Anxiety disorders explained: Here are 5 most major types

Anxiety disorders are estimated to affect 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.
Mert Erdemir
Stock image of a man suffering from mental illness.
Stock image of a man suffering from mental illness.


Feeling anxious in stressful or uneasy moments is normal and even beneficial. However, if these feelings of worry and fear about certain things or ordinary events start to become prolonged, excessive, and persistent, then the situation might be different, and you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders involve recurring feelings of sudden and intense anxiety that reach a peak within minutes. One of the most common mental disorders among adults, anxiety disorders are estimated to affect 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Anxiety disorders explained: Here are 5 most major types
Sleepless woman suffering from anxiety.

Types of anxiety disorders

There are several types of anxiety disorders, but the most major ones are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder).

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by persistent anxiety and increased worry and tension, even if there is no triggering factor.

Its symptoms can include excessive worry, restlessness, difficulties in sleeping, exhaustion, irritability, trembling, and sweating. To be formally diagnosed with GAD, symptoms must last for at least six months.

GAD is known for developing slowly. It is more prevalent in women than in men, and even though it is more common to start around age 30, it can occur in childhood.

As per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), GAD risk can run in families. Fear and anxiety are fundamentally controlled by some biological processes and brain regions that researchers are still trying to understand better.

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Yes, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), OCD is an anxiety disorder and is known for causing obsessions and/or compulsions.

An obsession is a consistent and unwanted thought, image, or impulse that keeps coming back to your mind and makes you feel anxious, disgusted, or uneasy.

Compulsions are recurrent behaviors or mental acts that one feels compelled to engage in in order to momentarily numb the negative emotions brought on by the obsessive thought. Hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning can be given as examples of compulsive actions that are frequently carried out in an effort to stop or ease obsessive thoughts.

3. Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is associated with recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks can happen out of nowhere and without an apparent trigger. Its symptoms include a racing heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing, sweating, feeling as if you're going to die, and more...

If you experience frequent panic attacks and constantly worry about experiencing more of these panic attacks, you may have panic disorder. But don't worry, even though the panic disorder is serious and needs to be treated, it's not deadly.

Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both are the most effective way to stop panic attacks. You can also reduce your caffeine consumption, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet to lower the risk of having a panic attack.

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Commonly known as PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder results from the traumatizing effects of a terrifying event. Flashbacks, nightmares, intense anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the incident are possible symptoms.

Symptoms may start one month or several years after the triggering event. Significant issues are brought on by these symptoms in interpersonal interactions, at work, and in social settings. Additionally, they may make it difficult for one to carry out daily activities as usual.

5. Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)

Social phobia, or social anxiety disorder, is a mental health condition characterized by an intense fear of social situations and being judged or evaluated by others. People with social phobia may experience anxiety in various social situations, including speaking in public, meeting new people, or being watched while doing something. This fear can be so severe that it interferes with one's daily life, such as at work, school, and in relationships.

Anxiety disorders explained: Here are 5 most major types
Social phobia stock image.

Symptoms of social phobia are fear of being criticized, avoiding eye contact, having low self-esteem and difficulties in social environments, sweating, trembling, racing heartbeat, and difficulty speaking.

If you think you suffer from social phobia, don't worry. It can be treated with a combination of therapy and medication, so it is important to see a doctor or psychiatrist.

What types of people are prone to anxiety?

This question has no simple answer since there are several factors that are known to increase one's propensity to develop anxiety disorders. These factors include:

1. Genetics: Would you expect that genetics could have a role in any anxiety disorders you experience throughout your life? Actually, yes, anxiety could be running in your family. So, you should educate yourself about the causes and symptoms of anxiety disorders if your family members show any sign of an anxiety disorder.

2. Life experiences: Especially for PTSD, some traumatic events, such as abuse, neglect, or exposure to violence, can increase one's risk of developing anxiety disorders.

3. Personality traits: Overthinking, perfectionism, impulsivity, and neuroticism have been associated with a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders. However, it's important to note that these personality traits are not necessarily causes of anxiety disorders but rather may increase the risk of developing one.

4. Substance abuse: Particularly, abuse of alcohol or drugs can increase the risk of anxiety disorders. Plus, according to a review published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), "Caffeine also increases anxiety in panic disorder patients as well as among healthy adults at these doses, although the exact relationship between caffeine-induced anxiety and panic attacks remains uncertain."

5. Stressful life circumstances: As can be expected, major life changes like job loss, moving, financial strain, or relationship problems can increase the risk of anxiety disorders. Health conditions or physical illnesses can also be a source of anxiety, especially if they involve constant pain or discomfort.

Anxiety disorders explained: Here are 5 most major types
Stock image of a stressful woman working at night.

To sum up, anxiety disorders have various types, and each involves different triggers and symptoms. They can have unpleasant effects on your daily life but don't worry; they definitely are not deadly.

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, it is crucial to speak with a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. You can also learn more about them to raise your consciousness.

Remember that seeking help for an anxiety disorder is not a sign of weakness but a courageous and significant step toward improving your mental health and quality of life.

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