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.
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, a mental illness, you know, is a type of anxiety disorder like agoraphobia, separation anxiety disorder, or social phobia. From all the ones out there, the most common types of anxiety disorders include the following.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
One of the most common anxiety disorders, GAD, is characterized by overall chronic anxiety, exaggeration, and tension without triggering 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
- 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 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 have 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
- 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. The most common symptoms include:
- Frightening thoughts
- 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
The underlying causes of anxiety disorders aren’t fully understood. Some risk factors that may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder include:
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- Stress due to a health condition
- Stress buildup
- Some personalities
- Other mental health disorders
- Family history of anxiety
- Drug or alcohol use
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. It’s important to create a support group around you that can help you deal with excessive anxiety and substance abuse.
About 20% of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression have an alcohol or other substance use disorder. 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.