Anxiety Disorder Fast Facts

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but for some people it can become excessive and affect their daily life.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH):

  • Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder.
  • Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders or substance abuse.
  • Most people with one anxiety disorder also have another anxiety disorder. Nearly three-quarters of those with an anxiety disorder will have their first episode by age 21.5, according to the NIMH.

 Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is characterized by persistent unrealistic worry about everyday things.
  • Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, in which people experience seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks. Sometimes they develop a fear of going into places where they have had previous panic attacks.  About one in three people with panic disorder develops agoraphobia. They stick to places they consider safe, and avoid public places (such as malls, trains, and stadiums) where escape may be difficult. Some people develop a fixed route or territory, and it may become impossible for them to travel beyond their safety zones without suffering severe anxiety.
  • Social anxiety disorder, a fear of being judged by people in social situation.
  • Specific phobias, such as a fear of flying or a fear of dogs
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or problems with flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories after undergoing a period of extreme stress.

 Most common medications used to treat Anxiety Disorder are:

 Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Brand names include Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. Generic names include Citalopram, Excitalopram, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, Fluoxetine and Sertraline.


Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). Brand Names include Efflexor and Cymbalta. Generic names include venlafaxine and duloxetine.

Side effects of SSRIs and SNRIs include:

  • Headache, which usually goes away within a few days.
  • Nausea, which usually goes away within a few days.
  • Sleeplessness or drowsiness, which may happen during the first few weeks but then goes away. Sometimes the medication dose needs to be reduced or the time of day it is taken needs to be adjusted to help lessen these side effects.
  • Agitation (feeling jittery).
  • Sexual problems, which can affect both men and women and may include reduced sex drive, and problems having and enjoying sex.
  • A 2011 British study found that the side effects of SSRIs may be more pronounced in senior citizens, over the age of 65. If you fall into this category, discuss this issue with your doctor before taking these medications. (Source: NIMH, NIH)

Benzodiazepines: Brand names include Klonopin, Xanax, and Ativan. Generic names include clonazepam, lorazepam, and alprazolam.

Side effects:

Benzodiazepines are usually prescribed for short-term or occasional use due to the risk of dependency. The most common side effects for benzodiazepines are drowsiness and dizziness.

Other possible side effects include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Grogginess
  • Nightmares.

For More Information

For complete information on all aspects of anxiety disorder, visit the website of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) at

Other sources of information:

Coping with Anxiety: Can Diet Make a Difference?  (Mayo Clinic)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When Worry Gets Out of Control (NIMH)

Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder): Always Embarrassed (NIMH)


Ellen Wlody

Ellen Wlody is a writer who specializes in health and parenting topics. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, children, and two dogs.

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