Basic Facts

What is anxiety and what are anxiety disorders?

Stress is an everyday response to life. Many experiences cause us to feel anxious. This is normal.Sometimes a little anxiety can be a good thing. If you have a project to finish for work or are having a large get-together at your home, feeling a bit worried about getting everything done on time can help you focus and finish the job. This kind of anxiety is a normal response to stress.

But excessive anxiety is another thing.You may have trouble managing daily activities and you may find it difficult to enjoy life. Anxiety that involves excessive worry and lasts a long time or gets worse over time is considered an anxiety disorder.

As many as 15% of older adults in community settings have anxiety disorders. These disorders are more common among older women than older men. In later life, people may develop anxiety disorders during stressful events such as a serious illness, financial problems, or the loss of a spouse or other close relative or friend. Cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders commonly lead to anxiety. For example, anxiety is present in up to 40% of patients with COPD. Anxiety is often a sign of an underlying depressive disorder.


Last Updated August 2020