Understanding Different Types Of Anxiety

Updated February 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health conditions, with 18.1% of the U.S. population affected. There are five main types of anxiety, each with a set of its own symptoms. Fortunately, anxiety disorders are very treatable with psychotherapy or, in some cases, a combination of therapy and medication. 

Here are some of the most common types of anxiety disorders, their symptoms, and treatment strategies that can help.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as a mental disorder marked by excessive and persistent feelings of anxiety lasting longer than six months. People experiencing GAD may have pervasive worries about things like social relationships, work, financial matters, and health that interfere with daily life.

Symptoms Of GAD

If you have three or more of the following symptoms frequently for six months or more, your doctor may arrive at a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder.

  • Worrying that's out of proportion to events and situations

  • Dwelling on plans and solutions to worst-case scenarios

  • Feeling threatened in situations where no significant threat exists

  • Trouble dealing with uncertainty

  • Being indecisive

  • Inability to let go of worrying thoughts

  • Feeling restless, on edge, and unable to relax

  • Feeling your mind is blank

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Muscle tension

  • Trembling

  • Feeling nervous

  • Being easily startled

  • Sweating

  • Digestive problems

  • Irritability

Treatment For GAD

Generalized anxiety disorder is highly treatable. Treatment options include, but aren’t limited to, cognitive behavioral therapy, supportive psychotherapy, mindfulness-based therapy, medications such as SSRI antidepressants, and more.

Seeking Help For Anxiety Is The First Step To Wellness

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is one of the most severe forms of anxiety and is often characterized by spontaneously occurring, intense feelings of stress, fear, and more. These feelings can emerge at any time, often without an apparent cause.

Symptoms Of Panic Disorder

You may have panic disorder if you have attacks of sudden and intense fear, feelings of helplessness, and extreme worry about when and where the next attack will occur. This may cause you to avoid places where an attack has happened in the past or people you associate with the panic attack. 

There are different types of anxiety attacks marked by different circumstances. When treating panic disorder, therapists consider whether it’s expected or unexpected, caused by a thought or situation, and how many attack symptoms are present. They’ll also consider the length of the attack (can be minutes, hours, days, or weeks) and how debilitating it is.

The experience of having a panic attack typically feels primarily physical. The following are the most common symptoms of anxiety attacks:

  • Feeling sudden, intense fear

  • Heart palpitations

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Short of breath

  • Choking sensation

  • Chest pain

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

  • Feeling of detachment

  • Fear of dying

  • Numbness or tingling

  • Chills or hot flushes

Treatments For Panic Disorder

People experiencing a panic disorder may spend a large amount of time anticipating the next panic attack. It helps to have a treatment strategy that prepares you to cope with it when and if it arises. The plan can involve changing the way you think about the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks and changing your responses to them. All of this can be done in cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications such as SSRIs, SNRIs, Beta-blockers, Benzodiazepines, and Valproate are also common treatments for people experiencing panic disorder.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that usually develops after exposure to traumatic events. The person experiencing PTSD may have witnessed the traumatic event, taken part in it, or been injured during the event. 

Symptoms Of PTSD

There are many symptoms of PTSD, and an official diagnosis usually requires the presence of several of them. There are four categories of PTSD symptoms: 

Re-experiencing symptoms- These symptoms occur when the patient mentally relives the experience and may include flashbacks, nightmares, and fear-provoking thoughts. 

Avoidance symptoms- Emerge as a coping method by the mind marked by the avoidance of places, events, and objects that remind the patient of the traumatic event. The patient may also avoid expressing thoughts and feelings about the traumatic experience. 

Hyper-arousal and reactivity- These symptoms include feeling tense or edgy, sleeping problems, angry outbursts, and becoming easily startled. 

Thought and mood symptoms- The patient may have trouble remembering key details of the traumatic experience. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, feel intense and unreasonable guilt or blame, and hold negative views about themselves. Thought and mood symptoms may also present as a feeling of separation and disconnection from others. 

