Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms

Anxiety Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms

According to estimates, 40 million Americans over the age of 18, or 18.1% of the population, suffer from anxiety disorders every year.

Anxiety disorders vary in confusing varieties, from general to social anxiety and phobias like agoraphobia. Anxiety disorders can change in severity over time, and their manifestations are often hard to diagnose.

Anxiety disorders can result in poor social life, trouble at work, and difficulty making and maintaining relationships. 

Although anxiety disorders are treatable, only 36.9% of those affected get treatment. Therefore, it is crucial that individuals and professionals, such as health care providers, be educated about the many types of anxiety disorders and the treatment options available.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

An anxiety disorder manifests as a constant feeling of fear and worry. Many people experience these feelings occasionally, but they are severe enough to interfere with their daily lives. 

Anxiety disorders may seem mysterious to people who have never experienced them and interpreted as weakness or lack of willpower. Nevertheless, anxiety disorders sufferers’ feelings are anything but irrational and unwarranted.

Depression can often accompany anxiety disorders and vice versa. The majority of people suffering from depression also suffer from an anxiety disorder. 

However, there are several treatments for anxiety disorders, and the illness may even go away if the underlying causes are addressed.

The Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders

The five common types of anxiety disorders are:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

When you experience persistent, unrealistic, and excessive anxiety, it may be a sign of a generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. You’re not alone. Numerous people experience GAD, as it’s the most common of all anxiety disorders.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) consists of unwanted and repeated thoughts or behaviors that cause extreme anxiety. OCD can also manifest by perfectionism, orderliness, and control. 

Obsessive-compulsive disorder can take many forms, but the most common include cleaning, counting, repeating rituals. These rituals aim to relieve anxiety or prevent something terrible from happening temporarily.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is marked by recurrent, unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an intense feeling of discomfort that peaks within minutes and during which the person feels they may die or lose control. During a panic attack, feelings of impending doom and physical discomfort peak.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental illness that can develop as a result of experiencing a terrifying event where severe physical harm is imminent. 

Symptoms may include flashbacks or nightmares about what happened, anxiety and emotional numbing, recurring thoughts of the event, and feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.

Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)

Social phobia, sometimes called social anxiety disorder, is the most common anxiety disorder. It occurs when a person has a lot of anxiety about certain social situations. These situations can include being around other people, speaking in public, or performing an activity in front of others.

Social phobia can cause extreme anxiety, which may lead to panic attacks. Consequently, many people who have social phobia also have panic disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are defined by excessive anxiety or worry. A person with anxiety disorders may have difficulty breathing, sleeping, staying still, and concentrating. There are various types of anxiety disorders. 

  • Panic, fear, and uneasiness
  • Nightmares
  • Traumatic memories or flashbacks repeatedly occurring
  • Obsessive, uncontrollable thoughts
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Inability to focus on anything other than the present worry
  • Sleeping problems
  • Having digestive problems (GI)
  • Worrying too much
  • Feeling the urge to avoid anxiety-provoking situations
  • Having a dry mouth
  • Feeling nauseated
  • Tense muscles
  • Dizziness

It is crucial to remember that anxiety disorders are treatable. If you are experiencing anxiety, seeking treatment is the best route to take.

Risk Factors of Anxiety Disorders

Studies are still being done on the causes of anxiety disorders. It’s not known for sure why some people develop anxiety. Still, researchers believe that a combination of biological, chemical, and environmental factors plays a role in developing these disorders.

  • Genetics: There is some evidence that anxiety disorders may run in families. Children of parents with anxiety disorders are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder themselves.
  • Brain chemistry: Anxiety disorders can also result from abnormal brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which help nerves communicate with one another.
  • Personality: Some people just seem to “have” certain types of anxiety. For example, you may be more prone to worry if you are anxious by temperament.
  • Life events: Life events, such as divorce, a career change, moving to a new city, or losing a loved one, can trigger anxiety disorders.

How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed?

The physician will examine you and review your medical history if you have symptoms. Your doctor may order tests to determine whether other conditions are causing your symptoms.

Often, doctors refer patients to psychiatrists, psychologists, or other mental health specialists if they cannot find an underlying physical cause for their distress. These doctors will use tools and testing to determine if you have an anxiety disorder.

The duration and intensity of your symptoms will be taken into account when your doctor diagnoses you. Whether you are experiencing anxiety at work, at home, or in school, you should keep your doctors or counsellors informed. 

Treating Anxiety Disorders

The most common means of treating anxiety disorders are psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. Trying and testing may be necessary to find an ideal combination for you in some cases. 


Psychotherapy (also called talk therapy) is when a counsellor or therapist listens and talks with you about your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This kind of treatment helps people understand and deal with their problems.

Behavioural therapy or cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) involves changing unwanted thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is most often used to treat anxiety disorders. It uses exposure and response prevention to help people learn to cope with anxiety when they are most anxious.


There are several types of medications for treating anxiety disorders, depending on the kind of anxiety disorder you have. 

Medications can help with specific anxiety disorder symptoms and may also treat depression. Anxiety disorders are associated with excessive worry, so taking your medicines exactly as prescribed is essential. For instance:

You may also be able to treat anxiety disorders with some antidepressants.

There are medications such as buspirone available for anxiety.

Alternatively, other medications may be prescribed, such as beta-blockers or benzodiazepines, in limited circumstances. The medicines are intended to relieve anxiety symptoms quickly and are not for long-term use.

Please speak with your physician about the benefits or possible side effects of these medications before using them. 


Anxiety disorders are not a character flaw or sign of weakness — they are an actual medical condition. They can be managed, so talk to your doctor or find a mental health professional if you think you have an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders can affect your quality of life so, please, do not feel embarrassed or guilty. Seek treatment as soon as possible.