What Is Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety disorders occur when worry begins to affect one's daily life and relationships with friends, family, work, or school. Instead of feeling anxious when faced with real danger, people with anxiety disorders can re-experience similar symptoms in situations they perceive as dangerous (for example, when meeting new people or in traffic).

Anxiety is normal in many situations. A person may feel anxious or nervous when encountering a problem at work, attending an interview, preparing for an exam, or before making an important decision. Anxiety at the right level can bring many benefits. For example, anxiety can help us identify dangerous situations and focus on solving problems.

However, when anxiety is at a pathological level, things go beyond just fleeting fears. Anxiety disorders can be diagnosed when the symptoms last for a significant time (for example, 6 months or more) and begin to affect your daily functions, causing you to overreact to stimulating things and events. They can trigger your emotions, and you cannot control your reactions in many cases.

Anxiety disorders are considered psychological disorders with a high rate of co-morbidity: co-morbidity between different types of anxiety and co-morbidity with other mental disorders (for example, depression). Anxiety disorders are also co-morbid with physical diseases, with a high co-morbidity rate with thyroid disorders, respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, migraines, allergies, etc. Everyone is likely to experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their life. However, this is a mental difficulty that can be treated and prevented with knowledge and appropriate support resources.


Some Common Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with generalized anxiety disorder have persistent and excessive worries that interfere with daily activities. Physical signs like restlessness, feeling irritable or easily tired, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating at work, or trouble falling asleep may go along with this ongoing worry and tension. Worries often focus on everyday things like work responsibilities, family health, or small issues like moving house, fixing the car, or scheduling appointments.

Panic Disorder

The main signs of panic disorder are sudden bursts of intense fear, recurrent panic attacks, a combination of physical and mental stress, and depression. During a panic attack, several symptoms may occur at the same time, such as:

  • Palpitations, fast heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • A feeling of difficulty breathing or a sense of difficulty suffocating

  • Chest pain

  • Feelings of dizziness and lightheadedness

  • Feelings of choking in the neck

  • Feelings of numbness

  • Feelings of chills or hot flashes

  • Tingling of the body

  • Nausea, stomach ache

  • Feeling detached from surroundings

  • Fear of losing control

  • Extreme fear

Panic attacks can be anticipated in advance, in response to a feared object or event, or they can occur suddenly, for no apparent reason. The average age of onset of panic disorder in the United States is 20 to 24. Panic attacks can occur along with other psychological disorders such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Specific Phobias

A specific phobia is an excessive and persistent fear of an object, setting, or activity that is generally harmless. People with specific phobias are aware that their fear is excessive, but they cannot overcome that fear. This feeling of fear can cause distress, causing sufferers to try their best to stay away from what scares them. Some examples of specific phobias include fear of blood, fear of spiders, or fear of heights.


Social Anxiety Disorder

People with a social anxiety disorder have significant anxiety and discomfort about feeling embarrassed, humiliated, rejected, or belittled in social interaction situations. People with the condition will often try to avoid social situations or endure them with extreme anxiety. Some common examples include extreme fear when speaking in public, when meeting new people, or when eating or drinking in crowded areas.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

People with separation anxiety disorder often fear or worry excessively about being separated from people to whom they are attached. This feeling exceeds what is appropriate for the person's age, is long-lasting (at least four weeks in children and six months in adults), and causes functional problems in daily activities. The sufferer may constantly worry about losing the person closest to them, may be reluctant or refuse to go out or sleep away from home or without that person, or may have nightmares about separation. Symptoms of physical distress often develop in childhood, but these symptoms can persist into adulthood.


Selective Mutism

Children with selective mutism do not speak in certain social situations where they need to speak up, such as at school, although they may speak in other situations. Children with selective mutism will talk to family members but will usually not speak in front of another person, whether it be a close friend or a close relative. Many children diagnosed with selective mutism show shyness, social embarrassment, and high social anxiety. However, they have normal language skills. Selective mutism, which often begins before age 5, may not be accurately diagnosed until the child is in school. Many children can outgrow selective mutism as they grow older.



