Anxiety FAQs

Find out more about anxiety disorders: how common they are, the wide range of types, how they’re different from other mental illnesses—and what you can do to help manage them. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about anxiety disorders.

How common are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety disorders are the country’s most common mental illness, affecting more than 40 million American adults (18% of the population). And although they’re highly treatable, only about 40% of people who suffer from anxiety disorders get the help they need.

Talk with your Mercy doctor if you have anxiety that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time. Depending on your symptoms, you may be referred to a Mercy behavioral health professional for further care. 

How many different types of anxiety disorders are there?

The American Psychiatric Association recognizes 11 specific types of anxiety disorders. This enables psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to more precisely diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions.

Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Selective mutism
  • Specific phobia
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Panic disorder
  • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
  • Unspecified anxiety disorder
  • Other specified anxiety disorder

What causes anxiety in children?

Several factors play a role in children’s anxiety:

  • Gender – Girls have a greater risk of developing anxiety disorders, and some studies show they’re up to twice as likely as boys to have the condition.
  • Genetics – Anxiety often runs in families. Children of parents who have anxiety disorders are seven times more likely to develop the condition. And experts say 65% of children living with anxious parents meet the criteria for anxiety disorder.
  • Brain Chemistry – The brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine are involved with many body functions, including mood and emotion. Imbalances in these chemicals can cause anxiety and depression.
  • Temperament – Children who are cautious, fearful, shy and tend to avoid people, objects or situations are more prone to developing anxiety disorders.
  • Environment – Traumatic events like divorce, illness or a death in the family can trigger anxiety in children. And family members who are noticeably anxious or stressed can increase children’s anxiety.

Can anxiety be prevented?

Anxiety disorders can’t be prevented, but they generally respond well to treatment provided by behavioral health professionals.

We all experience some anxiety. At certain times in your life, you may feel consumed by worry and stress. But at other times, you might have low levels of anxiety. Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder, these coping strategies can help reduce stress in your life:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation and breathing exercises
  • Visualization
  • Adequate rest
  • Healthy diet
  • Strengthening interpersonal and parenting skills

What’s the difference between anxiety & generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

Anxiety is a normal emotional response that we all feel from time to time. It’s your body’s way of preparing itself for an emergency. But if you suffer from GAD, you can experience constant, excessive and unrealistic worry for months at a time. Issues like money, health, family or work can trigger the disorder. With GAD, it’s hard to stop the worry cycle and it may seem beyond your control.

Does generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) qualify as a disability?

People with GAD may qualify for Social Security disability benefits if their symptoms are well documented and are severely debilitating. A proper diagnosis is a crucial first step. Your Mercy doctor must submit medical evidence of your diagnosis, including psychological testing and documentation of your symptoms.

Can you cure generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

While anxiety disorders like GAD can’t be cured, they can be effectively managed with therapy, medication or both.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you build coping skills you can use to better control GAD. CBT focuses on how thoughts and feelings influence behaviors. Working with a therapist individually or in a group setting, CBT-based therapy helps you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Medication is also beneficial for GAD. Several FDA-approved anti-anxiety medications are available to treat the condition. Talk with your Mercy doctor about medication risks and benefits.

Ask your Mercy doctor if complementary therapies like massage, relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga or exercise can be added to your treatment plan.

With effective treatment, many people with anxiety disorders lead full and productive lives. Share any symptoms or concerns about anxiety with your Mercy doctor.

How long can a panic attack last?

When a panic attack begins, the intense fear and discomfort typically reach a peak within 10 minutes. Panic attacks can last up to 30 minutes and seldom continue longer than an hour.

What happens during a panic attack? 

Panic attacks affect people differently, but they’re sudden and overpowering regardless of the symptoms. Anyone can have panic attacks, which are triggered by general anxiety, a panic disorder or depression.

Physical and emotional symptoms during panic attacks include rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea and irregular breathing. Intense emotions, extreme fears and uncontrollable worry are also common.

What’s the difference between a panic attack & an anxiety attack?

Since the symptoms of a panic attack and an anxiety attack are similar, it can be hard to tell them apart. Here are some key differences to keep in mind:

  • Panic attacks usually strike without warning in response to a perceived threat.
  • Anxiety attacks can develop gradually, with increasing intensity over minutes, hours or days.
  • Intense symptoms are common during panic attacks. You may even feel detached from reality. This intensity can vary from minor to severe.
  • Like fast-moving storms, panic attacks are usually over in less than an hour. But anxiety attacks can last longer.

What does it feel like to have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)? 

It’s normal to worry periodically. But if you’re constantly worrying about anything and everything in your life—especially when there’s no reasonable cause for concern—you may have GAD. People with this condition may realize they’re overreacting to issues in their lives, but they struggle to control their worries and anxieties. It’s constant. And GAD can interfere with sleep, make it hard to relax, and cause you to startle easily.

Find a Behavioral Health Specialist

Mercy offers expert care for mental & emotional health, including anxiety disorders. 
Find a Behavioral Health Specialist