What Are The 5 Major Types Of Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are incredibly common mental health conditions, yet there is an immense amount of variation in how people experience anxiety. Consequently, the National Institutes of Mental Health distinguish between five major types of anxiety disorder (listed below). It is worth noting that the below-listed anxiety disorders are not the only anxiety disorders in existence. People also experience specific phobias, like separation anxiety and hypochondria, that lead them to feel intense anxiety about specific situations, events, or items.

Continue reading to learn more about the five major types of anxiety disorder; recognition and understanding are the first steps to natural healing.

Type 1: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by having intense, chronic feelings of anxiety — as well as exaggerated/hyperbolized worry and tension — during common occurrences and without justifiable cause or evidence.

People who have this anxiety disorder:

  • Feel excessive anxiety almost every day; report that they “are always worried”.
  • Struggle to control worrying.
  • Struggle to disrupt/stop rumination (thinking the same dark, negative, or anxious thoughts repeatedly or continuously).
  • Anticipate failure/disaster without corroboration.
  • Often experience co-occurrent symptoms of depression.

Type 2: Panic Disorder

Having Panic Disorder involves having sudden, unexpected episodes of intense fear (“panic attacks”) with symptoms like chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, hyperventilation/shortness of breath, confusion, and a feeling of impending doom or danger.

People who have this anxiety disorder:

  • Experience spontaneous panic attacks with physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms that last ~10 minutes before subsiding.
  • May feel anxiety about having (and trying to avoid) panic attacks.
  • Often modify their behavior — avoiding certain situations and settings — to avoid having a panic attack (especially in public). This can develop into agoraphobia.

Type 3: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by having uncontrollable recurrent thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) that people feel the need to repeat excessively.

People who have this anxiety disorder:

  • May feel anxiety about germs, dirt, and contamination, asymmetry, the number or order of certain items, etc..
  • Perform a single or series of actions (rituals) that temporarily relieve feelings of anxiety, often believing that these rituals will prevent certain (bad, unwanted) things from happening.
  • Spend at least an hour per day on rituals.
  • Often struggle with hoarding behaviors.

Type 4: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is common among people who have experienced or been exposed to something traumatic or terrifying. It is characterized by repeatedly having extreme fight-or-flight responses, after the event, despite there being no or no justifiable stimulus for the anxiety.

People who have this anxiety disorder develop a combination of:

  • “Re-experiencing” symptoms, like flashbacks and nightmares;
  • “Avoidance” symptoms, like staying away from places that remind them of the trauma;
  • “Arousal and reactivity” symptoms, like being easily startled or having angry outbursts;
  • “Cognition and mood” symptoms, like having trouble remembering the trauma.

Type 5: Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)

Social Phobia or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by feeling excessively self-conscious in social situations due to an intense fear of being judged (negatively) by other people.

People who have this anxiety disorder:

  • May avoid social situations because of their anxiety.
  • Often experience physical symptoms of anxiety before, during, or after social situations (including dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating, dry mouth, etc.).
  • Struggle to control negative thoughts or beliefs about themselves.
  • Experience a negative cognitive bias where they discount positive experience and hyperfocus on the negative ones.