Main Types of Anxiety Disorders Explained

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Some people have general anxiety that is manageable but never seems to go away. Others suffer from profound anxiety attacks. Others experience anxiety in social situations, or need order and cleanliness in order to relax.

Psychologists have created categories for each of the different types of anxiety disorders, and only by knowing what type of anxiety you’re experiencing can you hope to find relief.

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is the most common and widespread types of anxiety disorders in world. GAD affect tens of millions of people throughout the world. GAD is best described as an ongoing state of mental and/or physical tension and nervousness, either without a specific cause or without the ability to take a break from the anxiety.

In other words, if you feel yourself constantly on edge, worried, anxious, or stressed (either physically or mentally) and it’s disrupting your life, you may have generalized anxiety disorder. Remember, some anxiety is a natural part of life, and some degree of anxiety is normal to feel occasionally. But when that anxiety appears to occur for no reason or for reasons that shouldn’t be causing that degree of anxiousness, you may have generalized anxiety disorder.

The following are the most common General Anxiety Disorder symptoms:
  • Constant restlessness, irritation, edginess, or a feeling of being without control.
  • Fatigue, lethargy, or generally low energy levels (feeling drained).
  • Tense muscles, especially on the back, neck, and shoulders.
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks or activities.
  • Obsessing over negative and anxiety causing thoughts – “Disaster Thinking.”

The key is persistent mental or physical anxiety. If it doesn’t appear to go away, it may be general anxiety disorder.

2. Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a debilitating anxiety disorder that is very different from GAD. Panic disorder is not about “panicking.” It’s not about getting very worried because you might lose your job or a lion is about to attack you in the jungle. That type of panic is normal.

Panic disorder is when you experience severe feelings of doom that cause both mental and physical symptoms that can be so intense that some people become hospitalized, worried that something is dangerously wrong with their health.

Panic disorder is characterized by two things:

  • Panic attacks.
  • Fear of getting panic attacks.

Panic attacks are intense physical and mental sensations that can triggered by stress, anxiety, or by nothing at all. They often involve mental distress, but are most well-known by their physical symptoms, including:

  • Rapid heartbeat (heart palpitations or irregular/fast paced heart rhythms).
  • Excessive sweating or hot/cold flashes.
  • Tingling sensations, numbness, or weakness in the body.
  • Depersonalization (feeling like you’re outside yourself).
  • Trouble breathing or feeling as though you’ve had a deep breath.
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Chest pain or stomach pain.
  • Digestive problems and/or discomfort.

Panic attacks may have some or all of the above physical symptoms, and may also involve unusual symptoms as well, like headaches, ear pressure, and more. All of these symptoms feel very real, which is why those that experience panic attacks often seek medical attention for their health.

3. Social Anxiety Disorder

Many people suffer from what’s known as “social anxiety disorder” or “social phobia” – an irrational fear of social situations. Some degree of social phobia is normal. Small degrees of shyness in public places, or discomfort while public speaking, are natural in most people, and do not imply an anxiety problem.

But when that fear disrupts your life, you may be suffering from social phobia. Social phobia is when the shyness is intense and the idea of socializing or speaking with the public, strangers, authority figures, or possibly even your friends causes you noticeable anxiety and fear.

People with social anxiety view public situations as being potentially painful and distressing, living with a constant fear of being judged, observed, remarked upon, or avoided. Those with social phobia also often have an irrational fear of doing something stupid or embarrassing. What makes this more than just shyness is when those fears cause you to avoid healthy socializing situations altogether.

Those with social phobia often live with two or more of the following issues:
  • Feeling hopeless or fearful within unfamiliar people or in unfamiliar situations.
  • Obsession over being watched, observed, or judged by strangers.
  • Experiencing overwhelming anxiety in any social situation with difficulty coping.
  • Severe fear of public speaking – beyond what one would consider “normal”
  • Anxiousness about the idea of social situations, even when not in one.
  • Intense issues meeting new people or voicing up when you need to speak.

Many people with social phobia display avoidance behaviors. They avoid any and all social situations as best they can so as to avoid further fear.

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

As a human being, there are always risks that put your life in danger. Most people are lucky enough to avoid these dangers and live a nice and safe life. But in some cases, you may experience a life trauma – either physically or emotionally – and this can cause an anxiety problem known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the name implies, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that comes after the traumatic event has occurred. Those living with PTSD often must get outside help, because PTSD can affect people for years after the event occurs – possibly even the rest of their life.

PTSD affects people both psychologically and physically. In most cases, the person with PTSD is the one that experienced the traumatic event, but it’s possible to get PTSD by simply witnessing an event or injury, or even simply discovering that someone close to you dealt with a traumatic event.

PTSD symptoms include:
  • Reliving the Trauma: The most well-known symptom of PTSD is reliving the trauma. Those with PTSD often relive the trauma not only emotionally – in some cases, they may relive the trauma mentally and physically, as though transported back to the event.
  • Responding to Triggers: Those with PTSD may (in some cases) have triggers that cause intense stress or fear. These triggers are often related to the event, such as loud noises when the event involved loud noises or intense fear when someone is behind you if you were attacked from behind. It also may be triggered by thoughts of the event.
  • Anxiety Over Recurrence: Like with panic attacks, you may also have PTSD if you have developed severe anxiety over the event occurring again. If you experience regular, daily anxiety over the idea of a repeat of the event, it may also be PTSD.
  • Emotional Trouble: Many of those with PTSD also experience issues with their emotional thinking and future. Some feel a disinterest or detachment from love. Others become emotionally numb. Others become convinced they’re destined to die. Any and all of these emotional struggles may be common in those with PTSD.

You may also experience severe “what if” scenarios everywhere you go, including disaster thinking or feeling helpless/hopeless in public situations. Many of those with PTSD also experience avoidance behaviors of events, things, and even people that may remind them of the event – even if there is no link between these issues and the trauma.

Those with post-traumatic stress disorder may be at a greater baseline of stress on most days. They may be short tempered or easy to anger. They may be startled/frightened easily or be unable to sleep. PTSD can be a difficult problem to live with.

No matter which of the main types of anxiety disorders you’re suffering from, the good news is that there are genuinely effective ways to help. Many people have cured their anxiety disorder altogether, and others find ways to make it easily manageable. If you or a loved one is struggling, our Delray Beach clinic provides expert care for anxiety disorder treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez


Existing patients, please text 561-409-7296 for follow-up appointment requests or if you have medication concerns please text 561-409-7296.