All Topics

Help With Anxiety Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention.

Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect more than 25 million Americans. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Feb 01, 2016
Intervention Helps Families of Returning Service Members

Some 45 percent of the more than 2.5 million service members deployed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 had dependent children at the time they were deployed. Research has consistently shown increased social, emotional, behavioral and academic risk among children, and increased family stress associated with parents’ military deployment.

  • Dec 08, 2015
Preventing Anxiety in Children of Parents with Anxiety

An estimated 18 percent of adults experience anxiety disorders, and children of parents with anxiety are more likely to develop anxiety disorders. But new research offers the possibility of not just treating, but actually preventing anxiety or reducing the severity of symptoms in this high-risk group of children.

  • Nov 30, 2015
Climate Change and Mental Health Connection

The physical impact climate change may be familiar—extreme weather events, droughts, flooding, impacts on agriculture and infrastructure and air quality. But what is the connection between climate change and mental health?

Upcoming Events
Anxiety and Depression Conference
  • Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Thur,  Mar  31 - Sun,  Apr  03
Mental Health Month
  • Sun,  May  01
Mental Health America Annual Conference
  • Alexandria, Va.
  • Wed,  Jun  08 - Fri,  Jun  10

What’s the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder?

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Perhaps the person has watched a scary move, or seen something upsetting on TV. Or, more ominous, perhaps the person has experienced or witnessed a crime. Anyone might get anxious in these situations, but the person with an anxiety disorder has persistent or recurrent anxiety that prevents him or her from full participation in life. Anxiety can range from relatively mild (occasional “butterflies,” jitteriness, accompanied by a sense of unease) to severe (frequent, disabling panic attacks). Severe anxiety disorders can lead the person to alter his lifestyle to accommodate the anxiety, for example not leaving home. More

Can meditation or other relaxation techniques help with my anxiety?

They can. They are the best option for mild anxiety that most of us experience from time to time. There are many instructional books on relaxation exercises (often paired with deep breathing) and meditation, which is a form of relaxation. They are relatively simple to learn. These approaches can provide relief and can be used anywhere once the person understands the method. Mental health professionals can guide the person who needs a more personal approach to learning relaxation or meditation. More

Are there medications that can help with panic attacks?

Yes. There are many medications that have FDA approval to treat anxiety disorders. Several members of the benzodiazepine class are routinely used to provide relief from anxiety. These minor tranquillizers are safe and effective, but should be used for short-term relief. They have many side effects, including drowsiness, and can be habit forming at higher doses. People taking these medications should not use heavy machinery or drive until they understand how the medication might affect them.

Antidepressants are widely used to treat anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications are from the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. They are generally effective and have few side-effects, although they do not provide immediate relief. More

How are children with anxiety disorders treated?

Children can be treated with the same methods as adults. A therapist may be effective by turning the therapy into a game to make it fun for the child. Medication works in children just as in adults, but the psychiatrist must be mindful of the much lower doses used in children. More


About the Expert:

Donald Black, M.D.
Director, Psychiatry Residency Training Program
Vice Chairman for Education, Department of Psychiatry
University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine

Joey’s Story


Joey was a 12-year-old boy who was referred to mental health care for long-standing anxiety about losing his parents. He had begun to have anxieties as a young child and had great trouble starting kindergarten. He had been scared of being away from home for school. He was also briefly bullied in third grade, which made his anxieties worse. More

Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Find a Psychiatrist

Find a psychiatrist in your area today.

Search Now

APA Resources

Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5

Understanding Mental Disorders is a consumer guide designed to promote education and understanding among anyone who has been touched by mental illness.

 Editor's Choice
  • November 22, 2015

Know Someone With Depression Or Anxiety Disorder? The Dos and Don’ts of Being a Supportive Friend
Medical Daily

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, making it the most common mental illness among Americans. Being supportive to someone who has struggled with an anxiety or depressive disorder, learning about it, encouraging treatment, and learning what triggers symptoms can help alleviate friends and family during tough times. Being tolerant and nonjudgmental is key to making difficult times easier. More

  • December 4, 2015

Stories and Stigma: The Importance of Anxiety and Other Disorders in Fiction
The Mary Sue

I’ve been thinking about conscious and unconscious decisions lately, particularly two that I’ve made in recent years. Both of them relate to mental illness. The first was conscious: I decided to be open about the fact that I have an anxiety disorder. That decision was made a few years ago, when I started to take part in life online. More


Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Institute on Mental Health

National Institutes of Health

Physician Review By:

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
May 2015