Anxiety

You are here

Definition

An anxiety disorder involves excessive fear and worry. An anxiety disorder can cause people to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school, work and personal relationships can be affected.1

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives. Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.1

There are several types of anxiety disorders1:

It involves persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. GAD can be accompanied by restlessness, feeling on edge, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension and sleeping problems.
It involves recurrent panic attacks and an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological symptoms like palpitations and rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, light-headedness, feeling of choking, numbness or tingling.
A specific phobia is an excessive and persistent fear of a specific object, situation or activity that is generally not harmful. People with phobias know their fear is excessive, but they can’t overcome it. These fears cause so much distress that some people go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear. In any given year an estimated seven to nine percent of U.S. adults have a specific phobia.
The fear of being in situations where an escape may be difficult in the event of panic symptoms. The fear is out of proportion to the actual situation and lasts generally six months or more. A person with agoraphobia can experience fear while using public transportation, being in open spaces, being in enclosed places, being in a crowd or while being outside the home alone.
It involves feeling significant discomfort in social interactions. People with this disorder will try to avoid the situation or endure it with great anxiety. Common examples include an extreme fear of public speaking, a fear of meeting new people or a fear of eating in public. In any given year an estimated seven percent of U.S. adults have a specific phobia.
A person with separation anxiety disorder is excessively fearful or anxious about separation from those with whom he or she is attached. A person with separation anxiety disorder may be persistently worried about losing the person closest to him or her, may be reluctant or refuse to go out or sleep away from home without that person, and may experience nightmares about separation. In any given year an estimated one to two percent of U.S. adults have separation anxiety disorder.
*Refer to definition section for more details*
The causes of anxiety disorders are currently unknown but likely involve a combination of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental influences.1
There's no way to predict for certain what will cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you experience anxiety by getting help early and avoiding unhealthy substance (e,g., cocaine) use which can cause or worsen anxiety.1
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT): a type of talk therapy that can help a person learn a different way of thinking, reacting and behaving.1
  • Medication: medication will not cure an anxiety disorder, but it can significantly relieve some symptoms. The most commonly used medications are anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants and beta-blockers.1
  • Coping Mechanisms: Stress management techniques, meditation and attending support groups can be helpful.1
Funded by

Vulnerability, Trauma, Resilience & Culture Laboratory
School of Psychology
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Ottawa

136 Jean-Jacques Lussier, Ottawa, ON,
Canada, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext. 4459
vtrac@uOttawa.ca