Definitions, Prevalence, and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are defined as a negative affective state resulting from perceptions of threat, characterized by a perceived inability to predict, control, or obtain desired results in upcoming situations. Overall, it is estimated that an average of 3.8% of the global population are affected by anxiety disorders.27-29 This estimate suggests that 284 million people experienced anxiety disorders in 2017, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder.27-29 The prevalence varies between countries, and these disorders tend to affect women in greater numbers. Females account for approximately 63% of the individuals with anxiety disorders (Figure 1).29 This gender disparity may relate to hormonal differences and/or societal pressures, including the overwhelming percentage of at-home work performed by women, even when both partners work outside the home. The prevalence of anxiety disorders in the United States was 7.1% in 2017.29

Figure 1. Global prevalence of anxiety disorder varies by country.29
Map showing global prevalence of anxiety disorder

Treatment for anxiety disorders may include non-pharmacologic therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, interpersonal therapy (IPT), and others, pharmacological treatments with anxiolytic medications, or a combination of the two.30,31 In some instances, particularly anxiety that is situational or transient, short-term treatment may be appropriate, but many individuals with more severe anxiety symptoms may require long-term ongoing treatment.30,31