What Are the 6 Types of Anxiety Disorders?

types of anxiety disorders

Written By: Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Cite This Article
Geraldine. "What Are the 6 Types of Anxiety Disorders?." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Last updated Jan 13, 2021 at 12:17PM | Published on Jan 13, 2021, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/what-are-the-6-types-of-anxiety-disorders/.


Last updated Jan 13, 2021 at 12:17PM | Published on Jan 13, 2021 | Mental Health

Nearly 40 million adults in the United States struggle with anxiety disorders. That’s about 18% of the population every year. Still, people have many misconceptions about anxiety and how it can affect someone’s life. More than just an anxious feeling, anxiety disorders can disrupt someone’s life and place them at risk of depression and other mental illnesses. But, anxiety disorders take on many shapes, symptoms, and struggles, and each type has its particularities that make them distinctively unique. Let’s explore the types of anxiety disorders and how to recognize their symptoms.

What’s Anxiety?

Anxiety can be expected in many stressful situations. But, this intense, excessive, and persistent worry about everyday situations can affect someone’s life. Anxiety is a mental health disorder that causes feelings of worry or fear that are strong enough to interfere with everyday problems.

Overall, these feelings are often out of control, out of proportion, and can last a long time that interfere with daily activities. Sometimes, emotions or symptoms of anxiety usually come unannounced and may not have a specific trigger. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

First of all, anxiety disorders can have different characteristics and affect people differently. Perhaps, an mental illness you know is indeed a type of anxiety disorder like agoraphobia or social phobia. From all the ones out there, these are by far the most common types of anxiety disorders. 

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

One of the most common anxiety disorders, GAD is characterized by overall chronic anxiety, exaggeration, and tension without triggers to provoke it. Close to 3.1% of the US population has a generalized anxiety disorder, with women being twice as likely to be affected as men. Still, only 43% of the people affected seek treatment. 

For a GAD diagnosis, someone must experience symptoms for at least six months. Most common GAd symptoms include:

  • Intense feelings of restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Sleep problems 

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Lots of people don’t know that OCD falls within the spectrum of anxiety disorders. More than ensuring everything is clean and organized, people with OCD have recurrent, unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors.

Most people develop “rituals” like washing their hands, counting, checking, or cleaning to prevent obsessive thoughts or help these thoughts go away. However, these rituals only provide temporary relief. About 2.2 million adults have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It affects men and women equally. 

Indeed, people with OCD usually display obsessions, compulsions, or both; however, not everyone displays rituals or preventative methods. Overall, symptoms of OCD include:

  • Intense fear of germs or contamination (obsession)
  • Aggressive thoughts towards others or self (obsession)
  • Repeatedly checking on things (compulsion)
  • Excessive cleaning and/or handwashing (compulsion)
  • Inability to control thoughts or behaviors
  • Experience problems due to these thoughts or behaviors 

3. Panic Disorder

Out of all anxiety disorders, panic disorders are the ones that exhibit the most physical symptoms. In essence, a panic disorder is characterized by intense fear, chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, or shortness of breath. At first glance, people believe they’re having a heart attack.

Also, most of the time, panic attacks occur unexpectedly and can reach their peak within minutes. Over 6 million adults in the US have a panic disorder, with women being twice as likely to have one as men. 

During a panic attack, people may experience a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of being out of control
  • Feelings of impending doom

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

While most people know about PTSD, very few know that it is an anxiety disorder. It usually starts after exposure to a traumatic event or ordeal, including violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, and military combat. In fact, PTSD affects over 7.7 million adults in the US, with rape being one of the disorder’s primary triggers. This condition triggers a “fight-or-flight” response within seconds and often takes time to develop. 

To be diagnosed with PTSD, someone must experience symptoms for at least one month. Most common symptoms include:

  • Frightening thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Feeling tense
  • Distorted feelings like guilt
  • Negative thoughts 

5. Social Anxiety Disorder

Previously known as social phobia, this type of anxiety disorder involves a general intense feeling of fear or anxiety toward social interactions or performance situations. More than fear of public speaking, people with social anxiety disorder worry that something they’ll say or do will cause unfavorable views of themselves. Still, people with social anxiety disorder can experience fear in a formal situation like a job interview or informal settings like talking to a cashier or eating in front of others. 

Social anxiety disorders affect 15 million adults in the US, however, almost 36% of them wait 10 years or more to seek help. Symptoms can be emotional, behavioral, and even physical, including:

  • Intense fear of situations in which they may be judged
  • Avoidance of activities or events that involve talking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Severe anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Always expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience in a social situation 
  • Trembling, sweating, lightheadedness
  • Avoid making eye contact, talking to strangers, or using public facilities

6. Specific Phobias

As its name suggests, people with a specific phobia have an intense fear or feel severe anxiety in particular situations or towards specific types of objects. Common phobias include fear of flying, heights, blood, or specific animals. Specific phobias affect over 19 million adults in the US, and most symptoms start around 7 years old. Most people also experience depression and PTSD alongside particular phobias. 

While the symptoms of the different phobias will vary, overall, they include:

  • Intense feelings of imminent danger
  • Heart palpitations and tremblings
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain and discomfort
  • An intense need to escape a place or situation
  • Feelings of choking

Substance Abuse and Anxiety Disorders

Most people with anxiety disorders may also struggle with alcohol or drug addictions, and vice versa. The symptoms of one condition can make symptoms of the other worse. Unfortunately, people struggling with anxiety may turn to substances as self-medication to alleviate the symptoms. However, over time, drugs and alcohol can trigger anxiety episodes and make these symptoms worse. 

About 20% of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression have an alcohol or other substance use disorder, and about 20% of those with an alcohol or substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder.

If you or someone you know struggles with substance abuse or one or more of the types of anxiety disorders, it is paramount that you seek help immediately. The more you wait, the greater the chances you have of experiencing a major depressive episode, a drug or alcohol overdose, and other life-threatening consequences like a suicide attempt.

Thankfully, anxiety is a manageable condition with various options for treatment. Reach out today to speak with our therapists to learn more about our psychotherapy options and start your recovery journey. 

🛈 This page’s content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or another qualified health provider with any medical condition questions—full medical disclaimer.

Related Articles

What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

What is Histrionic Personality Disorder?

Part of a group known as "Cluster B" or "dramatic" personality disorders, a histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is a less known mental health condition. People with HPD have an overwhelming desire to be noticed, to the point, they'll go through extreme lengths to...

Do Addictions Need to Be Replaced with Something Else?

Do Addictions Need to Be Replaced with Something Else?

As people move away from addictive substances, they often try to replace their addiction with something else, usually healthy. While on the surface, this might seem like a much-needed and helpful approach to relapse prevention, often, it can backfire. Initially,...

What to Know About Dissociative Identity Disorder

What to Know About Dissociative Identity Disorder

This complex mental health condition can be distressing and challenging to manage. Once known as multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder causes gaps in memory, the presence of two or more personalities. It produces intense psychosocial stressors...

We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.