Anxiety: What it is, Causes, Symptoms and Anxiety Disorders


The term anxiety derives from the Latin angĕre, which means to tighten, and is an emotional state, however unpleasant, commonly found in various moments and situations of human life.

Often described as a feeling of psychophysical tension, worry and restlessness that sometimes borders on fear, anxiety is not always synonymous with illness. In this regard, therefore, it is important to establish the boundaries between normal anxiety and pathological anxiety.

Physiological Anxiety or Pathological Anxiety?

Normal anxiety – physiological or alarm – is a state of psychological and physical tension that implies a generalized activation of all the individual’s resources, thus allowing the implementation of initiatives and behaviors useful for adaptation. It is directed against a really existing stimulus, often well known, represented by difficult and unusual conditions.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is pathological when it disturbs psychic functioning to a greater or lesser extent, causing a limitation of the individual’s ability to adapt. It is characterized by a state of uncertainty about the future, with the prevalence of unpleasant feelings.

What are the Causes of Anxiety?

The causes of anxiety are not yet fully understood. However, it is agreed that there is the implication of several factors that concur with each other in giving rise to the disorder. Among these we remember:

Hereditary factors: Some genetic studies have found that, in about 50% of cases, people with anxiety disorders have at least one family member suffering from a similar condition.
Biological factors: according to some studies carried out on the human brain, the onset of anxiety can be related to alterations in the quantity of some neurotransmitters, such as an excessive production of norepinephrine, a reduced availability of serotonin (which regulates well-being) and of GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter among the most important in our body).

How does anxiety manifest itself?

Anxiety is characterized by general symptoms, psychological and related to the activation of the autonomic nervous system, that is, what is not under the control of the person’s will (sympathetic and parasympathetic), and which are called neurovegetative disorders.

Classification of Anxiety Disorders DSM-5

According to the classification of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fifth edition (DSM-5), anxiety disorders are classified as follows:

Separation anxiety disorder
Selective mutism;
Specific phobia;
Social anxiety disorder;
Panic disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder;
Substance / Drug Induced Anxiety Disorder;
Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition
Anxiety disorder with other specification;
Anxiety Disorder Without Other Specification.


L’ansia patologica, generalmente, richiede l’intervento dello specialista che saprà diagnosticare quale tipo di disturbo ansioso affligge il paziente e quale trattamento meglio si addice al singolo caso.

In linea generale, l’ansia può essere trattata con la psicoterapia, con la terapia farmacologica o con una combinazione dalle due.


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