Everybody knows what it feels like to be anxious once is a while. We have all experienced:

  • a pounding heart pounding when coming close to having a road accident,

  • butterflies in the stomach before a speech or performance,

  • the tension when the boss is angry or unhappy,

  • a dry mouth just before a job interview,

  • a knot in the stomach when being reminded of a large unpaid bill.

Anxiety disorders are a group of very common, serious, yet treatable disorders that affect behaviour, thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. They include a number of apparently very different conditions such as:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia)

  • Phobias

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

All these disorders have anxiety as a major or underlying symptom. Anxiety symptoms range from feelings of uneasiness to episodes of incapacitating terror.

Fortunately, most people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with the right professional care. There are no guarantees, and success rates may vary according to the severity and the type of anxiety and a person's circumstances. The duration of treatment will also vary. Some people require only a few months of treatment, while others may need a year or more. On the whole, psychiatrists prescribe a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Anxiety disorders are common in all countries and cultures. It is believed that around 16% of adults suffer from a form of anxiety disorder. Panic disorder and agoraphobia, in particular, are associated with an increased risk of attempted suicide.