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Anxiety Disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, Panic Disorder & Phobias

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 Quick Reference Guide  by Amanda Ross, Ph.D.                         .pdf version - Anxiety Disorder article

Anxiety disorders are treatable illnesses that bring on feelings of overwhelming fear that is strong enough to affect everyday life. In the United States, about

40 million adults (18% of the population) are affected by anxiety disorders every year.  Many adults experienced anxiety symptoms or disorders as early as childhood.

Anxiety disorders are not the same as the brief worry that goes along with a stressful event, like a test or first date. Anxiety disorders last at least 6 months and

may get worse or lead to further complications if not treated. Anxiety disorders affect the mind, body, and behavior and can

cause difficulty at work, school, and in relationships with family and friends.


  Bannana Spider  All rights reserved Ernest J. Bordini, Ph.D.

The National Institute of Mental Health describes five common types of anxiety disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Excessive anxiety and worry, along with other physical and behavioral problems, that lasts for at least six months.  GAD can also impact children.

Social Phobia (commonly referred to as Social Anxiety Disorder): A constant fear of situations in which a person may be exposed to possible judgment from others  Other common phobias include fears of spiders, snakes, or the dark.  It is not unusual for children at certain ages to have common fears.

Panic Disorder: A sudden, uncontrollable attack of terror that can show itself as racing heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, pani, needs to escape, and a feeling of being terribly frightened or out of control.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Repeated, interfering, intrusive or unwanted thoughts that cause anxiety.  This is often combined with ritualized behavior that relieves the anxiety.  Common compulsions include checking, counting, handwashing, hoarding, or even compulsive sexual behaviors, compulsive shopping, or gambling.  Children may also exhibit childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Caused when someone experiences an extremely distressing or traumatic event. Common symptoms are recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and unprovoked anger.

Assessment should begin with a medical evaluation to rule out physiological causes of excessive anxiety such as thyroid or other metabolic or medical conditions.

Left untreated anxiety disorders can become worse with time and can wear down coping skills, resulting in a secondary major depressive disorder, sleep difficulties, psychosomatic symptoms, and even increased suicide risk.

Maladaptive attempts to self-medicate can result in alcohol or substance abuse and dependence disorders, which usually make anxiety symptoms worse.

In some cases of panic disorder, development of profound avoidance (agoraphobia) can develop and interfere greatly with daily functioning.

Anxiety disorders can co-occur in medical disorders such as chronic pain syndromes, or in individuals or families impacted by serious medical disorders such as cancer, heart disease, and neurological illness. Though commonly referred to generically as post-partum depression, post-partum depression can also be marked by very prominent anxiety, obsessions or worries.





















Common Anxiety Symptoms

Worry or fear that something bad might happen

Trembling, twitching, or feeling shaky



Chest tightness or shortness of breath

Muscle tension, restlessness,
or tremulousness

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

Fast heartbeat or breathing rate

Sweating, cold, or clammy hands

Dry mouth, nausea, or diarrhea

Irritability, impatience, easily distracted

Difficulty swallowing

Memory or concentration problems

Hot or cold flashes

Feelings of apprehension or dread

Tension or jumpiness

Being hypervigilant to signs of threat or danger

Headaches or GI complaints 

Anxiety Disorder Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)                                                         



FAQ: What Causes Anxiety Disorders?


 Genetics, biochemistry, environment, and a person’s psychological profile seem to contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. Typically, a thorough examination is performed to verify the cause of the anxiety before treatment can begin.  It is not unusual for anxiety to be misdiagnosed.  If anxiety is primarily caused by a medication or substance abuse, then it is not considered an anxiety disorder.  The National Institute of Mental Health reports that most anxiety disorders are accompanied by other health problems such as depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, or other mental illness. 

 FAQ: How are Anxiety Disorders Treated?

Anxiety disorders are treated in many ways, but the most effective forms of treatment are cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of both.  Treatment options depend on each person’s situation and preferences.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches several techniques to stop unwanted thoughts and behaviors.  Some of these techniques are deep breathing exercises and changing thinking patterns.  Exposure therapy is also effective and it encourages patients to gradually face a feared situation with the intention of overcoming fears. 

 FAQ: What about medication for anxiety disorder?

Medication is prescribed when symptoms of anxiety cause problems in everyday life. Antidepressant medication, cardiac medication and anti-anxiety medications may be used. Some have risks of addiction and should be monitored closely, especially in individuals with history of addictions. It is also important to note that many patients can reduce or discontinue psychiatric medication with a course of effective psychotherapy for anxiety. Group therapy, hypnotherapy, and self-help support groups can also be effective.


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About the Author: Amanda Ross was a practicum student with Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida at the time of this article.

She is now on faculty at the University of Florida Counseling Center


Editor:  Ernest J. Bordini, Ph.D.  Last updated 09/28/18, 07/21/23









If a person experiences anxiety for longer than 6 weeks, a mental health professional should be consulted.

If you feel you might have an anxiety disorder and wish to schedule an appointment for an initial assessment or treatment, call Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida at 352-336-2888 to schedule an intake appointment for assessment or treatment.

































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