Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. 40 million U.S. adults are affected by anxiety disorders every year, which is more than 18 percent of the population. Even though less than 37 percent of people receive treatment for anxiety disorders, they are very treatable mental health conditions.

Anxiety Disorders FAQs

Learning more about anxiety can be empowering. Use the resources below and the in-depth anxiety disorder FAQs to find out information regarding anxiety disorders.

No. Chemical imbalances can cause anxiety disorder, but the two are not interchangeable. According to the Social Anxiety Institute website, chemical imbalances occur because the brain’s neural pathways sometimes cause irrational thoughts. Anxiety is a result of these chemical imbalances and abnormal thought behaviors.

Due to genetics or environmental factors, or a combination of both, people can become prone to anxiety. People who experience excessive overthinking related to anxiety — also called rumination — can take certain medications that can correct the chemical imbalance and diminish their anxiety.

Anxiety can worsen with age due to the buildup of life stressors, such as job loss, health problems and deaths of loved ones. Older people are more likely than younger people to have experienced numerous stressful events — and thus are more likely to experience them in higher frequency.

Other people may experience less anxiety the older they get. If at a young age someone recognizes that they have anxiety, they may receive treatment that diminishes the effects of the disorder as they age. In this scenario, anxiety could lessen with age.

Anxiety is excessive worry or fear that affects an individual’s ability to function. Nervousness is the state of feeling nervous and is usually limited to one temporary experience. Nervousness does not overwhelm a person’s thoughts or behaviors the same way anxiety does.

Nervousness is a symptom of an anxiety disorder and excessive nervousness can lead to anxiety, but the two are not interchangeable. Anxiety involves a persistent negative feeling about oneself and one’s life. Anxiety often isn’t limited to just one situation or experience.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, there are five main types of anxiety disorders. They are:

  1. Generalized anxiety disorder
  2. Social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia)
  3. Panic disorder
  4. Post-traumatic stress disorder
  5. Obsessive-compulsive disorder

The American Psychiatric Association also lists agoraphobia and separation anxiety disorder as additional types, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) includes selective mutism and specific phobia as versions of anxiety disorder.

Many of these disorders share the same symptoms (unnatural amounts of nervousness, stress and paranoia) and can co-occur. For instance, many people who have agoraphobia also have a panic disorder.

No, anxiety is not a mood disorder. According to the DSM-5, anxiety disorders are their own class of mental health issues while the mood disorder class includes separate conditions, such as depression and bipolar disorder. Anxiety can co-occur with depression, bipolar disorder or other mood-related conditions but they are not identical.

Mood disorders involve frequent and, at times, uncontrollable changes in a person’s overall mood. People who have a mood disorder can experience severe manic or depressive states for days or weeks at a time. Anxiety disorder involves excessive worrying about specific aspects of a person’s life.

Yes. The effects of anxiety can cause insomnia, which is a consistent difficulty falling or staying asleep. One of the main symptoms of anxiety is rumination, which is the process of continually thinking about the same thoughts or concerns. People who have anxiety ruminate about their self-worth, relationships with others or daily life events. Often, rumination involves negative feelings or thoughts.

Rumination can cause the brain to remain active late at night, which can prevent someone from falling asleep at a regular time. If this occurs regularly, someone may have anxiety-driven insomnia.

While severe anxiety can factor into why someone has psychosis, there are more likely causes. According to WebMD, people can develop psychosis from:

  • Genetics
  • Substance abuse
  • Prescription medication misuse
  • Experiencing traumatic events or brain injuries, strokes or Alzheimer’s disease
  • Having schizophrenia or bipolar disorder

Anxiety disorders can be one of the multiple causes of psychosis, but the condition is unlikely to cause psychosis on its own.

Yes, anxiety disorders can cause hair loss. Stress, which is a primary symptom of anxiety, can cause hair loss, a cause-and-effect relationship known as telogen effluvium. Stress disrupts the normal growth and rest cycle for a person’s hair.

When telogen effluvium occurs, people can lose hair in clumps while brushing or stylizing their hair. However, hair loss from this condition is often temporary and stops when stress diminishes.

Yes, anxiety can cause paranoia in specific cases. One example is when a person’s anxiety-driven thoughts involve irrational fears of being harmed or slighted, which is a symptom of paranoia. People who have anxiety often worry that others will judge what they say or do. Stressing about how other people view you is a common symptom of anxiety and can lead to paranoid thoughts. However, people can have paranoid thoughts and not have paranoia.

Yes, anxiety disorders are mental illnesses, which are also called mental disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition lists anxiety disorders as a classification of mental conditions. Mental disorders affect people’s thoughts and behaviors in debilitating ways.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry, fear or stress related to specific or general situations. These anxious feelings can impact a person’s ability to function in society.

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