Anxiety: Define In 6 Ways

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

Anxiety is a mental health issue that can be different for everyone. The way one individual experiences an anxiety disorder can differ from the way another does. Understanding and recognizing the various symptoms is an excellent way to start defining anxiety disorders. With different types of anxiety, different definitions apply. When the definition of your own anxiety disorder has been nailed down, treatment options may become more apparent. With proper treatment, anxiety disorders can be managed well, and for some, easily.

  1. Textbook Definition Of Anxiety

It may come as a surprise to some, but anxiety itself is simply an emotion. The emotion of anxiety is the feeling of mental pressure, worries, and physical health changes often related to stress. Experiencing anxiety does not necessarily mean that you have an anxiety disorder. Definitions of the various kinds of anxiety disorders may help to clear up some confusion on the topic.

Those with anxiety disorders experience the emotion of anxiety regularly. It’s not typically an occasional feeling as it might be with someone that doesn’t have an anxiety disorder. Instead, an anxiety disorder can make a significant impact on a person’s life. For example, they might avoid certain situations, have panic attacks, or experience other severe physical symptoms. It might stop them from attending school or work or may even have adverse effects on relationships.

None of these things tend to occur if the anxiety a person deals with is an occasional feeling. However, an anxiety disorder is something that should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Without treatment, someone suffering from an anxiety disorder will most likely only worsen over time.

  1. Defining Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A common form of anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD. This is the anxiety disorder that most people are familiar with, although not everyone understands what it might feel like. GAD is the existence of anxiety to a point where an individual feels anxious the majority of the time over six months at a minimum. The feeling of anxiousness can be the result of and about anything – including work, school, personal relationships, or various responsibilities.

Women are more likely to have GAD, and more than 3% of the American population deals with this particular anxiety disorder. Without proper treatment, GAD can affect the lives of those with this disorder in serious ways. The lack of treatment can result in an interruption in an individual’s regular life. They might miss work or school, avoid interacting with everyone they know, or may even be unable to take care of themselves properly.


How does one go about determining if a GAD diagnosis is possible? The symptoms of this kind of anxiety include a hard time dismissing worry or anxiety, insomnia, irritability, muscle tension, inability to concentrate, and feeling fatigued. If you have these symptoms in conjunction with a near-constant feeling of anxiety, speaking with a mental health professional may help you to understand your emotions and seek the appropriate treatment.

Successful treatment options for GAD include various forms of therapy and counseling, medication, and alternative treatments and relaxation techniques. Discussing your options with your mental health professional will bring to light which option might be best for you. Do not leave anxiety disorders alone and hope for the best. Immediate treatment is the best way to heal.

  1. Defining Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is precisely as it sounds: an anxiety disorder that is based on social situations. Individuals that experience anxiety in a social environment or in a performance situation out of a fear of embarrassment or judgment are often diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. What exactly causes such fears to turn into anxiety disorders?

In the case of social anxiety disorder, individuals often have a traumatic experience in their past. They may also have been isolated from social interactions for a long period or have overbearing parents. Knowing the cause of the disorder can help professionals to treat it. What kind of treatment is necessary for anxiety disorders like this one?

Some popular treatment options for social anxiety disorder include group therapy, counseling, or medication. Group therapy is often the go-to option, but many feel as though a group session can be too much to start out with. Instead, starting with a one on one counseling session can help those suffering from social anxiety to prepare for the group sessions.

  1. Defining Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety is familiar to a lot of people with children, as it is commonly seen in young kids. Many children have anxiety about their parents, leaving them, whether it is just for a few hours or indefinitely. While it is often associated with children, separation anxiety is seen in adults as well. Adults can focus on a single person or a few people and become attached in such a way being away from them is the cause of a great deal of anxiety.

The fear is often that the individual(s) identified as the attachment will be in danger, fall ill, or experience a severe injury while they are away. The anxiety that results from separation, whether in dreams or in life, can cause several physical manifestations, illnesses, and other symptoms. Nightmares can result in poor sleep, and anxiety can force the individual suffering to miss out on their life.

Treatment is best when done sooner, rather than later. The most common form of treatment is psychotherapy or counseling. At times, medication is prescribed to decrease the symptoms of anxiety, but therapy tends to attack the problem itself, not just the symptoms. Seeking help when separation anxiety is present is crucial to moving forward with your life.

  1. Defining Phobias As Anxiety Disorders

Phobias, or extreme fears, are often causes of anxiety. When an individual experiences an intense fear about a situation, object, or something similar, a phobia is present. Some common phobias include an intense fear of spiders, heights, water, storms, and snakes. Each of these components can contribute to anxiety disorders.

One phobia that is considered an anxiety disorder, all on its own, is called agoraphobia. This is a fear of places that cause you to panic. Most commonly, to be considered agoraphobic, an individual would have to experience intense fear regarding multiple of the following places:

  • Crowds
  • Small spaces
  • Trains, subways, and busses
  • Being alone in public
  • Open spaces

When a person outright refuses to be in these environments, agoraphobia is often present. Some people remain at home all the time to avoid places like these, especially those with severe agoraphobia. The right treatment can help those with this phobia, and all phobias, to get past their fear. Cognitive Behavior Therapy and medication are often the treatment options available for phobias. Phobias are often present when other anxiety disorders exist as well. Treatment for both is imperative in moving past your anxiety.

  1. Defining Panic Disorder

Panic disorder can be a terrifying form of anxiety that causes people to have panic attacks unexpectedly when confronted with a feared situation, topic, or object. Panic attacks can be mistaken for heart attacks, as some of the symptoms are similar. A panic attack includes the following symptoms:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of darkness or ruination
  • Sensing a lack of control

Panic attacks can be incredibly painful and difficult to handle. Because of this, those that have them tend to avoid anywhere they might run into their fear. This can cause numerous issues in the life of the individual, from creating more disorders to destroying relationships and jobs. Finding a way to manage the attacks is the best course of action.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy and medication are once again, popular options for treatment. There are also additional ways to prevent attacks by way of using self-help tricks and alternative methods. However, even if self-help and medication are being utilized, CBT and counseling come highly recommended.

Defining your Own Anxiety

Did one of the above anxiety types match up to what you have experienced? If you believe you may have one of these anxiety disorders, seeking help immediately is the best course of action. The longer an individual waits for real, professional treatment, the worse the anxiety will get. When the anxiety is worse, the procedure is more laborious. Talking to an expert in the mental health field is the first step to feeling better. They can then point you in the right direction to take the next level, whether that is continuing with therapy, medicating, or seeking out alternative options.


When you begin treatment for anxiety disorders, the individual must make a real attempt at healing mentally. Although you may feel discouraged or in disbelief about healing, it is possible. Using counseling or therapy and the other treatments that come recommended to you by your doctor can get you back to life as normal. Define your anxiety, treat it, and control it. It can be done!

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