Anxiety Disorder: What Are They and What Causes Them?

Aug 11, 2021
Anxiety Disorder: What Are They and What Causes Them?
Anxiety disorders are more common than you might think. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting more than 40 million adults.


Anxiety disorders are more common than you might think. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting more than 40 million adults. But what exactly is an anxiety disorder? And how does it affect your life? Here’s the scoop on the five most common types of anxiety disorders and how they can affect your life.

What is an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorders are often considered to be separate disorders — which is helpful because they are different. But even though they are different, they can often be confused with each other, and that can be frustrating. 

Anxiety disorders affect different people at different times in their lives. Anxiety disorders are common in people who are middle-aged or older and are more common among people with a mental illness. Anxiety also affects young children who are plagued by nightmares, fear of the dark, and imaginary friends which could be normal or age appropriate. Children experience a range of emotions, and they’re often unable to understand and communicate their feelings. As children grow older, they may develop anxiety disorders, which may be triggered by outside forces such as school, bullying, or a change in routine.

What are the general symptoms?

The following signs and symptoms are common among those anxiety disorders. 

  • Feeling nervous, restless, or tense
  • A sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Increased heart rate or palpitation
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or easy distraction
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
  • Having difficulty controlling worry
  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
  • Poor attention span

What causes anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are related to how your brain processes information. That is why you might get anxious when you are sitting in class waiting for your turn to speak. And it’s why you get nervous at the dentist even though it is nothing serious. Anxiety disorders can arise from certain triggers or stressful situations that interfere with your normal life. Examples of stressful situations might include worrying about job security, an upcoming test, being in a room with lots of people, or having a phone conversation with a potential employer. Symptoms of anxiety disorders vary from person to person, but they are generally exaggerated, making you feel less calm or unable to be in control of your surroundings..

What are the types of anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as a long-term, recurrent condition characterized by anxious thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, or behaviors that interfere with daily life. About 5 to 8 percent of Americans are affected by a generalized anxiety disorder. The anxiety can be more severe than in typical stress-related anxiety disorders. For example, people with a generalized anxiety disorder may avoid doing activities or spend a great deal of time thinking about how they will respond in the event of a given situation. Some people with generalized anxiety disorder develop agoraphobia or a fear of leaving their house.

Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is characterized by a sudden episode of feelings of impending doom including death like situation. Panic attacks can last from minutes to hours, and there may be a pattern of recurrence, such as an increasing number of attacks in the same week or associated with a triggering event. Panic attacks can be triggered by physical or psychological factors, such as thinking about a stressful situation or anticipation of a panic episode.

Phobia-related disorders: Phobias are persistent, unreasonable fears. These include fears about snakes, heights, flying, rejection, dead bodies, germs, people, closets or blood. A phobia typically begins in early childhood or adolescence and persists through adulthood, but some people can overcome their phobias with therapy. Generally, fear is related to a perceived threat. Phobias vary widely in intensity, duration, and anxiety triggered by the phobia. They can make everyday life challenging as they interfere with a person's ability to function normally.

The body's response to anxiety has a positive impact on well-being. When you feel anxious, permit yourself to feel this way. By accepting anxiety as part of life and permitting yourself to feel the discomfort, you're able to get through it. 

What are the treatments?

In most cases, people with anxiety disorders will require medical and psychiatric treatment. Some anxiety disorders may be treated with anti-depressants. In other cases, therapy and/or psychotherapy may be a good option. There are many forms of treatment available that have been proven to help most people with anxiety disorders. There is also a newer groundbreaking treatment known as TMS therapy that is effective in treating anxiety.

Some anxiety disorders are more common than others, but all of them can have serious negative impacts on people’s lives. These disorders can be treated but it takes an experienced psychiatrist to determine the right treatment for you.