When you suspect an anxiety disorder, you may notice some symptoms, such as:

Excessive worry: Worrying excessively about everyday events and situations. Anxiety makes it difficult to concentrate and affects your work and daily life. If symptoms persist continuously for 6 months, a psychologist may diagnose you with generalized anxiety disorder.

Feeling agitated: Manifested by symptoms such as rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking hands and feet, or dry mouth. Although these can be beneficial responses in dangerous or emergencies, the symptoms can cause people with anxiety disorders to feel depleted of energy when worries are constant and prolonged.

Restlessness: Although it does not occur in all people with anxiety disorders, restlessness, or the feeling of being restless, is a sign that doctors and psychologists often ask about when making a diagnosis.

Difficulty concentrating: A study of 175 adults with generalized anxiety disorder found that nearly 90% reported difficulty concentrating. Anxiety can affect short-term memory, thereby reducing performance at work.


NOTE: The symptoms listed are for reference only. If you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, see a psychologist for an accurate assessment.

Causes & Some Risk Factors

Like many other psychological disorders, a person has an anxiety disorder not because they are weak, have a "problem" personality, or are the result of an educational method. Causes of the disorder Anxiety disorders often do not come from one factor but a combination of factors, such as:

  • Chemical imbalance: Severe or prolonged stress can change the chemical balance in the body, which plays a role in mood control. Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period can lead to anxiety disorders.

  • External factors: Psychological trauma can cause anxiety disorders, especially in people at higher risk of developing the disease.

  • Genetics: Some people are at high risk of developing an anxiety disorder when their parents have an anxiety disorder. Like hair color or skin color, anxiety disorders can be passed from parents to children.


Diagnosis and Intervention Methods for Anxiety Disorders

To diagnose a person suspected of having an anxiety disorder, a psychologist will meet, discuss, and give the client several tests and assessments according to the anxiety level scale. Based on the results, psychologists can draw accurate conclusions about whether the client has an anxiety disorder or not.

Some physical symptoms may require other tests performed by a doctor to rule out underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms the person is experiencing.

Intervention methods for anxiety disorders can be divided into three types:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychologists can practice therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT),...

  • Complementary care techniques: Mindfulness, yoga, or stress management skills are some complementary or alternative approaches to treating anxiety disorders.

  • Drug therapy: No medication can completely treat or prevent anxiety disorders. However, doctors may prescribe some anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications to improve symptoms and help clients function normally again.


Prevention of Anxiety Disorders

Children Under 18 Years Old

We may not yet know the exact cause of the development of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. However, some approaches can help prevent disorders in children, such as suicide prevention programs, school violence prevention, child abuse prevention programs, and other mental health programs.



Some ways to prevent anxiety symptoms and the risk of anxiety disorders include:

  • Learning stress management and mindfulness techniques to prevent chronic stress.

  • Limiting caffeine, as caffeine can worsen some anxiety symptoms.

  • Having trusted friends and support groups gives you the space to share and learn more effective anxiety-coping strategies.

  • Talking to a psychologist can help you develop ways to cope with your fears and understand the stresses that cause your anxiety.

  • Talking to a psychiatrist about managing your symptoms with medication will help you make sure your health problems are being treated in the right direction with a positive dosage and effect, as well as being aware of some possible side effects related to anxiety symptoms.

If you suspect yourself having mental health issues or have concerns about the psychotherapies, please contact the hotline at 0977.729.396 today for advice.


[1] What is anxiety?

[2] What are Anxiety Disorders? American Psychiatric Association.

[3] anxiety disorder. APA Dictionary of Psychology.

[4] Anxiety Disorders. Cleveland Clinic.

[5] Everything You Need to Know About Anxiety. 

[6] Đặng Hoàng Minh (Chủ biên), Hồ Thu Hà, Bahr Weiss. Tâm bệnh học. NXB Đại học Quốc gia Hà Nội.



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