Common Anxiety Disorders Explained


Allison Walsh


If you’ve ever felt stressed – and let’s face it, if you’re human, you have – you’ve experienced anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.1 The causes of anxiety disorders are currently unknown but likely involve a combination of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological, and developmental. Anxiety disorders can run in families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorders.1 Learn more about these common and potentially debilitating, but very treatable, conditions.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): Excessive, exaggerated anxiety and stress over everyday life occurrences for no apparent reason characterizes generalized anxiety disorder. People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder are constantly on the lookout for disaster and can't stop worrying about their health, money, family, work, or school. About 2% of U.S. adults have GAD in any given year. It’s more commonly reported in women than in men.2

Panic disorder: Panic disorder is diagnosed in individuals who have unexpected, seemingly random panic attacks and are concerned with the prospect of a recurrence. Panic disorder affects about 3% of Americans each year, and it is twice as common in women as it is in males. Panic disorder can significantly disrupt daily life, causing people to miss work, visit multiple doctors, and avoid situations where they are afraid of having a panic attack.3

Social anxiety disorder: Social anxiety disorder sufferers experience intense feelings of fear or judgement by their peers, causing them to avoid social experiences or relationships that increase these feelings. The most common age of onset for this condition is 13 years old and although the 15 million sufferers recognize their fears as unwarranted, they typically feel powerless to manage them. People with social anxiety disorder also report waiting an average of 10 years before seeking treatment.4

Specific phobias: A specific phobia, also known as a simple phobia, is a persistent and unjustified worry triggered by the presence or thought of a single object or circumstance that poses little or no actual risk. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 5%-12% of Americans have phobias. Specific phobias affect an estimated 6.3 million adult Americans.5

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): About 1 in 100 adults — or between 2 to 3 million adults in the United States — currently have OCD.6 Obsessive compulsive disorder is a mental health condition that affects people of all ages and walks of life. It develops when a person becomes caught in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images, or desires that cause a great deal of distress. Compulsions are actions that a person engages in to get rid of his/her obsessions and/or reduce distress.7

Anxiety disorders impact millions of Americans every day but should not be cause to suffer in silence. Treatment can provide much needed relief and a normal quality of life. Talk with your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms, or visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America to arm yourself with the knowledge needed to help yourself or a loved one.



5- Bhandari, MD, S. (2020, February 18). Phobias: Specific phobias types and symptoms. Retrieved June 29, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/specific-phobias

2- Learn more about general anxiety disorder. (2020, September 2). Retrieved June 29, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/generalized-anxiety-disorder

3- Panic disorder: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (2021). Retrieved June 29, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/panic-disorder

4- Social anxiety disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder

1- What are anxiety disorders? (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2021, from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders

7- What is ocd? (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2021, from https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/

6- Who gets ocd? (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2021, from https://iocdf.org/about-ocd/who-gets/