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Anxiety Disorders

What are Anxiety Disorders?

Feeling anxious is a common emotion. Some anxiety is normal when facing stressful events.

However, when anxiety becomes persistent, overwhelming, and irrational, it may interfere with daily activities like performance at work and relationships.

When anxiety becomes excessive, one may develop an anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including: 

  • Panic disorder – When one experiences recurrent panic attacks. Panic attacks are a sudden surge of intense fear/ discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.
  • Agoraphobia – Significant fear and/or anxiety lasting for six months or more due to thoughts that there is little chance for escape or assistance in situations such as:
    • Being in enclosed places
    • Being in open spaces
    • Being outside of the home alone
    • Using public transportation
    • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – Excessive anxiety and worry about a number of events or activities occurring most of the time, for at least six months. People with GAD find it difficult to control their persistent worrying.


General symptoms of anxiety disorder include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • ​Cold, numb/ tingly hands and feet
  • Difficulty remaining calm and staying still
  • Dizziness
  • Fear, panic, and feelings of uneasiness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

Additional symptoms of panic disorder include:

  • Fear of losing control and/or dying
  • Maladaptive change in behaviour in efforts to avoid having panic attacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Persistent concern or worry about future panic attacks and their consequences

Additional symptoms of agoraphobia include:

  • Fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the agoraphobic situations

Additional symptoms of GAD include:

  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Medications to reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy to learn relaxation techniques that can help to reduce anxiety
  • Exposure therapy to gradually be exposed to the fear of attacks and avoidance of situations, and help individuals learn to “ride out” the distress until the anxiety passes
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