Types of anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders affect everyone. In fact, many people meet criteria for an anxiety disorder diagnosis but do not realize it. Ironically, less than half of those with an anxiety disorder receive the help they need. Distress severity may or may not be reflected by the degree of impact it has on their relationships, functioning and their quality of life. Some individuals can put up with tremendous anxiety for unnecessarily long periods of time.

Anxiety disorders occur when fear responses to an anticipated threat are excessive or persistent and result in maladaptive behaviors. There are many different types of anxiety disorders and they are defined in regards to the objects or situations that induce such fear responses.

Anxiety can be identified by a number of symptoms. These are categorized depending on whether the symptoms are physical or emotional. Anxiety symptoms can include some of the following:

Physical symptoms of anxiety

  • Muscle tension
  • Teeth grinding
  • Nail biting
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Dizziness/light-headedness
  • Upset stomach/digestive problems
  • Pounding heart

Emotional symptoms of anxiety:

  • Excessive worry
  • Feeling tense or easily startled
  • Irrational fears or phobias
  • Panic attacks (fight-or-flight reactions)
  • Feelings of dread
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Always anticipating the worst; watching for signs of danger unnecessarily
  • Restlessness and trouble sleeping
  • Absentmindedness
  • Nervousness

Symptoms of anxiety disorders normally entail responses to stressful circumstances that indicate maladaptive behaviors which negatively affect a person’s mental health, physical health and overall well-being. The types of objects or situations that bring about symptoms, type of symptoms and age of onset may differ, but always involve fear-based behavior.

The American Psychiatric Association’s 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) describes 11 types of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common include:

  • Specific phobias: Specific phobias are characterized by the feeling of excessive and unreasonable fear when a person is faced with the possibility of encountering a place, object or situation of which they are fearful. Both exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are effective treatments for reducing the symptoms of specific phobias. Exposure therapy, for example, helps people to confront their fears under a controlled environment. In the long run, this therapy can help curb specific phobias in an individual.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Social anxiety disorder is more than just shyness. This disorder is characterized by the fear of scrutiny or judgment from others in social situations and will often affect a person’s ability to attend school or work and will negatively impact their relationships. Social anxiety treatment options generally includes psychotherapy, medication, or both. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, can help in learning and practicing social skills, which make the patient, feel less anxious in social situations. CBT is an effective social anxiety treatment that helps in accommodating fears and successfully manages anxieties. In fact, supportive therapies like group and family therapies can help people practice interacting with others while reducing the social anxiety symptoms significantly.
  • Panic disorder: A person with a panic disorder will experience spontaneous panic attacks and will often be overwhelmed with worry about when the next attack may happen. Signs such as trembling, excessive sweating, nausea, and other issues often identify this issue. The main aim of treating a panic disorder is to reduce the panic attacks and lessen the severity of the symptoms. Depending on the individual circumstances, either psychological therapies or medication, or a combination of the two is recommended to treat the panic disorder.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is identified by a persistent and unrealistic worry about everyday things. A person with GAD will often expect the worst, anticipating disaster and worrying excessively about money, health, family and other aspects of their life. Medication is useful for alleviating the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and is used in conjunction with other behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy.

Some other types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Separation anxiety, not including normal developmental stage in young children
  • Selective mutism is when a child stops speaking, often after a trauma
  • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition (fear caused by a medical condition)
  • Unspecified anxiety disorder (doesn’t fit into any of the above categories)

Interestingly, trauma and stress-related disorders are now categorized apart from anxiety disorders in the DSM-5. Obsessive-compulsive disorders have also been separated from anxiety disorders. However, fear, anxiety, stress and trauma are all related, so it is not unusual to have overlap between these issues and anxiety disorders.

Understanding anxiety and its signs and symptoms helps to formulate a foundation for intervention. Unless someone takes the first step to dealing with the disorder, things will not get better.

Some people with untreated anxiety disorders turn to alcohol or drugs to “medicate” themselves when the fear and emotional pain become too great. Others develop substance-induced anxiety disorders from abusing drugs or alcohol on a regular basis.

Whether an anxiety disorder is occurring as a singular problem or it is co-occurring with a substance use issue, it is important that those struggling with the mental problem find the help they need. To find out more about help for anxiety you can reach the Florida Helpline for Anxiety at (855) 920-9834 for more information. We can help you connect with certified general anxiety treatment centers that can provide you with the best recovery program to bring you out of your anxieties.