What is Anxiety?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Anxiety disorder is a mental ailment that leads to unnecessary anxiety over different activities and events.

Who experiences Anxiety?

Anxiety is a common condition which often runs in families and maybe triggered by stress.

Even children may develop anxiety disorders but women are more prone to the condition than men.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is characterized by constant unrealistic worry or tension even if there is little or no cause.

The worries flit from one problem to another like family, work problems, health, finances etc.

The worries are often difficult to control and may leave a patient severely distressed.

There may be accompanying difficulty in concentration, tiredness, irritability, sleep problems, jumpiness or restlessness and palpitations.

Physical symptom of headaches, muscle weakness, palpitations, stomach upsets, nausea etc. may also be seen. (1, 2)

Causes of Anxiety

Sometimes the worry may stem from certain objects or rituals.

Anxiety disorders encompass various subtypes of mental disorders. Anxiety alone may be a symptom of each of these conditions. These include (3, 4, 5) –

  • Generalized anxiety disorders – Characterized by unnecessary and non-specific worries and tension.
  • Simple phobias – Here the excessive anxiety is caused by certain objects (for example fear of closed spaces like lifts etc. called Claustrophobia).
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – Patients have an obsession which may be a recurrent, intrusive idea, thought or sensation that leads to a compulsion or a daily ritual For example repeated hand washing for fear of germs.
  • Panic disorders – Patients get sudden attacks of fear and anxiety without cause or prior warning.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) – This is an anxiety that is caused long after the person has been through a particularly harrowing experience. This is common among survivors of a natural calamity or war. Past history of sexual or physical abuse may also result in a higher risk of PTSD.
  • Social anxiety disorder – Also known as social phobia this includes worries about facing daily social situations.

Frequency of Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the commonest of all psychiatric ailments.

At least one in 20 in Britain suffer from anxiety disorders.

  • Clinically diagnosed simple phobias affect up to 25% of people.
  • Social anxiety disorder affects nearly 13% of people.
  • PTSD affects approximately 7.8% of the population and 12% of women.
  • Generalized anxiety disorders Panic disorder has a lifetime risk of 5% and 3.5%, respectively.
  • OCD is found in 2.5% of the population. (6)

Edited by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Anxiety Causes
Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety Diagnosis
Anxiety Treatments

Last Updated: Nov 4, 2013

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Comments
  1. Bar Pearl Bar Pearl Israel says:

    "ההגדרה "מחלת נפש
    לכל אחד בחיים יש חרדות לפעמים,לחצים ובעיות. זה לא אומר שיש לו מחלת נפש.
    אני לוקחת מידי פעם "לקטיום" וזה עוזר לי להרגע אבל בגלל שאני לוקחת את זה אני מוגדרת כחולה?

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