Are there types of anxiety?

Jessica Kennedy, Mental Health America

Yes, there are many different types of anxiety.

First there’s anxiety the emotion. We all have anxiety from time to time. Maybe we have a big test coming up, or we’re getting cold feet about a wedding. We’ll feel our heart beat faster, sweat a little more, and think excessively about an upcoming event.

Everybody is anxious at times. But there’s a difference between the normal stress, worry, and tension we experience as humans, and a diagnosable anxiety disorder.

Then there are several different anxiety disorders that people can be diagnosed with.

Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This is the most common anxiety disorder and is probably most people think about when they think about having an “anxiety disorder” as a diagnosis. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder tend to feel frightened, distressed, and uneasy for no apparent reason or in ways that are not proportional to their circumstances. If you took the anxiety screen, printing out your result and bringing it to the doctor is a good way to start the conversation.

Social Anxiety Disorder: This is another common anxiety disorder, but it’s more about how you react in social settings. It’s not just being shy or an introvert. You might experience social anxiety if the thought of spending time with your closest friends makes you shake or you can’t meet strangers without having a few drinks to take the edge off.

Phobias: There are specific phobias, which is when people are afraid or anxious about specific situations. Some of them are common terms, and others aren’t. You might be familiar with arachnophobia (fear of spiders), but you may not know that coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. Phobias are more than just being afraid, though, as it’s normal to be afraid of snakes, spiders, and clowns. The reactions in phobia are distressing, unwanted, and out of proportion to the actual fear. Common phobias include fear of heights, fear of open or crowded spaces, and fear of blood or needles.

Panic Disorder: People with panic disorder experience panic attacks, which come on fast and hard. If people figure out what triggers panic attacks, they’re likely to avoid those situations.

Other Anxiety Disorders: Other types of  anxiety disorders include separation anxiety or anxiety disorder due to another medical condition.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD is considered to be  a “Trauma- or Stressor-Related Disorder” but a lot of people still group PTSD with anxiety. We often think about PTSD as something that veterans experience, but PTSD can develop in response to both acute incidents (car accidents, natural disasters, war, abuse, rape, or more) as well as chronic, ongoing trauma (such as neglect or abuse).

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: if you’re a “neat freak” or you like everything in order, you’re not “sooo OCD” (and people with OCD would like you to stop saying that). OCD is characterized by obsessions and/or compulsions. These are very serious intrusive thoughts and behaviors, like feeling the need to excessively washing your hands or repeatedly checking locks, that are disruptive to people’s lives.

If you think you might have an anxiety (or anxiety-related) disorder, you should take MHA’s anxiety screen and use it to start a conversation with a doctor or a therapist. It can be really hard to start that conversation. Asking for help is naturally stressful and induces anxiety…which is tough when that’s the problem to begin with. But there are many effective treatments and support for anxiety.

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