Information on Anxiety Disorders and Treatment (2023)

Anxiety is a normal, human response we all feel at different points and stressful situations in our lives. Presenting in front of an audience or awaiting the results of a test can be anxiety-provoking experiences. Feeling worried, apprehensive or anxious is your body's healthy and natural reaction to stress or fear. Anxiety disorders, however, involve unhealthy reactions to stress or fear, and usually require some form of treatment or therapy for symptoms to subside and become manageable.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States. Nearly 20% of the population will experience some level of anxiety disorder, with onset of symptoms typically occurring before age 21.

What are the main symptoms of an anxiety disorder?

A characteristic response to anxiety is avoidance, which can significantly affect a person's relationships, work life or school performance. So avoidance of situations that may cause anxiety or fear is a key behavioral symptom. Here are other common symptoms of anxiety disorders:

(Video) Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) - causes, symptoms & treatment

  • Feelings of dread or foreboding
  • Apprehension
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anticipation of the worst happening
  • Dwelling on things going wrong or other negative thoughts

Anxious thoughts can cause physical symptoms as well. These can include:

  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Upset stomach, nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Shaking
  • Sleeplessness
  • Mind going blank
  • Muscle tension

How can I tell if I might have an anxiety disorder?

As a general rule, symptoms must be present more days than not and for a period of at least six months. The main symptoms involve finding it difficult to control worrisome thoughts and having physical symptoms that cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. Be sure to consult with your health care provider in order to rule out other potential causes, such as substance use, medications or hormone imbalance.

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Are there different types of anxiety disorders?

Yes, these disorders fall on a mild-to-severe spectrum and range in scope from generalized anxiety disorder to very specific syndromes, such as phobias. While the different types of anxiety disorders share some common symptoms, each condition differs in key aspects.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder - People who have generalized anxiety disorder typically have a chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday life. This preoccupation with worry can interfere with concentration and functioning in everyday activities.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder - Social anxiety disorder is more than shyness, self-consciousness or identifying as an introvert. Social anxiety tends to come from a fear of humiliation or embarrassment. Social isolation and withdrawal is the result. When stressful social situations can't be avoided, the heightened fear can cause panic attacks.
  • Panic Disorder - Panic disorder is characterized by panic attacks or feelings of sudden terror. These attacks can come without warning or reason. People often describe the physical reaction much like symptoms of a heart attack: tightening in their chest, shortness of breath, racing heart rate and dizziness. Because panic attacks come on suddenly and often without an apparent cause, people who've had the experience tend to isolate themselves in order to avoid having one in public or in potentially dangerous situations, such as driving.
  • Phobias - Phobias are irrational fears triggered by a particular situation, thing, place or object. Common phobias include fear of snakes, rats, spiders, elevators, heights, flying and tight spaces. Phobias can cause people to take extreme measures in order to avoid encountering the object of their fear.
  • Agoraphobia - Agoraphobia is characterized by a fear of being in a situation that's impossible to escape, potentially triggering a panic attack. The fear is out of proportion to the situation and causes impairment in daily functioning. A person with a severe case of agoraphobia may even fear leaving the house.
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder - Separation anxiety is the fear of being away from someone an individual is attached to, such as a family member. Separation anxiety disorder can also involve a preoccupation with losing someone close to you or being unable to function without that person in your life. An individual with separation anxiety disorder may insist, for example, that the person they're attached to not leave the home without them.

How can I reduce the symptoms of an anxiety disorder?

As with any health concern, start by considering your daily routines and practices. Do you exercise regularly? Get good sleep? Eat nutritious foods? Stick to normal schedule? These are all effective ways to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Limiting the intake of alcohol, caffeine and other mood-altering substances can make a big difference, too.

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You can also practice grounding techniques designed to distract and redirect anxious thinking. Here are some examples:

  • Describe something you see, hear, feel, smell or taste in detail. Focus on your surroundings.
  • Do math problems or use numbers in other ways.
  • Play a memory game.
  • Think of items in a category, such as musical instruments in an orchestra, animals in a zoo or football teams in a league.
  • Recite a poem while visualizing each word and focusing on the words as you form them.
  • Visualize an activity you completed, such as a past golf game, a chore you did or a trip you took.
  • Describe your surroundings in specific detail, such as the bird on the branch, the color of the park bench, the cars at the traffic light.
  • Sit with your pet and focus on the feeling of its fur, the color of its eyes or other characteristics.

Learning to meditate is another effective way of coping with stress-related challenges and anxious thinking. Meditation practices calm the mind through focus and attention. You can find free apps and other resources to guide meditation, deep breathing and other relaxation practices.

