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Types of Anxiety Disorders: Its Symptoms and Causes

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Anxiety Disorders: Types, Symptoms, and Causes

Anxiety is a natural response to stress, danger, or unfamiliar situations. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. However, when these feelings become a constant, overwhelming, and disabling presence, they may signify an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age. According to the “American Psychiatric Association”, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

This comprehensive guide will delve into the various types of anxiety disorders, their symptoms, and the potential causes. By understanding these elements, individuals can seek appropriate treatment and begin the journey to managing their anxiety effectively.

Understanding Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses that cause constant and overwhelming anxiety and fear. Excessive anxiety can make you avoid work, school, family get-togethers, and other social situations that might trigger or worsen your symptoms. With treatment, many people with anxiety disorders can manage their feelings.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it. People with GAD anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health, money, family, work, or other issues.
  2. Panic Disorder: Individuals with panic disorder have frequent and unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking; and feeling of impending doom.
  3. Phobias, Specific Phobia: A specific phobia is an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. Most people with specific phobias have several things that can trigger those fears.
  4. Social Anxiety Disorder: Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule.
  5. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away.
  6. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. Most people associate PTSD with battle-scarred soldiers, but any overwhelming life experience can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Anxiety Disorders: Types, Symptoms, and Causes
Anxiety Disorders: Types, Symptoms, and Causes

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

While each anxiety disorder has its unique features, there are common symptoms including:

  • Physical Symptoms: Trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, or hot flashes, feeling lightheaded or out of breath, nausea, needing to go to the bathroom frequently.
  • Emotional Symptoms: Feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense and jumpy, anticipating the worst, restlessness, irritability, watching for signs of danger, feeling like your mind’s gone blank.
  • Behavioral Symptoms: Avoidance of situations that might trigger anxiety, ritualistic behaviors (such as washing hands excessively or engaging in particular routines), and a decline in performance at work or school.

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

The exact cause of anxiety disorders is unknown, but anxiety disorders — like other forms of mental illness — are not the result of personal weakness, a character flaw, or poor upbringing. However, researchers believe that a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and developmental factors can contribute to the onset of an anxiety disorder.

  1. Genetics: Anxiety disorders can run in families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorders.
  2. Brain Chemistry: Anxiety disorders may be linked to faulty circuits in the brain that control fear and other emotions.
  3. Environmental Stress: A traumatic or stressful event such as abuse, death of a loved one, violence, or prolonged illness is often linked to the development of an anxiety disorder.
  4. Personality: People with certain personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders than others are.

Treatment and Management

The two main treatments for anxiety disorders are psychotherapy and medications. Often, a combination of the two is most effective.

  1. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders. Generally, a short-term treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on teaching you specific skills to improve your symptoms and gradually return to the activities you’ve avoided because of anxiety.
  2. Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but can help relieve symptoms. Medication for anxiety is prescribed by doctors, such as a psychiatrist or primary care provider. Some states allow psychologists to prescribe medication to patients.
Anxiety Disorders: Types, Symptoms, and Causes
Anxiety Disorders: Types, Symptoms, and Causes

Living with Anxiety Disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be a long-term challenge. In addition to treatment, self-care is crucial. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Stay physically active. Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer.
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. These substances can cause or worsen anxiety.
  • Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.
  • Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren’t sleeping well, see your doctor.
  • Eat healthy. Healthy eating — such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish — may be linked to reduced anxiety, but more research is needed.


Anxiety disorders can be debilitating, but they can be managed with proper help from a medical professional. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step. From there, you can seek treatment and start on the path to recovery. The most important thing is to remember you’re not alone; millions of people live with anxiety disorders and lead happy, fulfilling lives. With the right treatment and self-help strategies, you can too.

Also read: The History and Importance of World Mental Health Month

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