Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/1/2023
Have you ever noticed that you’ve recently started feeling more anxious than you did before? Or that you occasionally have panic attacks, feel uncomfortable in certain situations or worry about socializing more than you used to?
It’s normal to occasionally experience anxiety. However, some people develop anxiety disorders -- feelings of anxiety that are persistent and/or severe -- that begin to become noticeable only at a certain point in life.
What age does anxiety peak? Anxiety disorders are usually diagnosed in a person’s teens, 20s or thirties. However, like many other mental disorders, they can occur at any age and affect people of all backgrounds.
Below, we’ve talked about the link between your age and your risk of experiencing emotional or physical symptoms of anxiety.
We’ve also discussed how certain types of anxiety, such as separation anxiety, tend to develop more when you’re younger.
Finally, we’ve explained the options that are available if you suffer from anxiety and want to get your symptoms under control and improve your quality of life.
Before we get into the finer details of age and your risk of anxiety, let’s get one important thing out of the way. Anxiety affects everyone, and the signs of anxiety, such as worried thoughts or an elevated heart rate, can happen at any time in your life.
These feelings are normal when they occur in response to a stressful situation or hard moment in your life. However, when feelings of anxiety occur frequently, or when your anxiety levels are so severe that it’s hard for you to function, it may suggest that you have an anxiety disorder.
Common anxiety disorders include:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Social anxiety disorder
Panic disorder (PD)
Our guide to anxiety disorders provides more information about these conditions, from common risk factors and anxiety symptoms to the impact that each disorder may have on your daily life, mental well-being and overall health.
Anxiety disorders are common, with large-scale survey data suggesting that they affect close to one in every three US adults at some point in life. These disorders are most common in people in their 20s and 30s, but can and do occur in all age groups.
Because anxiety is such a common issue, numerous studies have looked into the average age at which symptoms occur.
One meta-analysis, which was published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, used data from 24 studies and found that the average age of onset (the age at which symptoms first began) for anxiety disorders was 21.3 years.
It also noted that several forms of anxiety tend to develop at younger or older ages, with certain anxiety disorders more commonly diagnosed in teens.
For example, the average age of onset for generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and agoraphobia was 21 to 34 years.
In contrast, separation anxiety disorder, specific phobias and social anxiety all had an average age of onset below 15 years.
Other research has produced similar findings, with a review published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry noting a median age of onset of 26 years for panic disorder and 32 for generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety in children is less common. According to the CDC, an estimated 9.4 percent of children aged three to 17 were affected by anxiety problems from 2016 to 2019, with the majority of anxiety cases in younger people reported in adolescents rather than elementary school-aged children.
There’s no precise age at which anxiety “peaks” for everyone. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may notice that your symptoms vary in severity based on your environment, your general health and a range of other factors.
You may also find that your levels of anxiety fluctuate from year to year, with certain periods in life more anxiety-inducing than others.
In other words, if you’re diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in your 20s, there’s no exact route that you can expect your symptoms to follow. Anxiety affects people in all age ranges, in some cases for a few months, and for others, for several decades.
Whether it starts to affect you at 20, 50 or 80 years of age, anxiety is a treatable issue. Almost all anxiety disorders get better with treatment, and many people affected by anxiety are able to live full, happy lives with the right mix of medication, therapy and/or healthy habits.
If you think you have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to talk to a mental health expert as soon as you can. Like with other mental health issues, anxiety may get worse if it goes untreated.
You can get help for anxiety by asking your primary care provider for a mental health referral, or by using our online psychiatry service to connect with a licensed provider from home.
Depending on your severity of symptoms, general health and several other factors, your mental health provider may suggest one or several of the following options to treat your anxiety:
Taking part in therapy. Anxiety often becomes less severe with talk therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or exposure therapy. This type of therapy often involves developing new methods of thinking to manage your anxiety symptoms.
We offer individual therapy online as part of our range of mental health services, letting you take part in private sessions with a professional counselor from your home.
Using medication. Many people with anxiety disorder experience improvements in their symptoms with medication, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other medications for anxiety.
Finding the right medication for your type of anxiety disorder can take time, and you may not notice improvements for several weeks after starting treatment. Make sure to closely follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and use your medication as prescribed.
Joining a support group. Taking part in a support group can often help you learn more about dealing with anxiety, including approaches for coping with your symptoms, all in a friendly and supportive environment.
We offer online support groups, allowing you to connect with others and feel together in an anonymous, zero-judgment environment.
Change your habits. Some habits, such as smoking, consuming lots of caffeine, being physically inactive or ruminating on unpleasant thoughts, may make anxiety worse and stop you from making progress toward feeling better.
Our guide to calming anxiety shares easy lifestyle choices that you can make to reduce the severity of anxiety and improve your mental well-being.
At what age does anxiety peak? There’s no specific age at which anxiety disorders “peak” in terms of severity. However, most people with anxiety disorders notice symptoms and are diagnosed in their 20s or 30s.
If you’re worried that you might have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to talk to a mental health provider about your symptoms. Like other psychiatric disorders, anxiety is treatable, and talking to a specialist is the first step towards accessing help and improving your quality of life.
You can access help for anxiety online, including medication and therapy, with our mental health services.
You can also learn more about successfully dealing with anxiety disorders, from medication and psychotherapy to natural forms of anxiety treatment, with our complete guide to anxiety disorder treatments.