Conditions

Exploring the Different Types of Anxiety

Feeling anxious from time to time is normal, but if it’s overwhelming your life, you may have an anxiety disorder. Understanding the six types, causes, and treatments is vital. From therapy to lifestyle changes, relief is attainable.

Author Generic Image By Grow Therapy

Updated on May 23, 2024

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If you feel worried, fearful, or anxious once in a while, you’re far from alone. Experiencing anxiety from time to time is completely normal. It comes with the territory of being human, especially when you’re dealing with stressful life situations.

But if your anxiety feels like it’s all-consuming and it’s getting in the way of your daily life and functioning, it’s possible that you could have an anxiety disorder. Believe it or not, anxiety disorders are extremely common, affecting around 31% of adults in the US at some point in their lives. However, anxiety disorders typically develop earlier in life, with symptoms popping up before age 21.

Here are six different types of anxiety disorders, their causes, and treatments.

Six Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

While “anxiety” is a broad term that can describe many experiences, there are distinct anxiety disorders that are categorized by their unique symptoms.

Agoraphobia

People with agoraphobia have a debilitating fear of scenarios where they may not be able to escape easily, which may lead them to avoid various places or situations. For example, they may be fearful of crowded spaces, buses, airplanes, or simply just being outside of their house by themselves in general.

Agoraphobia you must not only have these fears but also take active measures to avoid any of these situations. In severe cases, this may lead to people with agoraphobia becoming housebound.

Aside from these fears, people with agoraphobia experience physical symptoms of panic when they are exposed to their triggers, such as:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have persistent and often uncontrollable feelings of worry and anxiety that can impact their functioning. Someone with GAD may experience anxiety without an obvious cause, or they may have anxiety over various aspects of their life, but the level of the worry is out of proportion. They may constantly imagine worst-case scenarios and be unable to stop their anxious thoughts from consuming them.

Some common symptoms of GAD are:

Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder experience recurring episodes of severe panic and fear that come along with very uncomfortable –– and oftentimes scary –– physical symptoms, known as panic attacks. These panic attacks can come on without any warning, even when there’s no known trigger. It may not be uncommon for individuals experiencing a panic attack to be seen under ER settings as it may feel like they’re experiencing a heart attack.

Panic attack symptoms include:

Panic attacks can be so troubling that they become a source of anxiety in and of themselves, with the panic attack victim terribly fearing that another panic attack will strike. They may live in fear of another panic attack happening or avoid places where they’ve had panic attacks before.

Phobias

A phobia is an intense and disproportionate fear of a specific situation or thing that isn’t inherently as dangerous as one thinks it is. This can cause great distress, and people with phobias will typically go to great lengths to avoid the things they’re afraid of. A phobia can be developed surrounding anything, but some common phobias are:

Although people with phobias generally are aware that their fear is out of proportion, they aren’t able to rationally handle it and still are greatly afraid.

If someone is exposed to their phobia trigger, they may experience symptoms such as:

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD), most commonly thought of as affecting children, also affects adults. While children with SAD will usually experience intense anxiety surrounding being separated from a parent, adults with SAD may have extreme anxiety about being separated from their child or a romantic partner.

Of course, it’s normal to want to be with the people you love, but in people with SAD, there’s an excessive fear that goes beyond what is appropriate, and there may be non-stop worry about losing the person that they’re most attached to.

On top of the mental distress, people with SAD may possibly experience physical symptoms when they are separated, or anticipate separation, from their attachment figure. These symptoms may include:

Social Anxiety Disorder 

Social anxiety disorder, sometimes called social phobia, is when someone has severe anxiety surrounding social situations. It’s more than just shyness or feeling socially awkward from time to time –– it’s an extreme fear of being looked down upon, judged, or rejected. Triggers can range from one-on-one situations with a cashier to parties to giving a performance. People with social anxiety may also fear that others can sense their anxiety, or that they may visibly appear anxious or embarrassed.

Social anxiety sufferers experience intense dread and fear before and during social situations, which can lead them to avoid said situations. Ultimately, this fuels social anxiety even more.

Physical symptoms may also be present, including:

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

The exact specific cause of one’s anxiety disorder may not be known, and usually, it’s believed that multiple risk factors play into whether someone develops an anxiety disorder. Some potential causes include:

Genetics: If you have a family history of anxiety disorders, especially immediate family members, you may have a genetic predisposition to developing one yourself.

Having another mental health condition:  It’s common for someone to experience comorbidity, meaning they have more than one anxiety disorder or other mental health condition. For example, if you have depression, you may be more likely to also have an anxiety disorder and vice versa.

History of trauma: If you experienced some type of trauma as a child or as an adult, you may be more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.

Life experience: Life stressors, big or small, can compound throughout your life and ultimately cause your anxiety to become unmanageable, developing an anxiety disorder.

Personality types: People with certain personality traits, such as being more on the shy side, being negative, or very fearful of danger are more likely to have an anxiety disorder.

Substance use: If you use – or especially if you abuse – substances, this use or even withdrawal can trigger anxiety.

Underlying medical condition: It’s possible that a physical health condition could be affecting your mental health. A general doctor can help assess your symptoms and run tests to determine if a medical problem could be causing your anxiety.

Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Regardless of what specific anxiety disorder (or disorders) you have, treatment is similar.

Therapy

One of the best, clinically-proven evidence based treatments is therapy. There are various types of therapy, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the gold-standard for treating anxiety disorders due to the research that backs up its efficacy in these situations. CBT helps you identify unhelpful, negative thought patterns and learn new, healthier ways of thinking.

A good therapist will help you learn coping skills to more effectively manage your anxiety and live your life with less fear.

Additionally, exposure therapy is often part of treatment for specific anxiety disorders such as phobias and social anxiety disorder. This involves gradually exposing yourself to your triggers, the very things that at the most anxiety provoking to you. The idea is that with time and exposure, you will get more comfortable with the trigger, learn how to better cope with it, and ultimately, not be so afraid of it.

Medication

For some people, medication may be prescribed. A therapist may recommend that you see a psychiatrist, a type of mental health professional who can prescribe medication, to determine if this route is right for you. Every situation is different. For some people, medication may be a short-term tool for managing symptoms while coping skills are developed in therapy, or they may be taken longer term.

There are two main types of medications prescribed for anxiety disorders. They are:

Lifestyle Changes

On top of therapy and medication, lifestyle changes can be helpful in taking some of the edge off of your anxiety and improving your overall wellness. Some examples are:

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, don’t hesitate to get professional help. Although anxiety can feel dark and all-consuming, there is hope for relief if you take the necessary steps to get treatment and learn to manage your condition.

Whether the first step is talking to a loved one about the idea of starting therapy or searching through our community of in-network, qualified therapists and psychiatrists, help is here. Search here or call our team on 1 (786)244-7690 to book an in-person or virtual session.

Frequently Asked Questions

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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