Table 1

The characteristics and age of onset for DSM-5 anxiety disorders

Age of onset (in years)*
Anxiety disorderClinical characteristicsMedianIQR
Separation anxiety disorderDevelopmentally inappropriate and excessive fear/anxiety concerning separation from those to whom the child is attached, which has been present for at least 4 weeks76–10
Specific phobiaMarked fear/anxiety about a specific object or situation that is out of proportion to the actual danger posed and the sociocultural context and is persistent, typically lasting 6 months or more. The object or situation almost always provokes immediate fear/anxiety and is actively avoided or endured with intense fear/anxiety75–12
Selective mutismConsistent failure to speak in specific social situations in which there is an expectation for speaking despite speaking in other situations, for at least 1 month (not limited to the first month of school)
Social anxiety disorderMarked fear/anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others, occurring in peer settings and not just in interactions with adults. Situations are avoided or endured with intense fear/anxiety, which is out of proportion to the actual threat posed and sociocultural context, typically lasting for 6 months or more138–15
AgoraphobiaMarked fear/anxiety about two or more of the following situations: using public transport, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line or being in a crowd or being outside alone. The situations provoke fear/anxiety due to thoughts that escape might be difficult, help might not be available or other incapacitating/embarrassing symptoms and situations are actively avoided, require the presence of a companion or are endured with intense fear/anxiety, lasting 6 months or more2013–33
Panic disorderRecurrent unexpected panic attacks, consisting of an abrupt surge of intense fear/discomfort that peaks within minutes and includes four symptoms, such as palpitations, sweating, trembling, sensations of shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness. At least one attack has been followed by at least 1 month of persistent worry about additional attacks or their consequences, or a significant maladaptive change in behaviour related to the attacks2416–40
Generalised anxiety disorderExcessive anxiety and worry that is difficult to control, associated with at least one physical symptom (eg, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance), occurs more days than not for at least 6 months3120–47
  • *Reported in Kessler et al.1 The IQR is the number of years between the 25th and 75th centiles of the age-of-onset distributions. All anxiety disorders (except panic disorder) require that the disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in areas such as academic or social functioning.

  • DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition.