Anxiety disorders are a cluster of mental disorders characterized by significant and uncontrollable feelings of anxiety and fear such that a person’s social, occupational, and personal function are significantly impaired. Anxiety is a worry about future events, while fear is a reaction to current events.
Anxiety may cause physical and cognitive symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, easy fatigability, difficulty concentrating, increased heart rate, chest pain, abdominal pain, and many others.
In casual discourse the words anxiety and fear are often used interchangeably; in clinical usage, they have distinct meanings: anxiety is defined as an unpleasant emotional state for which the cause is either not readily identified or perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable, whereas fear” is an emotional and physiological response to a recognized external threat.
The umbrella term anxiety disorder refers to a number of specific disorders that include fears (phobias) or anxiety symptoms
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and selective mutism.
The individual disorder can be diagnosed by the specific and unique symptoms, triggering events, and timing.
If a person is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a medical professional must have evaluated the person to ensure the anxiety cannot be attributed to a medical illness or mental disorder.
It is possible for an individual to have more than one anxiety disorder during their life or at the same time. There are numerous treatments and strategies that can improve a person’s mood, behaviors, and functioning in daily life.
Focus is increasing on prevention of anxiety disorders. There is tentative evidence to support the use of cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness therapy.
A 2013 review found no effective measures to prevent GAD in adults.
A 2017 review found that psychological and educational interventions had a small benefit for the prevention of anxiety.
Treatment options include lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications. There is no clear evidence as to whether therapy or medication is most effective; the specific medication decision can be made by a doctor and patient with consideration to the patient’s specific circumstances and symptoms.
If while on treatment with a chosen medication, the person does not improve with his or her anxiety, another medication may be offered. Specific treatments will vary by subtype of anxiety disorder, a person’s other medical conditions, and medications.
Globally as of 2010 approximately 273 million (4.5% of the population) had an anxiety disorder.