There are mainly 6 types of anxiety disorders. In this blog post I will be characterizing each of them so you can identify if you or your loved ones are suffering from any one or multiple types of anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is a part of our day to day life. Anxiety is considered as a normal response of the body in reaction to stressors. In some cases, anxiety can even be helpful as it can alert us towards any dangerous situation.
However, you have to understand that an anxiety disorder is very different from the normal anxiety feeling which we get right before a presentation or in case of a dangerous situation. Most of the types of anxiety disorders are caused due to various factors like stress, trauma, depression etc. If you suffer from anxiety once in a blue moon, there is nothing to be worried about. However if the anxiety episodes become recurrent, you need to figure out which types of anxiety disorders you might be suffering from.
In this blog post I will be discussing the common types of anxiety disorders and their symptoms. The primary aim of this post is to make you understand what signs you should look out for if you think you or a loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder. Understanding the type of anxiety can help figure out the correct treatment or prevention route to follow.
Do you have an anxiety disorder?
There is a sudden noise. Your heart rate speeds up. You start having heart palpitations. Your hands are sweaty, you are having difficulty breathing. You just do not understand what is going on around you or why your body is reacting in such a manner. If you face such situations on a regular basis, you are suffering from one of the types of anxiety disorders. However, before you seek treatment for the same, it is very important to understand the signs of anxiety disorders before you try to understand which type of anxiety disorder you might be suffering from.
What is an anxiety disorder?
Do you feel that you or your loved one is struggling due to extreme anxiety? As per the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders have been observed to be the most common of all mental disorders and have been observed to affect 30% of American population.
The feeling of anxiety has been experienced by all of us. It may have happened once or it may have happened multiple times till date. It is perfectly normal to feel anxious in situations like before an exam, presentation, job interview etc. However, if such situations cause you to suffer from extreme fear, you may have anxiety disorder.
A person is said to suffer from anxiety disorder when the fear or the anxiety is
Out of proportion considering the situation or completely age inappropriate
Impairs the person’s ability to function in a normal manner
When you are gripped by the feeling of extreme anxiousness and fear, you may feel like the situation will never change and you will never get out of this loop of anxiety. However, you do not have to live with this problem.
Is anxiety treatable?
Anxiety is completely treatable and people have been known to recover from anxiety without relapsing back into it. Anxiety can be treatable by one’s own self to an extent as well. However in case of extreme types of anxiety disorders, seeking help from a professional is advised.
Psychological signs of anxiety disorders
Inability to relax
A constant feeling of being on the edge
Difficulty in concentrating on the simplest of tasks
A constant sense of fear or dread
Worry that things will go bad if you stop worrying about them.
Feeling as if the world is either speeding up or slowing down
Wanting to escape from the situation you are stuck in.
Physical signs of anxiety disorders
Nausea and Vomiting
Trembling or shaking
Fainting or dizziness
Sleep issues or trouble sleeping or insomnia
Shortness of breath
Tension and muscle ache
Lack of energy or lethargy
Causes of anxiety disorders
So far the specific causes of anxiety disorders have not been uncovered. However, according to the American psychiatrist association, anxiety involves a combination of different factors which include the psychological, genetic, developmental as well as environmental factors of the person. Anxiety disorders can also be hereditary which indicates that a combination of genes passed down from the parents to the children may increase the predisposition of a person to developing anxiety at some point during their life.
Now, that we have understood what anxiety disorder is, the signs of anxiety disorders and the causes behind the same. It is time to understand the different types of anxiety disorders which exist.
Classification of anxiety disorders:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
This is the most common of all the types of anxiety disorders.
If a person is suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, the anxiety would be observed on most of the days. To classify a person as suffering from GAD, the anxiety should persist for a period of six months or more.
People who suffer from GAD worry about different events and activities which can have an impact on their life. We all worry about these things. However, people who suffer from GAD cannot stop worrying. They would feel anxious almost all the time. They might feel as if they are on edge and are hyper alert towards their surroundings.
GAD has been observed to affect a person’s day to day life. It affects several aspects of one’s life like
A person’s ability to hold down a job
Travelling or even leaving the house might be difficult for such people
They face a depletion in the concentration level, sleep as well as energy.
Conditions like other types of anxiety disorders or depression have also been seen amongst people who suffer from GAD.
Since GAD does not have any unique anxiety disorder symptoms in its arsenal, it can be very difficult to diagnose. Therefore, doctors mostly tell the patient that they might be suffering from GAD in case the anxiousness has been going on for over a six-month period and has had negative impacts on different aspects of the person’s life.
