Anxiety Disorders

Every person experiences anxious feelings every now and then, such as that feeling right before you take an exam and you’re not sure if you have prepared enough for it. However, people with anxiety disorders experience persistent, debilitating, uncontrollable anxiety that interferes with their lives. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States and it is a serious medical condition.

About one in five college students has experienced some form of clinical anxiety. For U-M, the number of students with anxiety could fill up 75% of the Crisler Center arena!




Unlike other anxiety disorders, the anxiety experienced in GAD is not limited to specific situations or circumstances. Rather, the focus of the anxiety is on many or most areas of a person’s life (e.g., academic or job performance, finances, social relationships, crime, etc.).

People with GAD find it very difficult or impossible to control their anxiety. GAD anxiety lasts for six months or longer and is associated with at least three of these symptoms:

  • Feeling restless or on-edge
  • Feeling easily tired or fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Tenseness in muscles
  • Difficulty sleeping

Additional Resources

Generalized Anxiety Disorder stories


People with SAD (also called social phobia) have a strong and persistent fear of being judged by other people or humiliating themselves in social situations such as:

  • Speaking or performing a task in front of others
  • Eating in front of others
  • Meeting new people
  • Attending parties or gatherings

People with SAD have severe anxiety (or even panic) whenever they find themselves in situations where they fear they will be judged negatively by others. People with SAD typically go to great lengths to avoid these activities or situations (e.g., completely avoiding classes that involve public speaking). SAD may cause problems with school, work, and social relationships.

Additional Resources

Social Anxiety Disorder stories

Social Anxiety Association

Social Anxiety Institute


Specific phobias (often referred to simply as phobias) are disorders in which individuals have an excessive fear of a specific object, animal or situation.

People with specific phobias experience intense fear (sometimes full-blown panic) nearly every time they come in contact or anticipate coming in contact with the feared object or situation.

People with phobias often make great efforts to avoid the feared object or situation (e.g., someone with a dog phobia will avoid walking down streets where they may encounter a dog). This avoidance can greatly interfere with activities.

Phobias typically fall into one of the following categories:

  • Animal Type. Involves fear of animals (e.g., snakes or insects)
  • Natural Environment Type. Involves fear of natural environmental objects or situations (e.g., heights, bodies of water, or storms)
  • Blood-Injection-Injury Type. Involves fear of seeing blood, receiving an injection or other medical procedure
  • Situational Type. Involves fears of everyday situations (e.g., tunnels, bridges, flying, driving, closed places, etc.)
  • Other Type. Involves fear of situations not covered in the other categories (e.g., choking or vomiting)


Those with panic disorder experience spontaneous panic attacks and live in fear of recurrent panic attacks. Panic disorder usually begins in adulthood, but children can have panic disorder or experience panic like symptoms. Treatment for panic disorder is both available and effective, but many are reluctant to seek out help in fear of being labeled a hypochondriac.

Additional Resources

Facing Panic: Self-Help for People with Panic Attacks

Panic Disorder Stories


People with agoraphobia typically avoid places where exiting and escaping may be difficult. Common place that people with agoraphobia avoid include movie theater, shopping malls, or public transportation. People with agoraphobia typically have panic disorder too.

Additional Resources

Agoraphobia stories


Want to learn more about anxiety disorders?


UM Depression Toolkit
The Depression Center Toolkit provides information, tools, support, and resources to guide you through your mental health journey.  

A mental health resource database designed by CAPS.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America
Provides information on all kinds of anxiety disorders, and their co-occurrence with other illnesses.

American Psychiatric Association

Provides information on anxiety, related research, and books.


Coping With Anxiety: 10 simple Ways to Relieve Anxiety, Fear & Worry by Edmund Bourne, 2003
Teaches tips and strategies that readers can apply in the moment to overcome fear and anxiety.

The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, 2005
Discusses causes and symptoms of anxiety disorders, as well as self-help exercises designed to aid in recovery

When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Therapy That Can Change Your Life by David Burns, 2006
Strategies to overcome anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks without the use of medication.

Harvard Medical School Coping with Anxiety and Phobias by Michael Mufson, 2011
This report provides up-to-date information on treatments for anxiety disorders, including medications, exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, meditation, and exercise. It also includes information on the types of anxiety disorders, their symptoms, causes, and getting a proper diagnosis, as well as advice on making treatment work for you.

College of the Overwhelmed by Richard Kadison, 2004
This book is written as a guide for students, parents, and others that work with them. It explores the many different stress factors college students face that cause so many of them to suffer from mental illnesses. It also offers some tips for helping students beat stress, and succeed in the college setting.

For additional treatment and support options, see our find treatment services section or our support resources section.


Get Help Now - Crisis Text Line 741-741 // Call U-M Crisis Phone Line: (734) 936-5900 or (734) 996-4747