Types of Anxiety Disorders

We all know how it feels to be anxious – the way you run out of breath when you are scared, your palpitation when your boss gets mad at you, and the butterflies in your stomach on your very first date. Anxiety is normal. In fact, it helps you cope. It incites you to action, gears you up when facing a threatening situation, and makes you prepare for your presentation.

However, having anxiety disorders is another case. Here, the helpful emotion does the opposite. It causes much distress and disrupts your daily life. For people suffering from these disorders, fear and worry are overwhelming and constant. Here are the recognized types of anxiety disorders:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

People with GAD experience excessive and unrealistic tension and worry, even if there’s little or no source of provocation. While little is known about the exact cause of this disorder, some factors appear to enhance its development. These include environmental stresses, brain chemistry, and genetics.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

This disorder is characterized by constant, irrational fears or thoughts (obsessions) that cause a person to do certain routines or rituals (compulsions). For example, a person who unreasonably fears germs washes his or her hands all the time. The disorder affects around 3.3 million adults and approximately1 million adolescents and children across the United States.

Panic disorder

People who suffer from this disorder always have feelings of fear and terror that suddenly strike repeatedly without any warning. Symptoms include chest pain, sweating, palpitations, and a feeling of breathlessness. These symptoms may make the persons having panic disorder feel like they’re "going crazy" or having a heart attack. It afflicts around 2.4 million adults in the US.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

People usually develop PTSD following a terrifying and/or traumatic event like sudden death of a loved one, physical or sexual assault, a natural disaster, or engagement in a war. Those suffering from this illness often have frightening and lasting memories and thoughts of the extremely hurtful event, and most of them are emotionally numb. Around 5.2 million American adults suffer from this disorder.

Social anxiety disorder or social phobia

In this type of anxiety disorder, the sufferer experiences overwhelming self-consciousness and worry about daily social situations. People with social phobia often fear that they’re being judged by other people. They also fear that their behavior might lead to ridicule or cause embarrassment. It’s the most common type of anxiety disorder in the US, affecting about 19.2 million Americans.

Specific phobias

This disorder is characterized by a powerful fear of specific objects or situations like snakes (ophidiophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), heights (acrophobia), or enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), and many others. Usually, the level of fear is unreasonable to the situation, causing the sufferer to avoid everyday situations. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 6.3 million adults have specific phobia in the US.