Anxiety Disorders

About Anxiety Disorders

Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision.

However, anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. These feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.

(Watch the video to learn about the types of anxiety disorders. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

Anxiety Disorders in Older Adults

Studies estimate that anxiety disorders affect up to 15 percent of older adults in a given year. More women than men experience anxiety disorders. They tend to be less common among older adults than younger adults. But developing an anxiety disorder late in life is not a normal part of aging.

Anxiety disorders commonly occur along with other mental or physical illnesses, including alcohol or substance abuse, which may mask anxiety symptoms or make them worse. In older adults, anxiety disorders often occur at the same time as depression, heart disease, diabetes, and other medical problems. In some cases, these other problems need to be treated before a person can respond well to treatment for anxiety.

There are three types of anxiety disorders discussed here.

  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • social phobia
  • panic disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They are very anxious about just getting through the day. They think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks. Learn more about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Social Phobia

In social phobia, a person fears being judged by others or of being embarrassed. This fear can get in the way of doing everyday things such as going to work, running errands, or meeting with friends. People who have social phobia often know that they shouldn't be so afraid, but they can't control their fear. Learn more about social phobia.

Panic Disorder

In panic disorder, a person has sudden, unexplained attacks of terror, and often feels his or her heart pounding. During a panic attack, a person feels a sense of unreality, a fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control. Panic attacks can occur at any time. Learn more about panic disorder.

Anxiety Disorders Are Treatable

In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or both. Treatment choices depend on the type of disorder, the person’s preference, and the expertise of the doctor. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor.