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Understanding Anxiety Disorder: Types, causes, symptoms and treatments

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Experiencing anxiety before a stage performance, an interview, or while expecting test results is normal. However, Anxiety Disorder is different. It is a mental health condition in which a person experiences constant overwhelming anxiety that hinders their everyday life and well-being. Read on to learn more about Anxiety Disorder, its types, causes, symptoms, and treatments.




What is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety Disorder is a mental health condition in which excessive and overwhelming fear and anxiety make it difficult to perform day-to-day activities.

An Anxiety Disorder may cause people to avoid school, work, social gatherings, or any other situation they fear may trigger an anxiety attack. Anxiety Disorder symptoms may usually begin during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. 

What are the types of Anxiety Disorders?

There are several types of Anxiety Disorders. Here’s a list.

  1. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People with GAD experience excessive and exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life, for no apparent reason. They tend to expect future disasters and can’t stop worrying about money, health, job, children etc. This anxiety can overcrowd their thinking to the point that they cannot function normally.

  2. Separation Anxiety Disorder: A person with a separation Anxiety Disorder experiences tremendous fear and anxiety about being away or losing a person or an attachment figure. Although this condition is usually described in association with children, adults can also experience separation anxiety.

  3. Selective mutism: This is a condition in which a person who cannot speak well cannot express themselves in specific social circumstances such as schools or the community. This is seen more commonly among children than among adolescents or adults. 

  4. Specific phobia: People with phobias experience intense fear and anxiety towards particular objects or circumstances. Being fearful about dangerous events is a normal response. Still, if it goes out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the situation, it can affect the daily functioning of the people.

  5. Social Anxiety Disorder: For people with a Social Anxiety Disorder or social phobia, social settings, such as meeting new people and participating in social gatherings, can be a task. It is different from being shy. Being shy may make social interactions difficult. But, it may not disrupt social life to the extent of Social Anxiety Disorder. 

  6. Panic disorder: In this condition, people regularly experience sudden panic or anxiety attacks. This leads to physical signs such as a pounding heart, fast breathing and sweating. A panic attack is an unreasonable fear or anxiety. 

  7. Agoraphobia: This is an intense fear of being in a place where it feels hard to escape or get help in an emergency. This includes being in closed spaces such as a lift, an aeroplane, queues, in the crowd etc. 

  8. Substance/medication-induced Anxiety Disorder: This type of Anxiety Disorder occurs due to intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol or narcotics. 

  9. Anxiety Disorder due to other medical conditions can also occur due to other underlying medical conditions such as decreased blood sugar level (hypoglycemia), reduced thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), and certain heart disorders. 

What causes Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety Disorders often occur as a consequence of multiple factors. A genetically vulnerable person can develop Anxiety Disorder symptoms in response to stressful or traumatic events. The causes of Anxiety Disorder include the following.

  • Certain medications

  • Childhood experiences

  • Emotional trauma

  • Certain herbal medications

  • Substance abuse

What are the symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?

The symptoms of Anxiety Disorder include the following.

  • Pounding heart

  • Tensed muscles

  • Tightening of chest

  • Unreasonable worries and restlessness

  • Inability to sleep

  • Ruminating over a problem or thinking about it over and over again

  • Inability to concentrate 

  • Fast and rapid breathing (hyperventilation) 

  • Cold and clammy feet

How is Anxiety Disorder treated?

Anxiety Disorders, like any other mental health condition, require medical help and treatment. There are many categories of medicines that are used to treat Anxiety Disorder.

  • Anti-anxiety medicines: These are designed to help you cope with anxiety symptoms. These medicines give quick results. However, there is a tendency for your body to get used to them (tolerance) which makes them less effective over time. 

  • Antidepressants: These medicines influence the chemicals in your brain to improve your mood and reduce stress.

  • Beta-blockers: These medicines are usually prescribed for high blood pressure. But they help in reducing the symptoms of Anxiety Disorders. 

In addition to these, psychotherapy and counselling also help in managing the symptoms of Anxiety Disorders. These include the following.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: This therapy helps you understand your thought and feeling patterns, have better control over them and change them. 

  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy addresses the underlying fears behind anxiety. You may have been avoiding certain activities and situations for fear of developing an anxiety attack. The treatment helps expose yourself to these slowly and enables you to overcome your fears.

How do I prevent Anxiety Disorder

You can not prevent Anxiety Disorder. But there are steps that you can take to minimise your symptoms.

  • Consult your doctor before taking over-the-counter medicines and herbal remedies.

  • Limit your caffeine intake.

  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drug use. (Recreational drug use refers to the illegal or unsupervised use of narcotics for pleasure.)

  • Ensure that you get adequate sleep.

  • Lead a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you cope with Anxiety Disorder better.

  • If you experience any traumatic or disturbing event, reach out to mental health experts and get help.

A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body. Anxiety Disorders are the most common subtype of mental health conditions worldwide. If you have Anxiety Disorder symptoms, do not hesitate to seek help. 

Frequently asked questions 

Here are some frequently asked questions on Anxiety Disorders.


Is Anxiety Disorder curable?

Anxiety Disorders are not curable, but they are treatable. With appropriate medicines and psychotherapy, many people with Anxiety Disorder can minimise or even eliminate their symptoms and lead an everyday life. 

I have symptoms of Anxiety Disorder. How do I seek help?

If you experience Anxiety Disorder symptoms, you should reach out to mental health professionals. These include counsellors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. They will be able to identify your condition and will be able to guide you towards the right kind of help you need. 

What do I do if I experience a panic attack?

If you experience a panic attack, here are some things you can do to overcome the condition. 

  • If you can, leave the place.

  • Perform deep-breath exercises

  • Close your eyes and picture a happy place

  • Use mindfulness techniques, which means you consciously make yourself aware of the present, recognise your emotional state and meditate to reduce stress. Different mindfulness techniques include focusing on breathing and meditation.

  • Use muscle relaxation techniques.

What happens if I leave my anxiety untreated?

If you experience Anxiety Disorder symptoms, it is better to seek help immediately. Without treatment, the condition may worsen, limiting your ability to lead an everyday life.

Do genes influence the development of Anxiety Disorders?

Yes. Researchers can identify specific genes that increase your risk of developing an Anxiety Disorder. However, environmental factors such as trauma significantly determine if you will develop its symptoms. 

Can children suffer from Anxiety Disorder?

Yes. Some children are simply born with less ability to cope with stress than others. They may also pick up anxiety from the people they are around or as a response to traumatic events.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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