Anxiety Disorders

In anxiety disorders, feelings of anxiety are of such an extent and long-lasting that they can interfere with daily activities such as work, studies and relationships. There are several different types of anxiety disorders.

Types and symptoms

Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves excessive anxiety or worry for months and symptoms include:

  • Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating or your mind goes blank
  • Becoming fatigued easily
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty in managing or controlling your worry
  • Problems sleeping, such as difficulty staying asleep, falling to sleep or lack of sound sleep

Panic Disorder is marked by recurring unpredictable panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that could include sweating, heart palpitations, acceleration or pounding, sweating; shakiness or trembling; feeling short of breath, smothering or choking; and a feeling of impending doom. The symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Sudden and recurring attacks of intense fear
  • Feelings of loss of control during a panic attack
  • Intense worries about the onset of the next attack
  • Avoidance or fear of places where past panic attacks occurred

Social Anxiety Disorder is also known as social phobia and is characterized by a fear of social or performance situations in which sufferers expect to feel embarrassed, judged, rejected, or fearful of offending others. Symptoms include:

  • Intense anxiety about being around other people and having a hard time communicating with them
  • Acute self-consciousness in front of others and worry about feeling embarrassed, humiliated, or rejected, or a fear of offending people
  • Worry that other people will judge you
  • Apprehension for days or weeks before an event
  • Avoiding places where other people are
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Sweating, trembling or blushing around other people
  • Feeling nauseous when people are around you


It is believed that genetic and environmental factors – often in interaction with each other- are risk factors for anxiety disorders. Some specific risk factors are:

  • Childhood shyness
  • Anxiety disorders in close biological relatives or parental history of mental disorders
  • Lack of economic resources
  • Being widowed/divorced
  • Being female
  • Exposure to stressful life events
  • Elevated afternoon cortisol levels in the saliva (in social anxiety disorder)

A thorough mental health evaluation for anxiety suffers is recommended as anxiety disorders are often accompanied by related conditions such as OCD or depression.