Anxiety Disorder Research Articles & Resources

Leigh Morgan
Leigh Morgan
Last updated:
Erin L. George, MFT
Erin L. George, MFT
Medical editor

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What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Nearly everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their lives. Acute or temporary episodes of anxiety may not require professional attention or intervention. But people with anxiety disorders experience persistent anxiety that's so pervasive that it may affect their ability to work, go to school, complete household chores, or maintain relationships. (1) Anxiety disorders can feel overwhelming and frustrating to the person struggling and to their family members, but there are treatment options available.
Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders include:

According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States. (2) These disorders affect nearly one-fifth of American adults or about 40 million people.
Women are twice as likely as men to experience generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and panic disorder. Social anxiety disorder affects men and women at about the same rate. Some people with anxiety disorders also have depression or other mental health conditions, making their anxiety treatment plans more complex.

Anxiety Disorders — In The News
After Blowing Their Stack, a Heart Attack

TUESDAY, Feb. 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Intense anger or anxiety greatly increases the risk of heart attack, a new study warns. "While the absolute risk of any one anger episode triggering a heart attack is low, our data demonstrates that the danger is real and still there," said... Read More

Depression, Anxiety Can Precede Memory Loss in Alzheimer's, Study Finds

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Depression, sleep problems and behavioral changes can show up before signs of memory loss in people who go on to develop Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests. "I wouldn't worry at this point if you're feeling anxious, depressed or tired that you have... Read More

Health Tip: Anxiety Can Affect Your Health

(HealthDay News) -- A person with generalized anxiety disorder describes someone who worries excessively, often making it difficult to get through the day. The website says physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include: Significant and unexplained fatigue. Aches, pains and tension in the muscles. Headaches. Twitching or trembling... Read More

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What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

Stress is a major factor in the development of anxiety disorders, especially when that stress occurs early in development. As a result, children who experience trauma or witness traumatic events have an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. (3) Some people with chronic illnesses develop anxiety disorders due to high levels of stress associated with their medical struggles. They may worry about dying prematurely, covering their medical expenses, or caring for their families while dealing with the symptoms of a serious illness.
Misuse of alcohol and drugs is another risk factor for anxiety disorders. In some cases, people with anxiety disorders use substances to cope with their anxiety symptoms, increasing anxiety instead of reducing it. Several gene variations have also been linked to anxiety, demonstrating that anxiety disorders may be passed from one generation to the next. (4)

Some medical problems linked to the development of an anxiety disorder include:

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety? Signs to Know

The symptoms of anxiety depend on several factors, including the type of anxiety disorder a person has. Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by anxiety that lasts for six months or more. Common symptoms include headaches, irritability, nausea, poor concentration, and fatigue. (5) People with GAD also experience excessive worry about everyday situations.
Panic disorder causes repeated bouts of fear and anxiety. These episodes are known as panic attacks or anxiety attacks. (6) During a panic attack, an individual typically feels out of control or experiences a strong sense of dread. In between panic attacks, an individual with panic disorder may spend their time worrying about when the next attack will occur. Additional symptoms include sweating, chills, dizziness, nausea, and trembling.

Social anxiety disorder, previously known as social phobia, is characterized by anxiety in social situations. The affected person might worry that someone will judge them. (7) They may also have an overarching fear of humiliation or rejection. People with social anxiety disorder may also experience:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Nausea

Specific phobias cause feelings of intense fear or anxiety associated with a specific object or situation, such as a spider or heights. People with phobias may have difficulty functioning normally, feel nauseated or dizzy, and/or feel compelled to do anything they can to avoid the source of their fear. Physical symptoms of phobias include sweating, chest tightness, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. (8)

Do I Have Anxiety? How Is Anxiety Diagnosed?

Anxiety is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, blood tests, and a psychological evaluation. (9) In some cases, anxiety is the symptom of a medical condition. Performing a physical examination gives the doctor an opportunity to identify thyroid nodules, heart problems, and other conditions known to cause anxiety. Blood tests are also helpful for diagnosing thyroid problems and other medical causes of the patient's symptoms.
If the physical exam and blood tests don't reveal an underlying medical cause, the psychological evaluation helps determine if anxiety is the result of an anxiety disorder or another type of mental health condition. The evaluator asks questions about the individual's psychological history, family history, and social history. Some evaluators also ask their patients to fill out a questionnaire about their symptoms. All of these are then combined to more thoroughly assess a person and make a proper diagnosis.

What Is the Best Treatment for Anxiety?

The best treatment for anxiety is medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. (10) Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, helps people address troubling behaviors and emotions. (11) Therapists use a variety of techniques, including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, to help patients improve their overall well-being.
Anxiety medication aims to calm the nervous system, controlling symptoms and making it easier to function. (12) Some doctors prescribe beta blockers to control the physical symptoms of anxiety, as beta blockers tend to have fewer side effects than anxiety medications. People with anxiety may also take antidepressants or atypical antipsychotics.

How to Cope with an Anxiety Diagnosis

An individual with a new anxiety diagnosis may benefit from learning as much as they can about their disorder. (13) It's also important to tell trusted family members about the diagnosis and ask for their support. Loved ones can provide much-needed encouragement when anxiety symptoms flare up. Some people find it helpful to document their symptoms in a journal or join a support group designed for people who share similar struggles.

How to Help Someone with Anxiety

It can be difficult to understand what someone with an anxiety disorder is going through, and it's easy to get frustrated when they change or cancel plans. But being there to provide ongoing support can make a huge difference in how individuals feel and are able to cope with their diagnoses.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by persistent worry over ordinary situations, so it's not helpful to tell someone with anxiety that they're overreacting or making a big deal over nothing. Instead of minimizing the person's feelings, loved ones should aim for validation. (14) Acknowledging anxiety and expressing genuine concern can help the person with anxiety feel more comfortable.