Anxiety disorders are characterized by a sense of excessive anxiety and worry that causes significant distress and adversely impacts daily life. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia, separation anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.
Although the exact causes of anxiety disorders are unknown, research suggests that symptoms result from many different genetic, environmental (e.g., trauma, infection, or significant life event), and developmental factors. Regions of the brain associated with fear and anxiety (the amygdala and hippocampus) are also major contributors to the development of anxiety disorders.
Specific symptoms of anxiety disorders vary depending on the type of disorder, but each are similarly characterized by excessive worry and fear. Associated symptoms may also include irritability, restlessness, and sleep problems as well as physical problems such as a rapid heartbeat, sweeting, and muscle tension. Some individuals experience panic attacks, which result in a sense of overwhelming terror with the possibility of trouble breathing or hyperventilation, shaking, hot or cold flashes, and nausea.