An Overview of Anxiety Disorders

By Kristen O’Neill

Anxiety is a natural response that our bodies use when confronted with stressful situations. Everyone has experienced nervousness or apprehension before a big event at some point in their life, but for people with an anxiety disorder, that worry and uneasiness can hit them sporadically and start to negatively impact the way they live. Even though anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, only “about one-third of those suffering receive treatment” (“Facts and Statistics”).

Though there are many anxiety disorders, this post will cover just some of them; Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, Selective Mutism, and Separation Anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by “exaggerated worry and tension…even when there is no apparent reason for concern” (“Generalized Anxiety”). This chronic concern and anxiety over everyday life can also cause physical symptoms like having trouble sleeping, muscle tension, and irritability (“Symptoms”). People with this disorder worry about “money, health, family, [and] work” and worse still, they have struggle to stop worrying enough to move on in their daily life (“Generalized Anxiety”).

Someone suffering from Panic Disorder has random, intense panic attacks that occur out-of-the-blue, leaving them with symptoms like sweating, chest pain, nausea, feelings that they’re choking, derealization  (feeling separated from reality or the world around them (“Depersonalization”)), and fear of sudden death (“Panic Attack”). In between attacks, people with panic disorder fear when the next attack may happen. This disorder, unfortunately, often leads people to distance themselves from family or friends because they don’t know how to explain the sudden attacks, or aren’t aware they can seek treatment (“Panic Disorder”).

Social Phobia, also known as Social Anxiety Disorder, causes people to fear being judged or ridiculed by others. It is not simply shyness, but a deeper anxiety that might cause them to avoid engaging in relationships which in turn leads them to feel powerless, alone or ashamed. They can be hit with feeling of terror over embarrassing themselves or doing something wrong, which can be so extreme as to disrupt their daily life (“Social Anxiety”). Previous standards mandated that to be diagnosed the patient must recognize their fear is excessive or unreasonable, but now it has been recognized that these individuals often overestimate the danger in ‘phobic’ situations (“Highlights of Changes”).

Selective Mutism is a disorder in which the individual finds that they are unable to speak in certain situations even if they can speak and do speak in different circumstances. It largely affects children but is classified as an anxiety disorder because most children with selective mutism are anxious (“Highlights of Changes”). Selective mutism can interfere with school and work, and symptoms can even include social isolation and withdrawal (“Selective Mutism”).

And, finally, there is Separation Anxiety, which for a lot of people may bring to mind infants and toddlers clinging to their parents or even pets who don’t react well to their owner’s leaving. Recently authorities in the field have recognized that not only can people have this disorder develop after the 18-year old deadline that was previously in place, but that “a substantial number of adults report onset of separation anxiety after age 18” (“Highlights of Changes”). Generally it involves people, both children and adults, who experience anxiousness when separated from a safe haven, such as their home, or the person they are attached to (“Separation Anxiety”). They may suffer from a fear that they will be attacked, or that they are just generally not safe when separated from their object of attachment (“Separation Anxiety”).

Works Cited

“Highlights of Changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5.” American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <>

“DSM-5: Changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <>

“Panic Attack DSM-V Revisions.” Anxiety Treatment Clinic. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <>

“Separation Anxiety Disorder Symptoms.” PsychCentral. 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <>

“Selective Mutism.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <>

“Depersonalization / Derealization Disorder Symptoms.”  PsychCentral. 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <>

“Social Anxiety Disorder.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Web. 7 Mar. 2015. <>

“Facts & Statistics.”Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. <>

“Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. <>

“Symptoms.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. <>

“Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Web. 8 Mar. 2015. <>

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