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Other natural ways to treat anxiety include herbal remedies and supplements. However, many natural remedies are unproven in terms of effectiveness and can have negative side effects. Consult with your health care provider before using herbal remedies for any health problem.

How are anxiety disorders treated?

Medical providers and therapists typically diagnose anxiety by discussing symptoms with the patient. Some providers also use diagnostic screening tools such as questionnaires or scales to focus more closely on specific symptoms. If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, your recommended treatment could involve:

(Video) Anxiety - Causes, Symptoms and Treatments and More

  • Talk Therapy (Psychotherapy) - Mental health clinicians are trained in a number of therapies designed to help patients learn to cope with or manage symptoms. These may include mindfulness techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and others.
  • Medications - Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressant drugs are commonly prescribed to relieve symptoms.
  • Adjunctive Therapies - Relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and equine or canine therapy can help to address symptoms.

I think I have social anxiety disorder. Where can I find treatment or therapy?

Effective treatment for an anxiety disorder—whether it's generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder or a specific phobia—begins with a mental health assessment. Primary care physicians or other health care providers can conduct what's considered a brief assessment or, in a more severe case, make a referral to a mental health center or clinic for diagnosis and treatment planning. Trained and licensed psychologists and mental health therapists have the expertise to conduct thorough assessments of anxiety symptoms, develop individualized treatment plans and provide counseling. You may also receive a recommendation to see a psychiatrist to determine whether medication or other therapies are advised. Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.

How long does anxiety disorder treatment take?

The length of time to treat an anxiety disorder depends on a number of different factors, including the extent and severity of symptoms. Medication effectiveness and adherence to the treatment plan also impact treatment duration. Some patients experience relief for a period of time only to have symptoms return later in life. Treatment and therapy may be intermittent throughout life, as symptoms arise and subside.

(Video) Anxiety: Signs & Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorder | Stanford

How effective is anxiety treatment?

Mental health professionals have identified many evidence-based, proven-effective treatment methods for the treatment of anxiety disorders. In other words, anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Learn more about evidence-based therapies and how these treatment approaches can help you regain control of your life and well-being.


What is the treatment of anxiety disorder? ›

The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.

What are the 4 treatment options for anxiety disorders? ›

Four major classes of medications are used to treat anxiety disorders: SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), tricyclic antidepressant, and benzodiazepine.

What is the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders? ›

Psychotherapy. Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder.

What are 3 treatment options that are available for anxiety disorders? ›

Anxiety disorders should be treated with psychological therapy, pharmacotherapy, or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be regarded as the psychotherapy with the highest level of evidence.

What are 5 treatments for anxiety? ›

Some ways to manage anxiety disorders include learning about anxiety, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, correct breathing techniques, dietary adjustments, exercise, learning to be assertive, building self-esteem, cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, structured problem solving, medication and support groups.

Can anxiety be treated or cured? ›

Medications can't cure an anxiety disorder. But they can improve symptoms and help you function better. Medications for anxiety disorders often include: Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, may decrease your anxiety, panic and worry.

Is anxiety treatable without medication? ›

The even better news: Many people respond well to anxiety treatment without medication. They find that their condition can often be managed entirely, or at least in part, with lifestyle changes and holistic therapies.

What is the first step in treating anxiety disorders? ›

Self-management is the first step toward addressing anxious feelings and often involves relaxation techniques, an active lifestyle, and effective time management. If these measures do not bring anxious reactions under control, a person should consider speaking with a doctor and seek other avenues of treatment.

What is the best medicine for generalized anxiety disorder? ›

The first medication doctors will usually recommend for GAD is antidepressants.
Types of antidepressants that a doctor may prescribe include the following:
  • sertraline (Zoloft)
  • vanlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • citalopram (Celexa)
  • escitalopram (Lexapro)
22 Aug 2022

Is anxiety a mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

What is the main cause of anxiety? ›

Difficult experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood are a common trigger for anxiety problems. Going through stress and trauma when you're very young is likely to have a particularly big impact. Experiences which can trigger anxiety problems include things like: physical or emotional abuse.

What can cause anxiety disorder? ›

These factors may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:
  • Trauma. ...
  • Stress due to an illness. ...
  • Stress buildup. ...
  • Personality. ...
  • Other mental health disorders. ...
  • Having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder. ...
  • Drugs or alcohol.

Does anxiety increase with age? ›

Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults. This may be due to a number of factors, including changes in the brain and nervous system as we age, and being more likely to experience stressful life events that can trigger anxiety.

