Types of Anxiety

Understand the different types of anxiety

Anxiety is a straightforward condition to diagnose but it is often difficult to treat and there are many types of anxiety. This is because anxiety is a symptom of a number of different conditions.

This type of mental health issue is among the most common in the United States – affecting nearly 30% of adults at some point.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

People who suffer from attacks of anxiety experience feelings beyond simple nervousness – there are both psychological and physical symptoms. On a daily basis, this can mean compulsive worrying, irrational fears, and social difficulties.

This can severely affect a person’s ability to manage in everyday life.

Diagnosing the different types of anxiety

Health professionals will diagnose an anxiety disorder based on whether they feel the sufferer's fear is out of proportion to the actual risk, and if that sensation significantly hinders that person's ability to function.

To understand the best way to manage these conditions, psychologists use at least three categories of anxiety-related complaints.

Types of anxiety include

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

This is the most commonly diagnosed type of anxiety. It causes regular and repeated periods of physical tension and nervousness. This could be caused by specific events and situations – or without a specific trigger.

Sufferers will not be able to rid themselves of these feelings.

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include

  • Restlessness, an inability to relax, loss of control and helplessness
  • Extreme tiredness and feelings of lethargy, described as having little energy for everyday activities.
  • Muscle tension, especially in the upper parts of the body.
  • A lack of concentration and struggles in maintaining focus on required tasks.
  • Repeated obsessing over negative thoughts

It is possible to suffer from more than one anxiety disorder at a time and GAD may be diagnosed alongside other conditions, such as panic disorder or other mental health problems – often obsessive-compulsive disorder.

What is social phobia?

Social situations are a common anxiety-inducing environment. Social phobias, as an anxiety disorder, go beyond normal shyness and causes irrational fears about needing to socialize or speak or act in public. Sufferers may struggle when dealing with new people, members of the public, strangers, persons in authority or even persons they already know.

The issue for sufferers is that they view public situations as potentially embarrassing, distressing or painful. The worry they might be judged by those around them.

Symptoms of social phobia

  • Feelings of hopelessness when in unfamiliar situations.
  • Obsessive thoughts around who may be watching them interact; and what these people might think
  • Difficulty in coping with physical symptoms as a result of growing anxiety.
  • An extreme fear of public speaking
  • Anxiety about social situations - both before and after participating in them.
  • An urge to avoid meeting new people or speaking up in a group.

What is a panic attack?

The third form of anxiety disorders is panic disorder. This is when a person feels extreme feelings of doom and foreboding without being in a threatening situation. This can cause mental and physical symptoms so strong that people become seriously worried about their health and seek medical treatment.

Panic attacks are the key characteristic of panic disorders. These are physical manifestations of anxiety. They bring intense physical and mental sensations and sufferers may be concerned by either having panic attacks, or the fear of panic attacks themselves.

Symptoms of a panic attack include

  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feelings of numbness or weakness
  • Feeling like you're outside of yourself
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Dizziness
  • Pain in the chest or stomach
  • Digestive issues

The associated conditions of post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders may also be considered under the umbrella of anxiety conditions. Data from the American Psychiatric Association shows phobias are the most common form of anxiety disorder, with between 7 and 9% of adults being diagnosed in the US each year.

Around 7% of adults will suffer a social anxiety disorder, 2 to 3% have panic disorders, 2% may suffer agoraphobia and 2% have a generalized anxiety disorder. Their research shows women are more likely to hold these diagnoses.

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Last Reviewed:
August 29, 2017
Last Updated:
October 09, 2017