February 22, 2024

The Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders: Understanding the Scope of the Problem

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million adults aged 18 and older (18% of the population). Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. It’s not hard to understand why anxiety disorders are so common in our society; the stress of daily life, traumatic events, or genetics can all contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be divided into six main categories:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worrying, often about everyday things such as health, finances, or relationships.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder is a fear of social situations and of being judged or evaluated by others.
  • Panic Disorder is characterized by sudden and intense episodes of fear, accompanied by physical symptoms such as a racing heart and difficulty breathing.
  • Agoraphobia is a fear of being in certain situations or places where escape might be difficult or embarrassing.
  • Specific Phobias are intense fears of certain objects or situations, such as spiders, flying, or public speaking.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, such as repeatedly checking to see if the door is locked.

Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders

There are several risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder, including:

  • Genetics: Anxiety disorders can be inherited from family members.
  • Stressful life events: Experiencing trauma, loss, or other stressors can trigger anxiety.
  • Personality: People with certain personality types may be more prone to anxiety.
  • Brain chemistry: Imbalances in certain brain chemicals can cause anxiety.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

The symptoms of anxiety disorders can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

  • Physical symptoms: trembling, sweating, nausea, dizziness, racing heart, difficulty breathing.
  • Emotional symptoms: fear, worry, panic, feeling overwhelmed, feeling powerless.
  • Behavioral symptoms: avoidance of certain situations, obsessive thinking, compulsive behaviors.

Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms can be vague and may overlap with other conditions. In order to diagnose an anxiety disorder, a doctor will typically:

  • Take a medical history and ask about symptoms.
  • Conduct a physical exam to rule out other possible causes.
  • Conduct psychological tests to assess the severity of the symptoms.
  • Make a diagnosis based on the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

The treatment of anxiety disorders depends on the type and severity of the disorder, but typically includes:

  • Medication: Medication can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, such as racing thoughts and physical symptoms.
  • Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other types of therapy can help a person learn to manage their symptoms and cope with stressful situations.
  • Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep can help reduce anxiety.


Anxiety disorders are common, but they are also highly treatable. If you are experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. With the right treatment, you can learn to manage your symptoms and lead a more fulfilling life.

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