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Understanding the Types of Anxiety Disorders

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Dec 22, 2022

Understanding the Types of Anxiety Disorders

Psychiatric and mental disorders are often misunderstood. Until a few decades ago, most psychiatric disorders were either left undetected or misdiagnosed. However, science and social progress has paved the way for us to better define these disorders, including anxiety disorder symptoms to watch out for.

Despite this, certain terms to denote certain disorders can still be confused.

That is the case for anxiety disorders. Anxiety, on one hand, is how we refer to the emotion of unease or worry that comes with the uncertainty of situations.

Anxiety disorder’ is a blanket term for psychiatric disorders that come with a persistent feeling of anxiety.

Ahead, we’ll discuss how to differentiate anxiety from anxiety disorders. This includes how to tell at what point it may be a disorder, the different kinds of disorders, and anxiety disorder symptoms to watch out for.

Differentiating Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety

Anxiety, as a feeling or emotion, is normal to have occasionally. After all, a healthy mind will worry about the bills, or the future, or relationships, or other important life events. What sets the feeling apart from the disorder is how rational or reasonable this worry becomes.

Here are some of the key differences of anxiety and anxiety disorders:

  • Anxiety may involve, for instance, worrying about getting a response you’ve been waiting for. While anxiety disorders can involve constantly worrying about nothing but one’s own thoughts to the point that it impacts daily interactions.
  • Anxiety can also mean being embarrassed when you’re thrust into an awkward situation in front of strangers. Anxiety disorders can involve being so afraid of potential humiliation that you avoid getting into social situations, to begin with.
  •  Being nervous or even panicking about a big test or presentation is an example of anxiety. While having sudden panic attacks or being so preoccupied with worrying about the next presentation can mean you have an anxiety disorder.

When Is It A disorder?

So then, at what point could anxiety be a sign of having an anxiety disorder?

Identifying anxiety disorder symptoms to watch out for involve:

  • Monitoring the brevity of your emotions. When feeling anxious is irrational and overwhelming or even debilitating, this may be a good sign to approach a mental health expert.
  • Noting how an anxiety disorder may cause persistent and uncontrollable dread of everyday or regular situations to the extent that it may be disabling you or interfering with your daily activities.

If you are on the fence about going to a mental health expert or support group, it may be helpful for you to approach a counselor or social worker, or even a well-informed and trusted friend to be able to get some outside perspective on how you’re feeling.

Kinds of Anxiety Disorders

Since anxiety disorder is a blanket term, it includes many different subcategories:

  • General Anxiety Disorders involve only the excessive, irrational fear of future situations, regardless of how high or how low the stakes are. These can manifest through negative behavior that could lead to emotional and social consequences.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders are characterized by persistent and intrusive thoughts, or obsessions, that trigger compulsive behavior done to a very repetitive extent. This compulsive behavior often momentarily alleviates the anxiety associated with these intrusive thoughts.
  • Stimuli-Triggered Disorders (trauma, stressor-related anxiety) is an anxiety that is brought about by specific things. These things could be previous trauma or current overwhelming stressors; hence trauma- and stressor-related disorders fall under this.
  • Specific Anxiety Disorders
    • Specific phobias
    • Social anxiety disorder
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Panic disorder

The Types of Specific Anxiety Disorders

Specific phobias

A specific phobia is having a persistent fear that is disproportionate to the actual danger that whatever it is you fear could bring.

The presence or even just the anticipation of what you fear triggers the anxiety. Adults often recognize that this fear is unreasonable although uncontrollable.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is a debilitating fear of social situations due to the potential of embarrassment or humiliation. If this fear carries on for six months, it may be best to consult an expert.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD

This is the most well-known among the anxiety disorders. In this condition, previous trauma like loss or violence in the past, brings about the anxiety disorder. Acute stress disorder and adjustment disorder are both variants of PTSD

Panic Disorder

This involves going through spontaneous and out-of-the-blue panic symptoms along with the debilitating worry of having another one in the future.

Other specific anxiety disorders are separation anxiety, agoraphobia, selective mutism, or substance-induced disorders.

Possible Physical Symptoms

Besides knowing how to delineate anxiety and anxiety disorder, there are physical symptoms also.

Anxiety disorders come with chronic life stress because these stressors, regardless of how irrational, still make our body go through the same process as rational stress.

Stressors stimulate the stress hormone system and the cardiovascular system because of the fear and anxiety, this then turns anxiety disorders into a cause of constant increased activity.

Anxiety symptoms to watch out for include:

  • rapid breathing
  • increased heart rate
  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • restlessness
  • tension
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • sweating
  • trembling

Under normal conditions, chronic stress levels are low, and whenever a threat is present, the body releases hormones as a response.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for the release of cortisol that increases the sugar level in the bloodstream to allow the body to act based on just the fight or flight response.

However, if this occurs regularly and these biological responses are triggered excessively, possible complications with the immune and cardiovascular systems could arise and someone would be more at risk for these diseases.

Key Takeaways

In the end, our mental health is and should fall under the same care we give our physical health. If you have any concerns or doubts when it comes to possibly having anxiety, do not hesitate to consult an expert for the right insight and diagnosis.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Dec 22, 2022

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