Explore our suite of self-care tools and resources to help you better understand and manage your mental health.

Understanding anxiety disorder

Feeling anxious every now and then is a normal part of life. We might feel anxious as we go through big changes in our lives, when we do something new, or when we are confronted with our fears.

For some of us, these feelings of anxiousness will eventually go away on their own. However, for others, it might linger for a long period, even after those events have passed.

Don’t be quick to dismiss our anxious feelings. If left unmanaged, that sense of worry and dread may develop into anxiety disorders and affect our day-to-day activities.

Understanding anxiety disorder

What is anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorder occurs when a person’s anxiety is persistent, excessive, and irrational. This is different from anxiety, a common, normal, and appropriate feeling of worry, nervousness or unease when dealing with day-to-day stresses or problems.

What is anxiety disorder

How does it affect us?

When we have anxiety disorders, we frequently have worries and fears that interfere with daily activities. These feelings are difficult to control, out of proportion, and can last a long time, affecting us in the following ways:

  • The way we lead our lives, e.g. avoiding the fear and anxiety-provoking situations
  • Our ability to work
  • Our ability to cope with the demands of life or relationships

Common misconceptions:

Feeling anxious is the same as having an anxiety disorder.

What people may think:

Feeling anxious is the same as having an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders only happen to those who are often stressed and worry a lot.

What people may think:

Anxiety disorders only happen to those who are often stressed and worry a lot.

Anxiety disorders will go away on their own.

What people may think:

Anxiety disorders will go away on their own.

How does it affect us

What are the different
types of anxiety disorders?

There are different types of anxiety disorders. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder that affects 2 in every 100 Singaporeans in their lifetime.

Other common anxiety disorders include panic disorder and specific phobias.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with GAD face excessive anxiety and worry over various situations. GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control his/her worry over a prolonged period of at least 6 months.Learn more about GAD here:

Some people may be affected by more than one anxiety disorder or have other mental health conditions, e.g. depression, at the same time. This is not uncommon and a healthcare professional will be able to determine which condition(s) an individual has.

Signs and symptoms

Some common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

Chest pain/discomfort

Cold, numb/tingly hands and feet

Difficulties remaining calm and staying still


Excessive fear, panic, and feelings
of uneasiness

Heart palpitations

Shortness of breath


Signs and symptoms anxiety disorders


To diagnose an anxiety disorder, a healthcare professional would conduct a detailed clinical interview in which he/she would ask about the individual’s past medical and psychiatric history, family history, current symptoms, and the impact on his/her functioning.

With the patient’s consent, there may also be requests to speak with a family member to gather more information. A physical examination and some blood tests may also be done.



Medication and psychotherapy are effective treatments to help reduce the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders.


Anxiety disorders respond well to treatment if they are identified and treated early. Antidepressants are effective in treating anxiety disorders. A short course of benzodiazepines may also be prescribed for short term relief of anxiety symptoms.

When combined with psychotherapy, medication results in a lower risk of relapse and better control of symptoms. The advice of a healthcare professional is required for the continuation or stopping of medication.

Treatment anxiety disorders

Anxiety self-assessment

Anxiety self-assessment tool

Anxiety disorder is when our anxiety (feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease) is persistent, excessive, and irrational.

The General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) is a set of 7 questions that those aged 12 and above can use to assess if they might be suffering from anxiety disorder and to take steps to feel better.

Please note this is a self-assessment and not a medical diagnosis.

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