For a diagnosis of PTSD, you would have at least one re-experiencing symptom, at least one avoidance symptom, at least two of the arousal and reactivity symptoms, and at least two of the thought and mood symptoms- all continuing for a month or more. 

Treatments For PTSD

A combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy is the most common treatment for people experiencing PTSD. The patient may also take medication for sleep disturbances. 

Therapy for PTSD can include:

  • Exposure therapy, in which you are gradually exposed to the places and situations in which the trauma happened

  • Cognitive restructuring, which involves making sense of your memories of the event

  • Learning relaxation techniques

  • Learning anger management techniques

  • Developing healthy lifestyle habits.

  • Uncovering the causes of feelings of fear, guilt, and shame

  • Learning to react differently to symptoms

Seeking Help For Anxiety Is The First Step To Wellness

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety has always been a common form of anxiety, but the COVID pandemic saw a rise in the number of people being treated for it. It's also called social phobia- or an irrational fear of social situations.

Symptoms Of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder typically appears early in life, with 80% of people who have it having symptoms before the age of 20. If you have social anxiety disorder, you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Anxious feelings when with other people

  • Difficulty is talking to people

  • Fear of being judged

  • Worrying long before the social event

  • Feeling extremely self-conscious in front of other people

  • Fear of being humiliated or rejected

  • Fear of offending others

  • Avoiding places where other people will be

  • Blushing, trembling, or sweating

  • Feeling nauseous when you're with other people

  • Problems are making or keeping friends

Treatment For Social Anxiety

The primary treatment for social anxiety is usually a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that is specifically intended for people with social anxiety. Because social anxiety is also often considered a type of phobia, exposure therapy can be extremely helpful.

In addition to therapy, some doctors prescribe medications to help with social anxiety- most typically antidepressants. Medications are typically used to help the person manage their symptoms until they can overcome their feelings of fear of social situations.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety disorder is marked by intense anxiety when away from home or someone you're strongly attached to. Infants and toddlers go through stages of separation anxiety as a normal part of development. However, when older children, teenagers, and adults have persistent separation anxiety, it's a mental disorder that can cause problems with daily functioning.

Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety

Symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Distress about being away from home or loved ones before or during the absence

  • Constant worry about losing someone you love through illness or disaster

  • Constant worry that something will happen to separate you from loved ones

  • Avoiding the fear by refusing to leave home

  • Not wanting to be home alone

  • Refusing to sleep away from home unless loved ones are present

  • Nightmares about being separated from loved ones

  • Headaches or stomachaches when you expect to be away from loved ones

  • Panic attacks before or during separation

Coping With Separation Anxiety

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the first line of treatment for separation anxiety. In CBT, individuals learn to face and manage their fears around separation from loved ones. If you have a child experiencing separation anxiety, CBT can help you develop strategies for helping your child. If your separation anxiety is severe, a doctor might prescribe SSRI medications. 


If you are experiencing frequent, prolonged symptoms of any of these types of anxiety disorders that disrupt your daily life, seek a diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional. They can develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs to help reduce your symptoms and cope with the disorder. If your therapist recommends medication, your primary doctor or a psychiatrist may prescribe medications to help with your anxiety.

Therapy can help you make dramatic changes in the way patients think about and cope with their anxiety symptoms, but some people experience barriers to obtaining the help they need. For instance, people with symptoms of social anxiety may feel extremely uncomfortable with speaking to a therapist in person or encountering others in an office setting. Others may be unable to travel to and from appointments or keep a schedule within office hours. Online therapy provides a convenient solution to many of these barriers- and it’s as effective as in-person treatment for mental health issues like anxiety disorders, depression, and trauma. 

Many choose BetterHelp to connect with experienced, accredited professionals with various backgrounds and specialties. You can speak with a BetterHelp therapist online on your schedule, anywhere with an internet connection- and if you need help between visits, your therapist is always available. 

Anxiety disorders can be very difficult, but they’re also very treatable. With online therapy, you can learn to manage your symptoms and begin the road to healing. 

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