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
Using “power statements” can help people with serious mental illness clarify and communicate their personal goals for medication and treatment, according to a new study. A power statement is a short, self-advocacy statement prepared by a patient based on a template. The study found that people with serious mental illness typically view medications not only as a way to address symptoms, but as a means to pursue meaningful life goals.
The realistic portray of mental illness in television and movies can be an effective way to reduce stigma around psychiatric issues. But it can be troubling if those portrayals do not show options for treatment.
The stigma, prejudice and discrimination of mental illness can be a major barrier for many people living with mental illness seeking and getting the help they need. It can make people avoid disclosing a mental health condition at work over concerns of being treated differently or even losing their job. Internalizing these negative stereotypes and perceptions (self-stigma) can further contribute to challenges.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Mental Health America
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
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 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.
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FEB 7, 2017
There are enough misconceptions about mental illness to fill up the entire Atlantic Ocean — twice. People who have never experienced lifelong problems with their mental health don't understand what it's like to live with an anxiety disorder, yet they're the ones who tend to pass judgments about how to live with this mental illness. They sometimes say it's nothing more than being constantly worried or "just nervous" in social situations, as if we could just turn it off if we just tried hard enough.
FEB 6, 2017
Anxiety in social situations is not a rare problem: Around one in ten people are affected by social anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Social anxiety disorder is diagnosed if fears and anxiety in social situations significantly impair everyday life and cause intense suffering. Talking in front of a larger group can be one typical feared situation. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Zurich, Zurich University Hospital and the University Hospital of Psychiatry Zurich now reveals that the successful treatment of an anxiety disorder alters key brain structures that are involved in processing and regulating emotions.
JAN 26, 2017
Our understanding of the ways in which meditation works in the body and brain is becoming more and more nuanced with every study that comes out. Not only does a meditation practice seem to change the structure of the brain in certain ways, but it also seems to affect the way it functions. One way researchers can track this is by measuring the levels of neurotransmitters, hormones and biomarkers. A new study finds that eight weeks of meditation can significantly alter the stress response in people with generalized anxiety disorder, and this is evident in the levels of stress hormones and inflammatory markers.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute on Mental Health
National Institutes of Health
Physician Review By:
Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.