Mental Health

Anxiety Disorders


Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive and persistent feelings of worry, fear, and unease. Anxiety can manifest in different forms, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder among others.


The exact cause of anxiety disorders is not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors may play a role.


Some common causes of anxiety disorders include:

  • Genetics: Studies suggest that certain genes may make a person more susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder.
  • Brain chemistry: Imbalances in certain chemicals in the brain, such as neurotransmitters, may contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.
  • Environmental factors: Trauma, stress, and major life changes can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders can vary depending on the type of disorder, but some common characteristics include:

  • Persistent and excessive worry or fear
  • Physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and trembling
  • Difficulty in controlling or reducing worry or fear
  • Avoiding certain situations or activities
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

To diagnose an anxiety disorder, a healthcare professional will typically conduct a thorough evaluation, including a patient interview, a review of the patient’s medical and psychiatric history, and a mental status examination. They may also use diagnostic tools such as structured interviews, questionnaires, and rating scales to assess the severity of symptoms.

Treatment options for anxiety disorders include:

  • Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications
  • Psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga
  • Mindfulness-based therapy which helps individuals develop a non-judgmental attitude towards their thoughts and feelings
  • Support groups

It’s important to note that treatment for anxiety disorders is typically tailored to the individual and may involve a combination of different approaches. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare professional to find the best treatment plan and to prevent future episodes. With the right support, individuals with anxiety disorders can manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

Here are some common types of anxiety disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) usually involve constant feelings of anxiety and dread, which can interfere with daily life for months or even years at a time.


There are several symptoms associated with GAD, including:

Intermittent restlessness


Being constantly on edge


Easily fatigued


Problems with concentration


Irritability and anxiety


Unexplained aches and pains affecting different body parts, including headaches, muscle aches, and stomach pains


Worrying too much


Sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep


  • Panic Disorder

In panic disorder, panic attacks are frequent and unexpected. In a panic attack, there is no clear threat or trigger, but one feels fear, discomfort, or loses control. The presence of a panic attack does not necessarily indicate a panic disorder.


Symptoms of a panic attack include:


An abnormally fast or pounding heartbeat


Sweating excessively


Tingling or trembling sensations


Chest pain


The feeling of impending doom


A feeling of being out of control

People with panic disorder often worry about their next attack. In order to prevent future panic attacks, they avoid places, situations, or behaviours associated with panic attacks. There is a range of frequency when it comes to panic attacks, ranging from a few times a year to several times a day.


Social Anxiety Disorder


An intense, persistent fear of being observed and judged by others is social anxiety disorder. A person suffering from social anxiety disorder may feel overwhelmed by the fear of social situations. Some people may be unable to attend work, school, or do everyday tasks because of their fear.


The following symptoms may be experienced by people with social anxiety disorder:


A blushing, sweating, or trembling appearance


A racing or pounding heart


A stomach ache


An overly soft voice or rigid body posture


The inability to make eye contact with strangers or be around unfamiliar people


Feelings of self-consciousness or fear of negative judgment from others


Disorders associated with phobias


The term phobia refers to an intense fear or aversion of a specific object or situation. Although it is reasonable to feel anxious in certain circumstances, the fear people with phobias feel is disproportionate to the danger they face.


An individual with a phobia:


An excessive or irrational fear of encountering the feared object or situation may be present


Avoid the feared object or situation by taking active measures


Anxiety is experienced immediately upon encountering the feared object or situation


Experiencing intense anxiety when faced with unavoidable objects and situations.


There are several types of phobias and phobia-related disorders:

  • Flying
  • Heights
  • Specific animals, such as spiders, dogs, or snakes
  • Receiving injections
  • Blood



The following situations are intensely feared by people with agoraphobia:


The use of public transportation


Being in an open environment


Being enclosed in a space


Being in a crowd or standing in line


Being alone outside the home


As a result of agoraphobia, people often avoid these situations, partly because they fear panic-like reactions or other embarrassing symptoms that might make leaving difficult or impossible. A person suffering from agoraphobia can become housebound in its most severe form.


Separation anxiety disorder: 


It is often thought that separation anxiety is something that only children experience; however, separation anxiety disorder can also affect adults. An individual with separation anxiety disorder fears being taken away from the people they are attached to. When they are separated, they worry that something untoward will happen to their attachment figures. Because of this fear, they avoid being separated from their attachment figures and avoid being alone. It is common for people with separation anxiety to have nightmares about being separated from attachment figures or to experience physical symptoms when separation occurs or is anticipated.


For further support and information please book an appointment with our specialists


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Dr Ibrahim Yahli MD MRCPsych

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