Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in the United States, affecting about one in five adults and one in four adolescents at any given time. Despite its prevalence, anxiety is also a highly individual experience that’s largely shaped by its inherent nature or type.
As mental health experts who specialize in helping people cope with anxiety, the team at EXIS Recovery Inc. can help you understand the type of anxiety that’s affecting you and give you the insight, tools, and support you need to manage it effectively.
Six major forms of anxiety
It’s completely normal to experience anxiety from time to time, especially during stressful situations that demand extra precaution or unpredictable events that trigger your natural fight-or-flight response.
But for the tens of millions of people in the US who live with an anxiety disorder, excessive worry and fear are a persistent — and often overwhelming — part of everyday life. The six main types of anxiety are:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry or fear about almost any (or every) facet of life, ranging from personal health, family, work, and finances to ordinary, everyday activities and social events.
The emotions associated with GAD are typically difficult to control and out of proportion to the actual situation; for many people, they also trigger physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and restlessness. GAD often co-occurs with depression.
A person who suffers from a panic disorder experiences recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, or sudden feelings of intense anxiety, fear, or terror that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes.
Panic disorders cause an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological distress that may trigger feelings of impending doom along with shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, and lightheadedness.
People who live with panic disorders usually try to prevent panic attacks by avoiding the places or situations that trigger them. This often leads to the development of another anxiety disorder called agoraphobia.
This phobia-based disorder causes people to develop an intense fear of being in open or enclosed spaces, being stuck in a crowd, standing in a long line, using public transportation, or being away from home by themselves.
People with agoraphobia avoid these types of situations because they believe it would be difficult or impossible to leave if they started to have an embarrassing panic-like reaction or a full-on panic attack. In its severest form, agoraphobia can render a person housebound.
Phobias are deep-seated, irrationally intense fears of specific situations, activities, objects, or animals. Common phobia-based anxiety disorders include a fear of heights, flying, needles (injections or blood draws), spiders, dogs, confined spaces, and going to the dentist.
People who have phobias typically go to great lengths to avoid them; they also experience extreme distress — and sometimes panic attacks — when forced to face them.
Social anxiety disorder
This type of anxiety causes extreme fear, worry, and apprehension about social and performance situations. People with social anxiety often experience intense discomfort when they interact with others and live with a persistent fear of being judged and rejected.
Most people with social anxiety avoid social situations and interactions because they worry about saying the wrong thing, acting the wrong way, being negatively perceived by others, and feeling intensely awkward and embarrassed.
Separation anxiety disorder
This form of anxiety causes a person to feel excessive worry or fear about being separated from someone they’re very attached to, usually a caregiver. While it’s often considered a childhood disorder, separation anxiety can affect adults, too.
This type of anxiety isn’t usually just about fear of separation, it’s also often about fear of loss — many people with separation anxiety worry that the person who’s closest to them will get hurt, become ill, or die when they’re separated from them.
Conditions that feature anxiety
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two very common mental health conditions that were once grouped with anxiety disorders. Today, they’re recognized as distinct disorders that feature anxiety.
Anxiety actually plays a central role in both of these conditions: people with OCD have recurrent intrusive thoughts (obsessions) that cause intense anxiety they attempt to ease through repetitive behaviors (compulsions), while people with PTSD develop a range of physical, behavioral, and mental symptoms, including anxiety, in response to trauma.
Take control of your anxiety
Anxiety disorders can feel overwhelming, limiting, or even disabling, but fortunately, they’re also highly treatable. Getting a thorough and accurate diagnosis is the first step toward regaining your life.
If you’re ready to take control of your anxiety, the team at EXIS Recovery can help. Call 424-244-3513 to reach our West Los Angeles office today, or click online to schedule a visit with one of our trusted mental health experts any time.