance for individuals in distress. They offer a listening ear, guidance, and referrals to appropriate resources. These services can be particularly valuable during times of heightened anxiety or crisis.


If it is any consolation, you are not alone. Anxiety symptoms are felt by millions of people every year.
For many though, this becomes a part of life and often requires professional help to manage, treat, and yes, cure.

There is hope. You won’t have to live with an anxiety disorder forever if you seek medical attention and do exactly what your doctor prescribes.

    Read alsoHow to Deal with Anxiety: Basics and Beyond

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Are anxiety disorders more common in certain age groups?

A1. Anxiety disorders can affect individuals of all ages, but they often emerge during childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.

Q2. Can anxiety disorders be cured?

A2. While anxiety disorders cannot be completely cured, they can be effectively managed with the help of therapy, medication, and self-care strategies.

Q3. Are there any natural remedies for anxiety disorders?

A3. While some natural remedies like exercise, relaxation techniques, and herbal supplements may help alleviate anxiety symptoms, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before trying any alternative treatments.

Q4. Is medication necessary for treating anxiety disorders?

A4. Medication can be an effective component of treatment for anxiety disorders, especially in severe cases. It is best prescribed by a qualified healthcare professional who can assess the individual's specific needs.

Q5. How can I help someone with an anxiety disorder?

A5. Offering support, being patient, and encouraging them to seek professional help are some ways you can assist someone with an anxiety disorder.

I hope this article has provided valuable insights into anxiety disorders and empowered you to seek the support and resources you need. Remember, you are not alone, and help is available. Take the first step towards managing anxiety and prioritizing your well-being.


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