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Fear is a normal and important response of your body. It prepares you to react in dangerous  situations. Fear can be mild or severe, ranging from minor unease to total panic.

In some people, these feelings of fear become excessive to the point where they feel anxious in everyday situations. 

If you have an anxiety disorder, your fear is unrealistic and only holding you back. Your anxiety may become worse, you may experience anxiety attacks or start avoiding everyday activities just to cope with your anxiety. For example, you may feel anxious in crowded places, such as shopping centres or at parties. If you feel very anxious at the sight of a dog, just the sound of barking can be distressing. A minor, insignificant fear can turn into an anxiety disorder that can take over your life.

While anyone can develop an anxiety disorder, women are more likely to be affected. The condition is more common in people between the ages of 25 and 44. In the Netherlands, one in five people have an anxiety disorder.

See a psychologist if you have symptoms of anxiety. You can refer yourself, or ask your GP to refer you. In rare cases, your GP may refer you to a psychiatrist. 

Who is affected?

Some people are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than others. These four factors increase the risk: 

  • Environmental factors: the influence of your physical and social environment. For example, children of anxious parents are more likely to develop anxiety themselves.
  • Person-specific experiences: your life experiences. You may, for instance, be afraid of flying, because you’ve been on a flight with heavy turbulence.
  • Life-changing events: positive or negative life events, including birth, bereavement, moving house and car accidents, can cause self-doubt. 
  • Psychological factors: it’s important to conquer your fears. Avoiding scary situations will only make your anxiety worse. 


Fortunately, anxiety is very treatable. To find out what treatments are available, you can visit the Psyned website (in Dutch). 

If you need help now, please call the Support Line for young adults and students aged 18 to 25 at 0800-0450

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, you can call 113 or 0800-0113