Updated 04 February 2016

Prevalence of anxiety disorders


Social anxiety disorder

The lifetime prevalence of social anxiety disorder is estimated to be around 12% of adults. It is equally common between men and women.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Estimates of lifetime prevalence vary, but approximately 6% of adults will have GAD at some point in their life. GAD is more common in women than men and often occurs in relatives of affected persons. 

Read: What are anxiety disorders?

Panic Disorder

The lifetime prevalence of panic disorder is approximately 5%. Panic disorder is twice as common in women as in men. It can appear at any age, but most often begins in young adulthood. Not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder; many people have only one attack in their lifetimes.


Specific phobias strike more than 1 in 10 people and are slightly more prevalent in women. The incidence of phobia is between eight and 10%.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

OCD strikes men and women in approximately equal numbers and afflicts one to three percent of people. It can appear in childhood, adolescence or adulthood, but on average it first shows up in the teens or early adulthood. A third of adults with OCD experienced their first symptoms as children.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood.

Read more:

Treating anxiety disorders  

Types of anxiety disorders  

Preventing anxiety disorders

Reviewed by Dr Stefanie van Vuuren,  MB ChB (Stell), M Med (Psig) (Stell), FC (Psych)SA, Psychiatrist in private practice, Cape Town.  February 2015.

Previously reviewed by Dr Soraya Seedat, psychiatrist and co-director, MRC Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders.


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Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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