What Are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders?

Allison Boelcke

An anxiety disorder is a type of mental condition in which a person experiences constant feelings of stress, nervousness, or fear that are severe enough to interfere with his or her daily life. There are a variety of specific types of anxiety disorders that may have different circumstances that trigger those feelings, or a person may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), in which there is no specific trigger for the anxiety. Anxiety disorders may be caused by an imbalance of the brain chemicals responsible for mood, as well as genetics or traumatic events. Sufferers may be treated with medication to balance brain chemicals, cognitive psychotherapy, in which patients are counseled on how to change their ways of thinking to overcome their anxious feelings, or a combination of both.

A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for anxiety disorders if necessary.
A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for anxiety disorders if necessary.

Panic disorder, one of the most widespread types of anxiety disorders, is a condition in which a person experiences abrupt feelings of intense fear known as panic attacks. Although panic disorder is considered a mood disorder, it is generally accompanied with physical symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and sweating, and may even be mistaken for a heart attack or other physical condition by the person suffering from it. Panic attacks may occur at any time without warning, even while a person is sleeping, but are often triggered by specific situations that cause a person anxiety, such as large crowds or confined spaces.

A person experiencing a panic attack may feel as though he is having a heart attack.
A person experiencing a panic attack may feel as though he is having a heart attack.

Another one of the more common types of anxiety disorders is social anxiety disorder. Also commonly referred to as social phobia, it is characterized by extreme feelings of nervousness when interacting with other people. People with social anxiety disorder fear being judged or ridiculed by others to the point where it may interfere with their everyday lives and make them unable to hold a job or maintain relationships with others. Even if a person is able to conquer his or her fears and be in social situations, he or she may suffer from extreme stress in the time leading up to the event.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder commonly experienced by soldiers.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder commonly experienced by soldiers.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition in which a person becomes fixated on thoughts about particular fears and performs specific rituals in order to calm these fears. For example, a person with OCD who has a fear of germs may feel intense anxiety if he or she doesn’t wash his or her hands a certain number of times each day for a particular duration each time. OCD is considered one of the more debilitating types of anxiety disorders because it can drastically interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday situations and may overtake his or her thought processes.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety are often linked in some way.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety are often linked in some way.

While many types of anxiety disorders naturally develop, others may be triggered by a traumatic event. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that occurs after a person has gone through a fearful experience. It may also occur if the event happened to a close friend or family member. PTSD may develop in war veterans, rape or assault victims, or those who have experienced violence, and may cause flashbacks; vivid thoughts of the event that make it difficult to sleep or function; and personality changes, such as becoming less affectionate, more irritable, or even violent.

Panic disorder is one of the most widespread types of anxiety disorders.
Panic disorder is one of the most widespread types of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders often cause insomnia.
Anxiety disorders often cause insomnia.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder where people perform routine behaviors in an excessive amount.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder where people perform routine behaviors in an excessive amount.
People with social anxiety disorder have trouble dealing with crowds.
People with social anxiety disorder have trouble dealing with crowds.
There is no specific trigger for the anxiety suffered by individuals with generalized anxiety disorder.
There is no specific trigger for the anxiety suffered by individuals with generalized anxiety disorder.
Being in a large crowd can set off a panic attack for someone with an anxiety disorder.
Being in a large crowd can set off a panic attack for someone with an anxiety disorder.
A resurgence of an anxiety disorder may be mistaken for a mental breakdown.
A resurgence of an anxiety disorder may be mistaken for a mental breakdown.
Panic attacks may occur at any time, without warning.
Panic attacks may occur at any time, without warning.
Anticipatory anxiety might be tied to a project or expectations at work.
Anticipatory anxiety might be tied to a project or expectations at work.
People with social anxiety may be uncomfortable even in a small group setting.
People with social anxiety may be uncomfortable even in a small group setting.

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