Introduction to Anxiety Disorders

What classifies a disorder as an Anxiety Disorder?

Feelings of excessive fear and/or extreme anxiety that subsequently cause behavioral disturbances are classified as Anxiety Disorders.  Anxiety disorders differ from another in the following three ways:  objects or situations that induce fear, encourage anxiety, and/or incite avoidance behavior (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013).

What is the difference between anxiety and fear?

While feelings of anxiety and fear can overlap, they have distinct definitions.  Anxiety is the feeling that arises when anticipating a future threat.  Symptoms of anxiety are associated with muscle tension.  Fear is “the emotional response to a real or perceived imminent threat,” and its symptoms are associated with the fight, flight, or freeze response (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013).

What are avoidance behaviors?

Types of avoidance behaviors include avoiding, escaping, and partial avoidance.  Avoiding involves dodging an object, subject, or situation in its entirety.  When unable to fully avoid, some persons escape.  Examples of escaping including leaving a gathering early or ending a presentation prior to its intended finish.  Finally, partial avoidance, which is sometimes referred to as safety behaviors, is used when avoiding and escaping are not possible.  Partial avoidance includes avoiding eye contact in social settings, daydreaming, and sitting away from groups (Cuncic, 2017).  Persons employ avoidance behaviors to reduce or prevent feelings of fear and/or anxiety.

Names of the Disorders within the Class

Anxiety Disorders

Each of these disorders has one common criteria, that the “fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 2013).

Organization of this Blog Series

The Depressive Disorders’ Blog Series has four parts:  Part One will cover Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Separation Anxiety Disorder; Part Two describes Panic Disorder, Panic Attack Specifier, and Selective Mutism; Part Three details Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), and Specific Phobia; and Part Four describes Substance/Medication Induced Anxiety Disorder, Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition, Other Specified Anxiety Disorder, and Unspecified Anxiety Disorder.

Click HERE to read the introduction to this blog series, Mental Health Diagnoses!, which covers how diagnosis using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- 5 works.

Stay Tuned for Part One!


Cuncic, A. (2017, July 13). 3 Coping Strategies That Actually Make Anxiety Worse. Retrieved June 1, 2018,from

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Web. [access date: 31 May 2018].




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