Who May Be at Risk For Having an Anxiety Disorder?

By Anne Ahira

The most common form of mental illness diagnosed today is anxiety disorders, and it is estimated that as many as twenty million people suffer from some type of anxiety disorder on a yearly basis.

There are several types of anxiety disorders with each having their own unique characteristics including certain risk factors that appear to be commonly associated with the specific types of these disorders.

Medical experts have agreed that a combination of certain risk factors most likely play a roll in all types of anxiety disorders which include, genetics, environmental, brain chemistry, and personality traits.

General Anxiety and Panic Disorder Risk Factors

“General anxiety disorder” or “GAD” is the most common type of mental illness among the elderly and is seen twice more often in women than in men. GAD commonly begins during childhood and typically becomes a chronic condition especially when left untreated.

Depression is a common factor among individuals with anxiety and when an adolescent suffers from depression, the risk factor of having an anxiety disorder in adulthood is significantly high.

Individuals with chronic illnesses and serious medical conditions are also at a high risk for developing this disorder.

In the anxiety disorder known as “panic disorder”, age seems to play a significant role.

While one to two percent of young adults suffer from panic disorder, the figures are much higher among adolescents, as estimates show that up to nine percent of adolescents suffer from this type of anxiety.

Panic attacks most commonly begin during late adolescence or early adulthood up into the middle thirties.

Women are also at a higher risk for developing a panic disorder as this condition is seen two times more often in women than in men.

One research study showed that during a six month period, eighteen percent of older women experienced a panic attack

OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress

“OCD” or “obsessive compulsive disorder” typically develops during adolescence or in early adulthood and appears to be as prevalent in men as it is in women.

Hereditary factors also seem to play a roll in OCD as individuals who develop this disorder often times have other family members who suffer from this illness.

“Social anxiety disorder” or “social phobias” is the third most commonly diagnosed mental illness in the United States and typically develops during early teenage years and appears to affect more women than men.

It is estimated that the risk for an individual developing “post traumatic stress disorder” or “PTSD” in the United States is as high as eight percent.

Individuals most commonly at risk for PTSD are those that have experienced a traumatic or catastrophic event during their lifetime. The risk factor for PTSD is much higher in children as well as those who have had a pre-existing psychological disorder such as clinical depression.

Individuals who have a drug dependency or abuse alcohol also have a higher risk factor for developing PTSD.

While there are numerous other factors that may contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder, scientists and researchers are still unable to pin point the exact cause as to why some individuals develop this disorder and others do not.

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