Everyone experiences anxiety. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress are overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday things, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is anticipation of a future threat; anxiety is associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and caution or avoidant behaviors. Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting beyond an appropriate period of time.

From the DSM-5

What causes Anxiety?

The causes of anxiety disorders aren't fully understood. Life experiences such as traumatic events appear to trigger anxiety disorders in people who are already prone to anxiety. Inherited traits also can be a factor.

Risk Factors

These factors may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:

  • Trauma. Children who endured abuse or trauma or witnessed traumatic events are at higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder at some point in life. Adults who experience a traumatic event also can develop anxiety disorders.
  • Stress due to an illness. Having a health condition or serious illness can cause significant worry about issues such as your treatment and your future.
  • Stress buildup. A big event or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety — for example, a death in the family, work stress or ongoing worry about finances.
  • Personality. People with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others are.
  • Other mental health disorders. People with other mental health disorders, such as depression, often also have an anxiety disorder.
  • Having blood relatives with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can run in families.
  • Drugs or alcohol. Drug or alcohol use or misuse or withdrawal can cause or worsen anxiety.

How to Recognize Anxiety

For most people, anxiety changes how they function day-to-day. People can experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Feelings of Apprehension or Dread
Feeling Tense and Jumpy
Restlessness or irritability
Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger
Pounding or racing heart and shortness of breath
Sweating, tremors and twitches
Headaches, fatigue and insomnia
Upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

Know the Facts


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.


June 2021 research study 40% of US teens report anxiety symptoms, with females more likely to self-report than males.

From 2020 to 2021, 29 studies, including over 80,000 participants globally were reviewed concluding that 1 in 5 adolescents are experiencing anxiety.

1 in 5

Common forms of Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about various domains, including work and school performance, that the individual finds difficult to control, includes physical symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.

Separation Anxiety

Fearful or anxious about separation from home or attachment figures to a degree that is developmentally inappropriate, persistent fear or anxiety about harm coming to attachment figures and events that could lead to loss of or separation from attachment figures and reluctance to go away from attachment figure. Often developed in childhood, it can be expressed throughout adulthood as well.


Fearful or anxious about or avoidant of circumscribed objects or situations, the fear, anxiety or avoidance is almost always immediately induced by the phobic situation, to a degree that is persistent and out of proportion to the actual risk posed.

Social Anxiety

fearful or anxious about or avoidant of social interactions and situations that involve the possibility of being scrutinized, cognitive ideation is of being negatively evaluated by others, by being embarrassed, humiliated, or rejected or offending others.

Panic Disorder

Recurrent unexpected panic attacks and is persistently concerned or worried about having more panic attacks or changes his or her behavior in maladaptive ways because of the panic attacks. Panic attacks are abrupt surges of intense fear or intense discomfort that reach a peak within minutes accompanied by physical and/or cognitive symptoms.

Treatment Options

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.


Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally, a short-term treatment, CBT focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you've avoided because of anxiety.

CBT includes exposure therapy, in which you gradually encounter the object or situation that triggers your anxiety so you build confidence that you can manage the situation and anxiety symptoms.


Several types of medications are used to help relieve symptoms, depending on the type of anxiety disorder you have and whether you also have other mental or physical health issues.

Lifestyle Changes

While most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes also can make a difference. Here's what you can do:

From the Mayo Clinic

Keep physically active

Develop a routine so that you're physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.

Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs

These substances can cause or worsen anxiety. If you can't quit on your own, see your doctor or find a support group to help you.

Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages

Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.

Use stress management and relaxation techniques

Visualization techniques, meditation and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety.

Make sleep a priority

Do what you can to make sure you're getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren't sleeping well, see your doctor.

Eat healthy

Healthy eating — such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish — may be linked to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.

We can provide the help you need


We can help no matter what you're dealing with

Select a mental health condition to learn more. Read about causes, symptoms, statistics, and ways to manage each condition.