Anxiety Disorders: An Overview Of The 5 Major Types

July 20, 2019

"You're giving me anxiety" has been a common phrase to hear. There is a reason for that: anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults or 18.1% of the population.  There are five major types of anxiety and we'll give you an overview of each one below.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension. These symptoms occur even when there is nothing or little to provoke them. This disorder affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the population. GAD affects women twice as much as men and often co-occurs with major depression.  Diagnoses occurs when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

The exact cause of GAD is unknown, however there is evidence that biological factors, life experiences, and family background can play a role. Although only 43.2% of individuals with this anxiety disorder are receiving treatment, there is a variety of treatment options. These treatment options include CBT and other types of therapy as well as various medication options.

Panic Disorder (PD)

PD is diagnosed in individuals who experience spontaneous panic attacks and are preoccupied with the fear of a recurring attack. Roughly 2.7% of Americans experience this disorder and it is more common in women than men. This disorder can interfere with daily life by forcing individuals to avoid experiences as well as miss work. There are many symptoms of a panic or anxiety attack such as:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

Panic disorders are highly responsive to treatment. As a result, there are also several skills you can learn to manage attacks when you experience them.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

People with OCD experience obsessions and compulsions. Compulsions are behaviors that people feel they need to perform to ease distress or anxiety. However, these behaviors can be visible actions or they can be mental behaviors that are not immediately noticeable. Obsessions are unwanted or intrusive thoughts, images, or urges. Some obsessions are more common than others but they may include concerns about cleanliness, aggressive impulses or the need for symmetry. Although OCD is not as common as PD or GAD, it still effects 1 in 40 adults and 1 in 100 children in America. Some of the symptoms of OCD include:

  • Eating rituals
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Extreme separation anxiety
  • Unusual secretiveness
  • Temper tantrums

There is more than one option to treat OCD including psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and exposure and response prevention (a type of CBT). Psychiatric medications can also help control the obsessions and compulsions of OCD.

Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder)

The defining feature of this disorder is the intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in a social situation. Although many individuals with social anxiety disorder exhibit shyness, it is important to note that this disorder is not just shyness. As a result of these fears, those affected by SAD avoid social or performance situations. This disorder can also manifest itself as strong physical symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, sweating and nausea.

Social anxiety disorder or SAD affects 15 million Americans or 6.8% of the population. The average age of onset for this disorder is during the teenage years. Men and women are equally affected by this disorder. According to a 2007 ADAA survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or situation where serious physical harm was threatened or occurred. Some individuals are able to recover from these events but those with PTSD can suffer from depression or anxiety months and years afterwards. Events that could trigger PTSD include assaults, disasters, accidents, or military combat. Childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of lifetime likelihood for developing PTSD.

Like the other anxiety disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder likewise has various treatment methods. Some of the effective options are psychotherapy treatment. Prolonged Exposure is a type of treatment that teaches you how to gain control by facing your negative feelings. Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) teaches you to re-frame negative thoughts about the trauma. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) helps you process and make sense of your trauma.

In conclusion, as with all of these disorders, it is important to consult with a professional to help determine the best treatment plan for you.

About Talkiatry

Talkiatry is a local, accessible and complete mental healthcare solution that accepts insurance. We close the gap for individuals who want to get better, but feel that mental health care has been challenging to navigate up until this point and want a more convenient way to take the first step. Talkiatry takes the traditional local mental health visit and combines it with technology, scale, efficiency, and design to provide the best possible environment for healing.

The Talkiatry branded mental health practice is independently owned and operated by a licensed Psychiatrist. For more information about the relationship between Talkiatry Management Services, LLC and the branded group practice please click here.

Content from the Talkiatry website and blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The intent of the information provided on this website is for general consumer understanding and entertainment only.

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