Anxiety disorders cover a range of conditions in which the major symptoms are nervousness, intense fear, being easily startled, having panic attacks, avoiding feared situations, and, for some, having intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. The severity of the anxiety disorders can range from mildly annoying to so severe that a person becomes a prisoner to paralyzing fears, no longer leaving the home and sometimes trapped in compulsive rituals for most hours of the day.
Anxiety disorders commonly co-occur with bipolar disorder. Multiple studies have found that over 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder will meet criteria for one anxiety disorder and over 30 percent will have multiple disorders. Panic disorder is the most frequently co-occurring, at around 20 percent, followed by generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The presence of anxiety disorders is associated with higher rates of suicide, substance abuse, social impairment, and diminished quality of life. Targeting symptoms of co-occurring anxiety, through therapeutic and pharmacological strategies, is both important and challenging.