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Anxiety Disorders

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Feeling anxiety sometimes is normal and something that everyone experiences. For instance, if you are going to be giving a presentation to your classmates at school or if you are going to be performing in front of a large audience in a talent show, you may feel nervous and stressed leading up to the event. Anxiety can even be a good thing since it can indicate danger and make sure we stay alert in order to stay safe, as Cleveland Clinic explains. But what makes anxiety disorders different from regular anxiety is that there are repeated episodes of abrupt feelings of strong anxiety and fear that can reach a pinnacle in minutes (panic attacks), as Mayo Clinic says. Mayo Clinic goes on to say that the anxiety and panic start to disrupt daily activities, are hard to regulate, are excessive to the actual danger, and may last for a long while when a person has an anxiety disorder. The person may avoid places or situations to try to stop having these feelings and symptoms may begin in childhood or teenager years and persist into adulthood. The American Psychiatric Association says that around 30% of adults are impacted by an anxiety disorder at some time in their life and that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders. There are treatments available for anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

According to Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, some anxiety symptoms and signs include:

  • Feeling nervous, tense, or restless

  • Feeling that there is impending danger, panic, or doom

  • Having a higher heart rate

  • Breathing quickly (hyperventilation)

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Feeling weak or tired

  • Having a hard time concentrating or focusing on something other than the ongoing worry

  • Having a hard time sleeping

  • Going through gastrointestinal issues

  • Having a hard time regulating worry

  • Wanting to avoid situations that cause anxiety

  • Cold or sweaty hands

  • Dry mouth

  • Nausea

  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet

  • Nightmares

  • Recurring thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic occurrences

  • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts

  • Not being able to stay still or claim

  • Ritualistic behaviors, like washing hands again and again

Some Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: According to the American Psychiatric Association, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) entails ongoing and excessive worry that disrupts daily activities. The persistent worry and anxiety comes with physical symptoms, including restlessness, feeling on edge or easily tired, having a hard time concentrating, muscle tension, or issues sleeping. The worries often have to do with everyday things, including job obligations, family health or small issues like chores, car repairs, or appointments.

Panic Disorder: Cleveland Clinic explains that panic disorder involves getting intense, sudden panic attacks. These panic attacks involve stronger, more intense feelings compared to other types of anxiety disorders. The feelings of fear may begin suddenly and without warning or may be caused by some trigger, such as a situation the person does not like. Panic attacks seem like heart attacks. If you feel you are experiencing a heart attack, go to the emergency room since it is better to be cautious by seeing a doctor. In a panic attack, a person may go through sweating, heart palpitations (the person feels like their heart is pounding), chest pain, a feeling of choking that may seem like a heart attack or “going crazy.” Panic attacks are incredibly disconcerting and people with panic disorder are usually spending a large amount of time worrying about the next panic attack. They also may attempt to avoid things that can cause an attack.

Phobias and Specific Phobias: Cleveland Clinic says that phobias are strong fear of certain situations or objects. Some fears may seem logical, like fear of snakes, but usually, the level of fear is not proportionate. People may take a large amount of time trying to avoid situations that can trigger the phobia. Specific phobias are an intense fear of a specific object or situation that may lead someone to avoid everyday situations. The object and situation may not be harmful as the American Psychiatric Association explains. The person may know the fear is excessive but they can not control it. Some specific phobias are fear of animals (spiders, dogs, snakes, etc.), blood, flying, heights, and injections.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Cleveland Clinic and the American Psychiatric Association state that this used to be known as social phobia. Social anxiety disorder involves excessive worry and self-consciousness with daily social interactions or extreme anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected, or disrespected in social interactions. The person is worried others will judge them and they are anxious they will embarrass themselves or be ridiculed. People with social anxiety disorder may completely avoid social situations or go through them with extreme anxiety. The fear or anxiety causes issues with daily functioning and goes on for at least 6 months. Some common fears are fear of public speaking, interacting with new people, or eating or drinking in public.

Agoraphobia: Cleveland Clinic says that if someone has agoraphobia, it often involves having an intense fear of being overwhelmed or not being able to access help. The person usually has a fear of two or more of the following environments: enclosed spaces, lines or crowds, open spaces, places outside the home, and public transportation. In extreme situations, people with agoraphobia may not leave the house ever since they are scared of experiencing a panic attack in public where they may not be able to leave or reach help, so they would rather stay inside.

