6 types of anxiety disorders you need to know about

Anxiety disorders can wreck havoc with one's day-to-day life if left untreated. Here's what you need to know about the different types of anxiety disorders.

Most people assume that anxiety only means having panic attacks and worrying excessively. However, if you know someone living with anxiety, it is important to understand that there are different types of anxiety and in some cases, the patient can suffer from more than one anxiety disorder at the same time. These are the five ways anxiety can affect your health in the long run.

When you re aware of this mental illness and how different anxiety disorders can affect one s life, it is easier to tackle the symptoms by making lifestyle changes and knowing how to seek professional help. Here are the six different types of anxiety disorders and how common it is among the general population.

1. Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

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GAD can be a disabling disorder in severe cases as it causes persistent worrying and tension. Studies have found that women are more prone to suffer from GAD [1]. Patients with GAD tend to feel mentally exhausted, fatigued and drained along with insomnia and difficulty in concentrating. The good news is that GAD can be treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), anti-anxiety medicines and antidepressants.

2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

The term OCD is used in conversations to describe some as clean, neat and tidy. However, not many people are aware of the fact that OCD is an anxiety disorder and that it can cause extreme discomfort and significantly compromise the patient s quality of life [2].

OCD causes repetitive, obsessive thoughts or images in the patient s mind which make them check things repeatedly. The patient will also perform routine activities over and over again which could include washing their hands, locking doors and counting things, among others. The patient feels like he is losing control and experiences feelings of fear or worry. Unfortunately, there is no cure for OCD, but it can be addressed with CBT. Here are ways to control OCD.

3. Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety disorder, and it has an early age of onset--by age 11 years in about 50% of individuals and by age 20 years in about 80% [3]. Studies have found that it is a risk factor for subsequent depressive illness and substance abuse.

Patients with social anxiety disorder have an intense fear of being judged and scrutinised by others, and it is often confused with being shy, introverted or even antisocial. Someone with social anxiety will avoid going out and meeting friends and in extreme cases, even skip work or refuse to leave home. It can be treated with anti-anxiety medicines and CBT. Here are ways to reduce anxiety according to science.

4. Panic Disorder

The panic disorder causes sudden and intense attacks of fear that can take place at any time. The triggers of a panic attack vary from one individual to another and the fear of having a panic attack again can affect the patient s daily life. The symptoms of a panic attack include breathlessness, dizziness, trembling, sweating, nausea and hot flashes. Studies have found that panic disorder affects up to 5% of the population at some point in life [4]. It can be disabling, especially when the individual also suffers from agoraphobia, a condition in which the environment is perceived to be unsafe. Here are signs you are having a panic attack and how to deal with it.

5. Phobias

Phobias affect women more than men and are also prevalent among children and adolescents [5]. They involve an irrational and overwhelming fear of a certain type of people, places, objects or situations that seem completely normal to a person without any phobia. Different types of phobias can be treated through cognitive behavioural therapy and medications.

6. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

This is one of the most severe anxiety disorders. The intense psychological trauma a PTSD patient experiences results from experiencing a traumatic or life-threatening incident which is accompanied by flashbacks, intense fear, depression, horror, and helplessness [6].


[1] Depress Anxiety. 2002;16(4):162-71. Generalized anxiety disorder: prevalence, burden, and cost to society. Wittchen HU.

[2] Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2011;7:229-43. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104533. Treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. Franklin ME, Foa EB.

[3] Lancet. 2008 Mar 29;371(9618):1115-25. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60488-2.Social anxiety disorder. Stein MB, Stein DJ.

[4] Lancet. 2006 Sep 16;368(9540):1023-32. Panic disorder. Roy-Byrne PP(1), Craske MG, Stein MB.

[5] Afr J Psychiatry (Johannesbg). 2011 May;14(2):140-5. Prevalence of common phobias and their socio-demographic correlates in children and adolescents in a traditional developing society. Bener A, Ghuloum S, Dafeeah EE.

[6] Sherin JE, Nemeroff CB. Post-traumatic stress disorder: the neurobiological impact of psychological trauma. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2011;13(3):263-278.

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