Panic disorder is when a person suffers from regular panic attacks without any trigger or in the absence of a specific trigger. These panic attacks can start to occur suddenly and make the person feel very frightened. Also the person may feel detached from their body during the panic attacks and afraid of suffering from the same in future.
Certain situations which can cause panic attacks in a person are, not liking small spaces but still having to use the lift. However, this does not mean that you have a panic disorder. One isolated episode does not mean that the sufferer suffers from panic disorder
Some specific signs of panic disorders are
An overwhelming sense of fear or threat
Palpitations or chest pains
The person may feel that he or she is having a heart attack
Shivering, trembling or hot flushes and sweating
Shortness of breath
Feeling like the person is choking or dry mouth
Feeling pain, nausea or dizziness
Feeling of pins and needles in the fingertips or numbness
Increased frequency of visiting the toilet
Social anxiety disorder
This type of anxiety disorder mainly affects people’s performance in social settings. A lot of people worry at times about our performance on a public platform or about going to social gatherings. This does not mean that you suffer from social anxiety disorder. However, those people who have an intense feeling of dread or fear when it comes to going out, meeting people, giving a presentation etc., suffer from social anxiety disorder.
This problem can take place either before, during or after an event ends.
The person may experience social anxiety disorder in the following situations
When one has to speak in a group or in public
When one has to meet strangers or new people
In the field of dating
To eat or drink in public places.
Such people are afraid that they will do something inappropriate or act in an embarrassing manner when in public. They are primarily afraid to be judged by other people.
Under such conditions, the person may start to feel the following anxiety disorder symptoms:
A racing heartbeat
Shakiness in the voice
Most of the people are worried about the judgement they might receive from others. Thus, they try to avoid certain situations.
They may or may not understand that their fears are not logical, but at the same time it is very hard for such people to get a grip on their fear.
The primary definition of phobia is an overwhelming and extreme fear of a specific situation, place, object, animal or feeling.
This type of anxiety disorder involves a more intense and soul gripping fear compared to the normal fear which we all go through in difficult situations. Phobias develop when a person has very heightened feelings of fear or danger towards a specific object or situation. A person suffering from a phobia would try to avoid the thing which causes anxiety to them at any cost.
The most common types of phobias include
Phobias towards specific animals – rodents, snakes, spiders
Environment phobias – Against germs or heights
Situational phobias – visiting the dentist
Body phobias – looking at blood or feeling sick
Sexual phobias – performance anxiety
Agoraphobia is the fear of getting stuck in situations where help might not be available. A few examples of situations where a person may suffer from agoraphobia is
Using the public transport
Being in crowds or where a lot of people are present
Going to public places
A person suffering from agoraphobia will observe that these fears completely impede his or her daily routine. This would cause the person to feel panic, anxiousness and distressed.
People who are suffering from this type of anxiety disorder find it to be very hard to go to their psychologist to discuss their anxiety disorder symptoms. Such people find it impossible to even leave their house in case of an emergency.
If you know of a person who is suffering from agoraphobia, you can ask him or her to arrange a telephonic appointment with their practitioner so that they can begin therapy.
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
This is the most common of all types of anxiety disorders that I have noticed. Most people that I have met have some sort of OCD. It may be mild or severe.
An obsession is the repeated presence of an unwanted image or a thought. These images don’t go away no matter how hard the person tries. Such thoughts can be depressive or disturbing and can make the person feel anxious and distressed.
A person is suffering from compulsion when the person must do a specific task repeatedly in order to relieve the anxiety. This may involve saying a phrase repeatedly in one’s head or continuously checking whether the front door is locked or not. Most people believe that something bad will happen if they do not go through these processes. They may understand that this type of thinking is not logical and even acknowledge that they are suffering from a type of anxiety disorder. Yet, they are unable to get control over it.
The different types of OCDs include:
Checking – the need to constantly check themselves or their environment to prevent any kind of harm, fire or any other damage.
Intrusive thoughts – repetitive thoughts which can cause the person to become very upset or horrified
Hoarding – inability to throw away useless items or items which are not in use anymore.
Contamination or Germaphobia – an impulse to constantly clean and wash the surroundings because the person feels that something in the surroundings contains germs or dirt and can cause diseases.
Contact your psychologist if you feel you have this type of anxiety disorder and discuss treatment options.
