How Do Anxiety Disorders Affect People?

Symptoms of anxiety disorders often develop during adolescence or early adulthood. People with anxiety disorders avoid situations that precipitate their symptoms. This avoidance can seriously restrict education, work, recreation and social activities.Individuals severely affected by one anxiety disorder are also more likely to have either another type of anxiety disorder, major depression or dysthymic disorder, problematic substance use, or a personality disorder. This compounds the impact of the anxiety disorder and presents challenges for effective treatment. According to the 2002 Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey (CCHS 1.2), most of the individuals who reported symptoms that met the criteria for social phobia or panic disorder in the previous 12 months reported that it interfered with their lives: 75.6% of those with panic disorder and 82.6% with social phobia. These individuals reported that their conditions affected their home, school, work and social life. (Figure 5-7) Two-thirds (66.3%) of those with social phobia reported that it interfered with their social life. Approximately 1 in 2 of those with panic disorder stated that it interfered with home, work and social life.

Economic Impact

Because they are so common, anxiety disorders have a major economic impact. They contribute to lost productivity due to both time away from work and unemployment. Other associated costs include claims on disability insurance. Heavy use of the emergency department and primary care system in reaction to physical symptoms also contributes to significant health care costs.

Stigma Associated with Anxiety Disorders

Because anxiety disorders are the extension of what most people perceive as normal worry and concern, those who experience them may fear that others will label their worry and fear as excessive and weakness. As a result, they may keep their symptoms to themselves and try to deal with them alone.