Anxiety Disorders: Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria

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Learn about symptoms used by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals as diagnostic criteria for panic attacks, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety disorders.

How Prevalent are Anxiety Disorders?

According to the NIMH, anxiety disorders affect over 13% of the adult population in the United States (more than 19 million people). Drawing on 1998 figures covering the age range 18-54, the NIMH estimates that these numbers break down as follows, indicating the percentage of the population affected by the given disorder in any given year:

  • panic disorder: 1.7% of the population
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder: 2.3% of the population
  • PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder): 3.6% of the population
  • generalized anxiety disorder: 2.8% of the population
  • social phobia: 3.7% of the population
  • agoraphobia: 2.2% of the population
  • specific phobia: 4.4% of the population

What are the Anxiety Disorders?

The DSM specifies anxiety disorders and describes anxiety symptoms under the following main headings:

  • Panic Disorder (both Without Agoraphobia and With Agoraphobia)
  • Agoraphobia Without a History of Panic Disorder
  • Specific Phobia (sometimes called Simple Phobia)
  • Social Phobia (sometimes called Social Anxiety Disorder)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Acute Stress Disorder
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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It also includes classifications for anxiety disorders which result directly from a general medical condition or from exposure to chemicals or medications, and a catch-all category for anxiety disorders which do not fit the other categories.

Clinical diagnoses of some anxiety disorders refer to the presence or absence of two particular underlying types of anxiety symptoms with their own criteria:

  • Panic Attack
  • Agoraphobia

These are not diagnosed separately, but rather serve as the components for diagnosis of other disorders.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. Please seek professional advice if you are experiencing any mental health concern.

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