Can anxiety be controlled? ›

Anxiety can be treated with medication, but several mind-body approaches may also be effective. Hypnosis is sometimes used along with cognitive behavioral therapy to treat anxiety. It can help people focus their attention, rethink problems, relax, and respond to helpful suggestions.

How can I overcome anxiety permanently? ›

Managing anxiety
  1. Breathing techniques. One of the most important things to remember when you start to feel anxious is to breathe. ...
  2. Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is an excellent way to help reduce anxiety. ...
  3. Healthy diet. ...
  4. Reduce caffeine. ...
  5. Get outdoors. ...
  6. Aerobic exercise. ...
  7. Yoga and meditation. ...
  8. Massage.

Can anxiety fully go away? ›

Most people with anxiety disorders never fully eliminate their anxiety. However, they can learn how to control their feelings and greatly reduce the severity of their anxiety through therapy (and medication if needed).

Can drinking water help anxiety? ›

Water has been shown to have natural calming properties, likely as a result of addressing dehydration's effects on the body and brain. Drinking enough water is an important step in managing your anxiety. Even if you're not experiencing anxiety, drinking sufficient water can create feelings of relaxation.

How does vitamin D help anxiety? ›

The study found that taking vitamin D supplements significantly decreased anxiety levels in women suffering from type 2 diabetes. Another study found that those suffering from anxiety had lower levels of calcidiol. Broken down vitamin D produces the byproduct, calcidiol.

How do I deal with anxiety and overthinking? ›

Tips for addressing ruminating thoughts
  1. Distract yourself. When you realize you're starting to ruminate, finding a distraction can break your thought cycle. ...
  2. Plan to take action. ...
  3. Take action. ...
  4. Question your thoughts. ...
  5. Readjust your life's goals. ...
  6. Work on enhancing your self-esteem. ...
  7. Try meditation. ...
  8. Understand your triggers.
15 Nov 2019

How long does anxiety disorder treatment take? ›

As with CBT, applied relaxation therapy will usually mean meeting with a therapist for a 1-hour session every week for 3 to 4 months.

How long does anxiety disorder last? ›

From the time of diagnosis, an anxiety disorder can last from a few months to many years. Most people will have symptoms of an anxiety disorder for a long time before seeking professional help, sometimes up to 15 years³.

What is the safest anti anxiety drug? ›

As of this writing, some of the anxiety medications with the fewest reported side effects and least risk of side effects include:
  • Most Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • Citalopram (Celexa - SSRI)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil - SSRI)

What does anxiety do to your body? ›

Anxiety disorders can cause rapid heart rate, palpitations, and chest pain. You may also be at an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. If you already have heart disease, anxiety disorders may raise the risk of coronary events.

What reduces anxiety naturally? ›

Some are lifestyle changes that can help lessen anxiety over time, such as a regular meditation practice, physical activity, spending time outdoors, or making a few food swaps. Others, like deep breathing and distraction techniques, can provide natural anxiety relief the moment the mind sends an SOS.

When does anxiety become too much? ›

If your anxiety, or the anxiety of a loved one, starts to cause problems in everyday life—such as at school, at work, or with friends and family—it's time to seek professional help. Talk to a health care provider about your mental health.

What is extreme anxiety? ›

Extreme feelings of fear or anxiety that are out of proportion to the actual threat. Irrational fear or worry about different objects or situations. Avoiding the source of your fear or only enduring it with great anxiety. Withdrawing from social situations or isolating yourself from friends and family.

What chemical in the brain causes anxiety? ›

Epinephrine is just one chemical involved in your body's response to anxiety. Other chemicals may also play a role. For example, a serotonin imbalance¹ may contribute to anxiety, as can high cortisol levels. However, epinephrine is the primary chemical because it is directly involved in your anxiety symptoms.

How long does anxiety last without medication? ›

From the time of diagnosis, an anxiety disorder can last from a few months to many years. Most people will have symptoms of an anxiety disorder for a long time before seeking professional help, sometimes up to 15 years³.

What happens if I don't treat my anxiety? ›

For the majority of people with undiagnosed or untreated anxiety disorder, there are many negative consequences, for both the individual and society. These include disability, reduced ability to work leading to loss of productivity, and a high risk of suicide.


1. Anxiety: Signs & Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorder | Stanford
(Stanford Center for Health Education)
2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: The CBT Approach
(The Washington Center for Cognitive Therapy)
3. What's normal anxiety -- and what's an anxiety disorder? | Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter
4. Social Anxiety Disorder - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology
5. Anxiety Disorder and how to treat it? - Doctor explains
6. Anxiety Disorder - Ten Tips for Treatment
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