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Types of Anxiety Disorders

Learn more about the common types of anxiety disorders and the symptoms associated with each one.
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There are various types of anxiety disorders with slightly similar physical manifestations. We compiled the common anxiety disorders and associated symptoms.


Definition: A strong, irrational fear of something specific, such as heights or social situations.

There are three classes of Phobias, the table below outlines these and their relevant fear.

Social Phobia: e.g. public speaking, meeting new people, other social situations

Agoraphobia: eg.. leaving home alone, open spaces (eg. parking lots, bridges, shopping centres), public transportation

Specific Phobias: e.g. situations (eg. enclosed spaces, going to work/school), nature (eg. heights, thunderstorms)

Anxiety Disorders: Panic and Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Panic Disorders

  • Attacks of sudden, unexplained feelings of terror. “Panic attacks” are accompanied by trembling, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, or dizziness
  • A variety of treatments are available, including several effective medications, and specific forms of psychotherapy
  • People who experience panic attacks can use a number of lifestyle changes like aerobic exercise, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and illicit drugs, as well as stress-management techniques to help decrease anxiety.

Generalised Anxiety Disorders

  • Exaggerated worry and tension for no reason
  • People with Generalised Anxiety Disorders (GAD) startle easily and have difficulty concentrating, relaxing, and sleeping.

What Causes GAD?

The exact cause of GAD is not fully known, but a number of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental stresses appear to contribute to its development.

What Treatment Is Available for GAD?

The most effective treatment for GAD is a form of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT focuses on:

  • Education: learning about why you worry and feel anxious, and how it affects you
  • Change in thinking: identifying and shifting unhelpful thinking patterns and belief
  • Change in behaviour: scheduling appropriate times to worry, rather than worrying all the time.

Medication may also be required in some cases and is known to be effective when taken alongside CBT.

Source: Reach Out, 2019a.


OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

  • Persistent thoughts, fears, or urges (obsession) leading to uncontrollable repetitive behaviours (compulsions)
  • For example, the fear of germs leads to constant hand washing.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event
  • Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness, guilt, sleeplessness, and problems concentrating.

Signs and Symptoms

People with PTSD often experience feelings of panic or extreme fear, similar to the fear they felt during the traumatic event. A person with PTSD experiences four main types of difficulties.

  • Re-living the traumatic event – The person relives the event through unwanted and recurring memories, often in the form of vivid images and nightmares. There may be intense emotional or physical reactions, such as sweating, heart palpitations, or panic when reminded of the event
  • Being overly alert or wound up – The person experiences sleeping difficulties, irritability, and lack of concentration, becoming easily startled and constantly on the lookout for signs of danger
  • Avoiding reminders of the event – The person deliberately avoids activities, places, people, thoughts, or feelings associated with the event because they bring back painful memories
  • Feeling emotionally numb – The person loses interest in day-to-day activities, feels cut off and detached from friends and family, or feels emotionally flat and numb.
© CQUniversity 2021
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