Anxiety disorders

Brenda WJH Penninx*, Daniel S. Pine, Emily A. Holmes, Andreas Reif

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Anxiety disorders form the most common group of mental disorders and generally start before or in early adulthood. Core features include excessive fear and anxiety or avoidance of perceived threats that are persistent and impairing. Anxiety disorders involve dysfunction in brain circuits that respond to danger. Risk for anxiety disorders is influenced by genetic factors, environmental factors, and their epigenetic relations. Anxiety disorders are often comorbid with one another and with other mental disorders, especially depression, as well as with somatic disorders. Such comorbidity generally signifies more severe symptoms, greater clinical burden, and greater treatment difficulty. Reducing the large burden of disease from anxiety disorders in individuals and worldwide can be best achieved by timely, accurate disease detection and adequate treatment administration, scaling up of treatments when needed. Evidence-based psychotherapy (particularly cognitive behavioural therapy) and psychoactive medications (particularly serotonergic compounds) are both effective, facilitating patients' choices in therapeutic decisions. Although promising, no enduring preventive measures are available, and, along with frequent therapy resistance, clinical needs remain unaddressed. Ongoing research efforts tackle these problems, and future efforts should seek individualised, more effective approaches for treatment with precision medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)914-927
Number of pages14
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number10277
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2021

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