Separation Anxiety Disorder: Cleveland Clinic and the American Psychiatric Association say, separation anxiety disorder often occurs in children or teens that may be nervous about being away from their parents. Children with separation anxiety disorder may be scared that their parents will get hurt somehow or not return like they promise. This occurs in preschoolers often but older children and adults that go through a stressful event can have separation anxiety disorder too. The person is overly nervous of scared about being separated from the people they are attached to, and the feeling is excessive for what is appropriate for the person’s age, continues, and causes issues in functioning. The person may not want to go out or sleep away from home or without the person they are attached to, or may have nightmares about being separated.

Selective mutism: Mayo Clinic explains that selective mutism is a persisting failure of children to speak or talk in specific situations, like in school, even if they can speak in other situations, like at home or with family. This can disrupt school, work, and functioning in public or with others.


Substance-induced Anxiety Disorder: Mayo Clinic states that substance-induced anxiety disorder has symptoms of intense anxiety or panic that are caused by misusing drugs, taking medications, coming into contact with a toxic substance, or withdrawal from drugs.

Anxiety Disorder Because of A Medical Condition: Mayo Clinic says this anxiety disorder has symptoms of strong anxiety or panic that is caused by a physical health issue.

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

Like Cleveland Clinic explains, anxiety disorders are not caused by personal weakness, character flaws, or issues with how you were raised. Researchers are not entirely sure as to what causes anxiety disorders. It may be a combination of factors, such as chemical imbalance, environmental factors, and heredity. Chemical imbalance refers to how extreme or chronic stress can change the chemical balance that regulates mood. Going though a large amount of stress for a long time can cause an anxiety disorder. Some environmental factors are going though a trauma that might cause an anxiety disorder, particularly in a person that has inherited a higher risk to begin with. Anxiety disorders may also run in families and you may inherit them from your parents. Mayo Clinic also says that stress because of an illness or worrying because of a health condition or serious illness may increase someone’s risk of having an anxiety disorder. Another risk factor is when a large event or a combination of small stressful life events may cause excessive anxiety. People with particular personality types are also more at risk of anxiety disorders. People that have other mental health disorders, such as depression, may have an anxiety disorder too. Drug or alcohol use or abuse and withdrawal may make anxiety worse.

Cleveland Clinic explains how if you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is important to discuss them with a healthcare provider, who will likely get a full medical history and physical examination. They may do some lab tests or scans to rule out physical conditions that may cause the symptoms. A psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional are trained in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They may use specifically designed interviews and assessment tool to determine whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. Mental health professionals often use your reported symptoms, the impact of your symptoms on your life, and their observation of your attitude and behavior to make a diagnosis. It is important to get treatment if you feel you have an anxiety disorder. There is no shame in getting help and it is better to try to treat anxiety early on before it gets worse.


Cleveland Clinic and the American Psychiatric Association say that most anxiety disorders are treatment with psychotherapy or “talk therapy,” and medications. Some people may be given both or just one. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type to talk therapy where a person learns a different way of thinking, reacting, and behaving to lower anxiety levels. A person identifies thought patterns and behavior that cause troublesome feelings so the person can try to change them. Exposure therapy concentrates on handling the fears behind an anxiety disorder. It helps a person interact with activities or situations that the person is avoiding, relaxation exercises and imagery may be used with this therapy. Medications won’t cure anxiety disorders but can help give relief from symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications are often used and prescribed for a short time and antidepressants may be used. Beta-blockers may be used to regulate physical symptoms. People can also take action on their own. For instance, stress management techniques and meditation can help. Support groups can allow people to share their experience and different coping strategies. Getting information on details of a disorder and assisting family and friends in understanding a condition more can help. It is good to avoid caffeine, which can exacerbate symptoms, and talk to a doctor about medication. Again, it is important to seek treatment rather than just trying to handle a disorder on your own since mental health professionals can help you.

Help your child understand the concept of time by saying what time it is during routine activities. Use and explain words like morning, noon, night, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Make a timeline together showing a typical day, with drawings of regular events and the time of day written beneath each one.


1. “Anxiety Disorders.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 May 2018,

2. “Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatments.” Cleveland Clinic,

3. “What Are Anxiety Disorders?” – What Are Anxiety Disorders?,