Skin picking type of anxiety disorder
Medically, the condition of spin packing is referred to as dermatillomania. This type of anxiety disorder is an impulse control disorder where a person regularly picks at their own skin. They find it difficult to stop themselves from picking on their skin. This can cause damage to the skin like scarring, bruising or bleeding. Most people have been observed to pick the skin on their face. However some might also pick the skin in the other regions of the body.
Skin picking is usually considered to be a type of addiction. People who engage in skin picking believe that it helps relieve tension as well as stress.
It is possible that a person may suffer from dermatillomania as well as OCD at the same time.
Pulling out hair
This is another of the impulse control disorders commonly referred to as trichotillomania. People who suffer from such a condition feel a high urge to pull out their own hair. They find it impossible to stop. The hair pulling behavior can either affect the scalp or any other part of the body like arms, eyelashes, eyebrows or pubic area.
Such people experience a tension build up which can only be released by pulling out the hair. The pulling action may provide relief to the person doing it. It may also bring pleasure.
Since it is difficult for people to stop this habit, it can lead to hair loss and distress. Thus people who suffer from this specific type of anxiety disorder feel very guilty and embarrassed.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is the type of anxiety disorder that is generally caused by severe trauma like abuse or car crash. It results in people feeling anxious for months or years after the event has occurred. This can happen even if the person wasn’t physically harmed by the crash or abuse.
What can you do?
If you feel that you are suffering from anxiety disorder or your loved one is and the problem is negatively impacting their life, it might be time to seek professional help.
I understand that it is hard to accept that there is a problem. It is even harder to decide to go into therapy. But if you identify your problem, half the battle is won.
If you are suffering from a condition like agoraphobia where it is hard for a person to leave the house, you can go for telephonic counselling. Just reach out to someone close to you and ask for help. Asking for help is the first step in accepting that there is a problem which needs to be addressed.
Try to not wait to the point where you are already facing a crisis, to reach out. The earlier the problem is addressed, the easier it will be to get out of it and to regain control of your life. We all go through anxiety issues once in our lifetime. But if it is the anxiety which is controlling your life and not you, it is time you take a step.
I have severe PTSD from a car crash which took place in the year 2018. I was pretty seriously injured when I hit my head on the car’s dashboard. I barely escaped losing my right eye. My forehead was split open and the skull was visible. My head had open wound the size of Sri Lanka. I also suffer from idiopathic pain disorder, which means I am in pain 24*7. I was hospitalized for 11 days. The idiopathic pain problem combined with the car crash increased my pain exponentially. However, I knew, if I do not go out and stay indoors, the fear of the crash will establish its control on my psyche. So I took my two wheeler and I went for a bike ride (I drove the bike) six days after returning from the hospital. Today, as I write this blog post, it is almost 3 years since the crash. It is still difficult for me to go out on the streets without imagining worst case scenarios. However I choose not to let the PTSD consume me. I still go out, ride my bike and I still face the world no matter how hard it is. Because that’s who we are. We are not defined by a car crash or other trauma. We define who we really are and I refused to back down and let the car crash dominate my life.
Now that you know the signs and types of anxiety disorders, have you noticed anxiety disorder symptoms in any of your loved ones or yourself? What are the symptoms they/you face? How do you tackle your anxiety? Have you tried to use art to get rid of your anxiety? Please mention your experiences in the comment section below. In case you wish to reach out to me, you can either leave your query in the comment section below or reach out to me on any of my social media channels.
See you in my next blog post
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different types of anxiety disorders?
There are mainly six types of anxiety disorders:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorders
What kind of anxiety is common in children?
Children most often suffer from separation anxiety. This is the situation where kids are afraid to be away from their parents. They may cry, scream or throw a fit if they are taken away from their parents. This type of anxiety mostly occurs when the kids start school and have to be away from their parents every day for a few hours.
Is it common to have depression and anxiety?
Depression generally goes hand-in-hand with other anxiety disorders. The most common type of anxiety disorder observed to be associated with depression is generalized anxiety disorder. The constant inflow of negative thoughts causes the person to start having anxiety. If the depression is not resolved in stages, it can eventually cause the person to suffer from anxiety as well.
What causes anxiety and what causes the symptoms?
Some underlying medical issues have been observed to cause anxiety in people like heart, lung, thyroid conditions, constant headaches etc. Anxiety is caused by the body’s response to the situation which is perceived as a threat by the brain. It can manifest itself in many ways like high heart rate, heart palpitations, sweating, lethargy, weakness, headaches, trembling etc.
Is anxiety treatable?
Anxiety is completely treatable and people have been known to recover from anxiety without relapsing back into it. All you need to do is reach out to a psychological or a person who is close to you and ask for help.