Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
December 13, 2021
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Worried about your level of anxiety? You’re not alone.

Anxiety is the most common mental disorder in the United States, affecting around 40 million adults. The good news is that there are treatment options available to help you get on top of things. There are many types of anxiety disorders.

In this article, we will discuss some of the most common ones and related questions. Not everyone will understand what you will go through, however, save this one in your favorites to show to your loved ones.

What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and uncertainty in life.

However, when it becomes difficult to cope with everyday stresses and this causes significant distress in social, work, or family settings, anxiety can become an issue. 

At that point, mental health providers might speak of an anxiety disorder. Let’s first take a look at the different types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms along with some tips.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

In the DSM-5 they speak of seven types of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common ones will be discussed here below. Keep reading to see if you feel connected with what others are experiencing.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common type of anxiety. You feel are chronically worrying and ruminating about life.

Usually, this comes with feelings of dread, difficulty sleeping, or feeling irritated constantly. If you have a constant feeling of dread and are overwhelmed by things that other people seem to manage easier, than keep reading.

Symptoms

Generalized anxiety disorder might look like:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety (usually out of proportion)
  • Overthinking, automatically imagining worst-case scenarios
  • Interpreting situations and events as threatening, even when not necessary.
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Indecisiveness, fear of making a wrong decision
  • Can’t let go of a worry
  • Can’t relax. Feels restless, keyed up or on edge
  • Concentration difficulties. Feeling blank in the mind.

Generalized anxiety might also cause:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping issues
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Nervousness, easily startled
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritability

Social anxiety disorder makes it difficult to mingle with others. You may be on edge in social settings. Some feel out of place or feel nausous only thinking about it. Take a look at the following symptoms if you feel like the cause of your anxiety is mostly related to socal situations.

Symptoms

The below symptoms describe what it feels to have social anxiety.

  • A marked fear about social situations where you feel exposed to possible scrutiny. 
  • You feel afraid that others might think or feel negatively about you.
  • Social phobia could also be referred to as “Performance only”. In this case, You only feel such anxiety when speaking or performing in public.

Separation anxiety is often seen in children who are around the age of 4-8 years. Today we know that adults could also suffer from this, however it is less common. Your child might be extremely worried that something will happen to you or the other parent. They might be afraid that you would disappear after a short (or longer) separation for some reason. Below we will explain more about this disorder.

Symptoms

The following symptoms explain the pattern most common for those with separation anxiety.

  1. Your child feels distress when they anticipate a separation from home or a parental / attachment figure.
  2. Your child feels worried about losing you. They might also feel afraid that something bad would happen to you (illness, injury, disasters, or death).
  3. Your child is worried about unforeseen events that (in their mind) could separate you. They might be afraid that they will get lost, kidnapped, sick or get an accident.
  4. They refuse or are very reluctant to leave the home. They might not want to go to school. Adults might refuse to go to work.
  5. They are afraid or reluctant to be alone at home or in other settings.
  6. They are afraid or reluctant to sleep without the attachment figure.
  7. They experience nightmares revolving around separation.

Panic Disorder

If you experience regular panic attacks, you might have panic disorder. These intense episodes of fear can come out of nowhere for no apparant reason. They might last for a few minutes or longer. A panic attack feels physically invasive. Below we will explain the symptoms and how it feels to have a panic attack.

Symptoms

People who have frequent panic attacks followed by at least one month of persistent worrying or anxiety might have a panic disorder.

Panic attacks look like:

  • Palpitations, a fast heart rate, or an accelerated heartbeat are common.
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or feeling smothered
  • Feeling of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, faint
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of more panic attacks
  • Fear of dying
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensation)
  • Chills or heat sensations.

Specific Phobias

Some people suffer from phobias. Phobia is an intense fear or anxiety that is aroused by certain types of objects or situations, even if others might think it is illogical. Some types of specific phobias are for example: fears of animals (some types like snakes), social phobias (fear about social situations) and

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is anxiety or fear about being in places or situations where escape might be difficult, either due to physical limitations or other types of obstacles. If you have agoraphobia, it’s likely that your fear comes from feeling trapped and helpless.

Fear of Driving 

Many people suffer from a fear of driving. A fear of driving can manifest itself in different ways, but common symptoms are when the person experiences terror, chest pain, shortness of breath, or a feeling that they might die. If your anxiety is stopping you from driving and this is impeding with your daily life, than you can see a therapist to work on that.

Fear of Flying 

Fear of flying can come in many forms. Some are afraid to enter a plane or imagine entering one. Others are fine with sitting down and experience panic when taking of. You are not alone, and help is available. Exposure therapy might be a good choice if you want to handle this anxiety.

Health Anxiety

While hypochondria used to be a diagnosis on it’s own. Today the DSM-5 categorizes most of these symptoms as an anxiety disorder under the term “somatic symptom disorder”. In short, you are terribly afraid of falling ill. This is usually outside of normal proportions. People with health anxiety usually also have checking behaviors. They repeatedly check for symptoms and might avoid /go excessively to doctors. 

Other Conditions Where Anxiety is Present

The following conditions can feel like anxiety, however, due to other underlying mechanisms it has been decided not to include them under anxiety disorders in the DSM-5.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)

You notice that you keep checking all the windows and doors before leaving. When you are done, a thought pops in your head. It might rain later and you did not check everything maybe. Your floors will be ruined and your house will be underwater. You can’t let this go, you go check every door and window again before leaving. And the cycle repeats itself. You might be late for work as you still have to check a fifth time. You might suffer from OCD.  It is not only about cleaning or repeating your habits. It is about neutralizing, ignoring or suppresing thoughts, images or urges. You can’t stop yourself from these compulsions or obsessions.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, some people develop PTSD. This can lead to flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and nightmares. For some people, daily life might trigger this trauma, for others it is more specific. It can cause you to avoid locations or activities that you enjoyed before. If you suspect PTSD, reach out to a therapist or a doctor. These symptoms will also lessen in intensity.

Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis

Anxiety disorder can only be diagnosed by a certified mental health professional. Your doctor can provide medical advice on whether this diagnosis is needed, realistic or the right path for you.

To get diagnosed a doctor firstly will peform a physical exam to make sure there are no underlying causes to your symptoms. Hormonal imbalance can for example make you feel anxious. Other things they will take a look at are other mental health conditions or substance abuse.

Lastly, your specialist will evaluate the duration of your symptoms and research what the impact is of your symptoms on your daily life. They might use a psychological test battery to take a deeper look at what is going on.

How Anxiety Disorders Affect People

Anxiety disorders can affect people in many ways in their life. It can stop them from pursuing the career they want or taking the next step in their romantic relationship. Some people even let go of their current partner because their anxiety stops them from going outside.

Many young people also stop their higher education from fear of failure or because their anxiety is too crippling. Basically, it can impact most big parts of your life.

Anxiety disorders and other mental health disorders are associated with suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts. Call the number 1-800-273-8255, or the lifeline 988 for emotional support. Any emergency line (911) will also provide confidential care when needed.

Concluding Thoughts 

You are not alone if you suffer from anxiety. It is more common than people expect. Therapy in combination with the right medication can be a good treatment option. If you would rather keep working on your mindset at your own pace, than join our community. To read more about anxiety or other mental health conditions, click our link to read more. 

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