The diagnosis of anxiety actually covers a wide array of types of anxiety disorders. On its own, it is a blanket term used to describe acute stress. It is also used more generally to describe moments when a person is feeling anxious.
The truth is, we all experience anxiety at one point or other. In fact, some even go as far as to say that -not- feeling anxious could be a sign of a serious psychological problem! Damned if you do, or don’t – right?
In our hazardous world, anxiety is a mechanism our bodies use to help the mind recognise danger and keep well away from it! It’s not the presence of anxiety on it’s own that creates problems. It’s more about the severity of anxiety and how it interferes with our lives or general quality of living.
But what is it exactly?
Anxiety is a combination of both physical and mental symptoms and make up what psychologists refer to as the ‘fight or flight’ response, where your body prepares to either defend itself from a perceived threat, or run from it. Generally, a small amount of anxiety and stress helps your cope with the tasks of everyday life, but when it becomes excessive, and the irrational fear of everyday occurrences takes over, it can be quite debilitating.
Today I’m going to focus on the different types of anxiety disorders, starting with a list of anxiety disorders that are most commonly diagnosed as well as further classification of anxiety disorders symptoms in general.
Five Types of Anxiety Disorders Commonly Diagnosed
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Someone who has generalized anxiety disorder suffers from acute and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, usually with the level of worry far exceeding what it should. Excessive anxiety is experienced that stems from no finite cause. Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic anxiety disorder and characterized as slow developing, starting usually between the teen years and young adulthood, and affects approximately 7 million American adults. GAD is often diagnosed after an individual has worried excessively about a number of everyday problems for a period of at least 6 months, with twice the number of women as men being affected. GAD is one of the more debilitating types of mood disorders.
- Specific Phobia
Unlike someone diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, a person who has a specific phobia experiences acute and irrational fear of particular situations or objects. When exposed to the object or situation, individuals with specific phobias exhibit signs of intense fear including tremors, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and nausea. Common phobias include fear of heights, flying, spiders or snakes, enclosed spaces, thunder storms, lightning, blood or being scared of needles – just to name a few. The fear a person with a specific phobia feels can be so extreme, and the fight or flight response so strong, that he or she may disregard safety just to escape the situation. Specific phobia is one of the types of anxiety disorders that is actually fairly common, albeit to varying degrees.
- Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by frequent episodes of panic, most commonly referred to as panic attacks. Panic attacks are unpredictable and as panic disorder develops, an individual usually experiences intense fear of having another ‘episode’, which in turn is what brings a panic attack on. It’s a vicious cycle, fearing fear itself. There are three types of panic attacks: Those that are unexpected, those that occur in certain situations (situationally bound) and those that are only likely to occur in certain situations but may not happen straight away (situationally predisposed). Due to the physical symptoms of panic disorder, people frequently visit hospital ER’s believing they are having a heart attack.
- Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Social phobia, also know as social anxiety disorder, is characterized by the intense fear of social situations – especially those which are unfamiliar or where you might feel you’re being watched and judged by others. Such social situations may be so terrifying that you actively start to avoid them. Though a degree of social anxiety is expected and considered a part of the natural development process, in some individuals the degree to which they experience social anxiety escalates to become social anxiety disorder. Symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include extreme shyness, self-consciousness, performance anxiety, fear of public speaking, avoidance of social situations, difficulty making new friends and the inability to make eye contact with others. Social phobia is one of the types of anxiety disorders that is actually on the rise.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
People with obsessive compulsive disorder are plagued with anxiety that is brought on by a persistent and overwhelming obsession, compulsion, fear or worry. They often develop coping mechanisms consisting of repetitive behaviors in order to relieve the effects of anxiety. Symptoms of OCD can include excessive washing or cleaning, extreme hoarding of belongings or particular items, violent or persistent thoughts and aversion to certain numbers. Nervous rituals are also often developed, such as performing an act a certain number or times, for example, the compulsion to open and close a door 5 times before entering or leaving a room. Individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder are generally aware that their obsessions and compulsions are irrational but are not able to alter their behavior as it is this behavior that relieves their anxiety.
Other Types of Anxiety Disorders
Other types of anxiety disorders include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a severe condition that can develop after an individual is exposed to a particular traumatic event – such as sexual assault, serious injury or a near-death experience. Symptoms of PTSD can include disturbing flashbacks, avoidance of particular situations, the numbing of memories of the traumatic event as well as high levels of anxiety. Most people who go through a traumatizing event will not develop PTSD.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by the fear of crowded spaces, or the fear of being in a situation believed to be inescapable from. An individual with agoraphobia will deliberately avoid places such as shopping centres, special events, public transport, shops, airplanes – basically anywhere that causes them to experience acute anxiety or that they deem to be un-safe. From the first panic attack, agoraphobia can develop both rapidly or over a number of years and can move from a mild form of specific phobia anxiety to the inability to enter any public situations.
Different Types of Anxiety Disorders Require Different Treatment
The treatment options for different types of anxiety disorders vary based on the individual, the types of anxiety disorders in question and also the symptoms being experienced, but may include prescription medication, psychotherapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. There are natural approaches as well such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy and aromatherapy.
There are a number of online programs that you can try as well, though only one that I personally recommend – and it’s already helped thousands of people. If you’d like a free video from the program, enter your email address at the top right of this page and I’ll send you a link to it!
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of one or more of the types of anxiety disorders above, please consult your doctor in order to determine the best possible anxiety disorder treatment for you. If you are struggling to calm your anxiety prior to visiting your doctor however, why not give the suggestions included in my article How to Calm Anxiety: The First Steps a try? Hopefully they’ll help you!
Please share this article to spread the awareness of mental health, and do feel free to comment below with your experiences with any of the above types of anxiety disorders.