Anxiety disorders

Michelle G. Craske*, Murray B. Stein, Thalia C. Eley, Mohammed R. Milad, Andrew Holmes, Ronald M. Rapee, Hans Ulrich Wittchen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


Anxiety disorders constitute the largest group of mental disorders in most western societies and are a leading cause of disability. The essential features of anxiety disorders are excessive and enduring fear, anxiety or avoidance of perceived threats, and can also include panic attacks. Although the neurobiology of individual anxiety disorders is largely unknown, some generalizations have been identified for most disorders, such as alterations in the limbic system, dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and genetic factors. In addition, general risk factors for anxiety disorders include female sex and a family history of anxiety, although disorder-specific risk factors have also been identified. The diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders varies for the individual disorders, but are generally similar across the two most common classification systems: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Edition (ICD-10). Despite their public health significance, the vast majority of anxiety disorders remain undetected and untreated by health care systems, even in economically advanced countries. If untreated, these disorders are usually chronic with waxing and waning symptoms. Impairments associated with anxiety disorders range from limitations in role functioning to severe disabilities, such as the patient being unable to leave their home.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17024
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalNature Reviews Disease Primers
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2017


  • anxiety
  • neurological disorders
  • psychiatric disorders

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