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Anxiety Disorders


Anxiety disorders are a group of syndromes (see Table 1) characterised by symptoms of excessive worrying, intense fears, hypervigilance and/or somatic symptoms, in the absence of a dangerous situation.

Table 1: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) Definition of  'Anxiety Disorders"

  • Panic disorder, with and without agoraphobia
  • Agoraphobia, without a history of panic disorder  
  • Social anxiety disorder  (SAnD)
  • Specific phobia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder  (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress  disorder (PTSD)
  • Acute stress  disorder
  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Anxiety disorder  due to a general medical condition
  • Substance-induced anxiety disorder  
  • Anxiety disorder  not otherwise specified

Anxiety disorders are the most common of all the psychiatric disorders (Robins et al, 1984), and recent cross-country studies indicate that they are highly prevalent. In addition, two anxiety disorders are among the four most common medical illnesses in the USA; The other two medical illnesses are also closely associated with anxiety. Of the psychiatric disorders, phobias are the most common, followed by depression, substance abuse and OCD (Karno et al, 1988).

Pharmaco-economic research suggests that one-third of all costs related to mental illness are incurred because of anxiety disorders (Dupont et al, 1997), and the economic burden of disorders such as SAnD (Schneier et al, 1992b) and OCD (Hollander, 1997; Dupont et al, 1995) is extremely high.

The treatment of anxiety disorders has changed substantially over the past decade, mainly because of the development of safer, non-benzodiazepine
agents, in particular the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs were originally developed for the treatment for depression, and they have subsequently showed efficacy in the treatment of anxiety due to their serotonergic activity.

Read more about the treatment of anxiety disorders.

This area of the Brain Explorer offers an overview of the causes of–and treatment for–anxiety disorders, with no particular emphasis on any disorder. However, more detailed information about panic disorder can also be found on this website.


Last updated: 20.12.2011





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