Anxiety is usually characterized as a feeling of nervousness and fear that comes on during times of emotional stress. Almost everyone experiences some anxiety periodically.

When anxiety is a near constant emotion, or when it is extreme or out of proportion for a particular situation, it can interfere with a person’s ability to function and perform daily activities. Such cases are considered an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety Disorders: Symptoms

Anxiety disorder symptoms vary somewhat, depending on the type of disorder. The major types of anxiety disorders and some of their characteristic symptoms are:

  • Acute stress disorder: Feelings of terror lasting up to four weeks following a specific traumatic life event
  • Childhood anxiety disorder: Excessive anxiety in children
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Constant or near-constant worrying, often accompanied by physical symptoms of anxiety such as trembling, sweating and muscle tension
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder: Persistent negative thoughts and an overwhelming need for rituals, such as frequent hand washing or repeatedly checking on things
  • Panic disorder: Frequent, sudden onset of panic attacks, which are episodes of extreme emotional and physical anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: Feelings of terror lasting longer than four weeks following a specific traumatic life event
  • Separation anxiety disorder: Anxious feelings and physical signs of anxiety brought on during separation from a caregiver or other loved one
  • Social anxiety disorder: Excessive anxiety brought on by social situations
  • Specific phobias: Irrational fear of a specific thing or situation.

Anxiety Disorders: Causes

The cause of an anxiety disorder varies from person to person, and is often due to multiple factors. Some of the factors that contribute to anxiety disorders include:

  • Brain chemistry: Like depression, anxiety disorders are associated with certain brain chemicals that affect mood and emotions.
  • Emotional stress: Traumatic life experiences increase the chances of developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Genetics: Anxiety disorders tend to run in families, indicating a possible genetic link.
  • Personality: Some people have an anxious personality; this trait may make them more susceptible to anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders: Treatments

Treatments often include medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Medications may include anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants and beta-blockers, and must be prescribed by a doctor.

Psychotherapy is often used to teach the patient how to alter the thinking patterns that promote anxious feelings and how to manage stressful situations in a productive way.

Some patients respond well to alternative treatments for anxiety disorders. Such treatments include hypnotherapy and relaxation techniques. A healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep can help reduce stress and anxiety.


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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Generalized anxiety disorder. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from

 Posted on : June 11, 2014