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Types Of Anxiety Disorders

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You’re not alone if you live with fear, dread, and worry. In today’s overwhelming world, it’s no surprise that anxiety has become a prevalent issue affecting millions of people. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder, impacting nearly 1 out of 5 adults in the United States. There are several types of anxiety disorders, each with a defining set of symptoms.

Anxiety disorder symptoms often involve:

  • Experiencing excessive worry or preoccupation
  • Feeling restless or fidgety
  • Feeling increased irritability, anger, or rage
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, shakiness, and shortness of breath
  • Fearing that the “worst case scenario” may occur

This article discusses the different types of anxiety disorders and how we treat them.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

The DSM-V, a manual medical and mental health professionals use to diagnose mental illnesses, lists criteria for various types of anxiety disorders. You may suspect you have anxiety based on your symptoms, and a mental health professional can help determine if you meet the criteria for a specific diagnosis.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder can be identified by excessive and uncontrollable worry and anxiety about various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, health, and everyday situations. It can also involve physical symptoms, including fatigue, shaking, and muscle tension, which can feel confusing as they mimic the feelings of illness or a tough workout.

A subset of GAD, high-functioning anxiety, tends to slide under the radar initially. Many people function with a baseline amount of anxiety disguised as “productivity” or “goal-oriented behavior.”

Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness anxiety disorder (IAD), also known as health anxiety, is characterized by an intense preoccupation with health, including fearing the worst possible outcome for your health symptoms. A person with IAD may be fixated on researching their symptoms online and scheduling with their medical providers more than the average person; conversely, someone with health anxiety might also avoid seeking medical care.

Fears about having a severe medical illness persist despite receiving a routine physical examination and lab tests. Additionally, someone with IAD experiences heightened bodily sensations and misinterprets them as severe disease symptoms.

Other indicators of IAD are the following:

    • Fearing you are sick despite not having symptoms of illness
    • Continued worry despite receiving normal or healthy lab and exam results
    • Hearing about a disease online creates a cascade of worry that you have the disease

Social Anxiety

A person with social anxiety experiences intense fear and anxiety in social situations, involving significant concern about being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated by others. Social anxiety has increased in prevalence with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women and lower socio-economic groups.

People with social anxiety may try to avoid or endure situations with significant anxiety. Some examples are extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people, or eating in front of others. The fear of becoming anxious in social settings lasts at least six months to meet DSM-V criteria for social anxiety.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder involves unexpected and recurrent panic attacks or intense episodes of fear or discomfort. This condition is diagnosed alongside GAD and other anxiety disorders. People with panic disorder may avoid situations, places, or people they consider triggers. The added layer of anticipating panic attacks is exhausting and can cause increased overall anxiety.

Panic Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by recurring intrusive thoughts, images, or urges (also known as obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts {compulsions) that a person with OCD feels driven to perform. People with this diagnosis do not simply “like things organized;” OCD interferes with a person’s ability to carry out regular activities.

A person who showers so often that their skin cracks and becomes infected is an example. Some other cases include people checking to ensure stoves are off or that doors are locked, but not just a few rounds of checking. A person with OCD may carry out these rituals dozens, even hundreds of times.

There are multiple obsession types with OCD, including the following:

  • Fear of contamination
  • Sexual obsessions
  • Violent obsessions
  • Religious or moral obsessions
  • Perfection-related obsessions
  • Relationship obsessions
  • Identity obsessions

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Someone with PTSD has experienced a traumatic event or ongoing trauma. These events can include but are not limited to, wartime experiences, assault, sexual violence, chronic abuse, surviving a life-threatening accident, and natural disasters. Post-traumatic stress disorder’s symptoms may not begin for an extended period after a traumatic event ends. PTSD symptoms can mimic those of other anxiety or mood disorders.

Some symptoms of PTSD may include the following:

  • Experiencing flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event
  • Having recurring memories, dreams, or distressing thoughts about the event
  • Experiencing physical signs of stress
  • Avoiding places, objects, people, thoughts, feelings, or events that may trigger reminders of the original experience
  • Being easily startled and feeling tense or on guard
  • Having difficulty concentrating or remembering details of the event
  • Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feeling irritable and becoming angered more quickly at times
  • Feeling socially isolated and losing interest in previous hobbies

As with other forms of mental illness, substance abuse often accompanies PTSD.

Specific Phobias

Excessive and irrational fears of particular objects, situations, or activities identify specific phobias. One example is agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces or crowded areas.

Many phobias exist, with the common characteristic of preventing a person with this diagnosis from functioning in everyday life. Phobias are among the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in the U.S., with approximately 1 in 8 adults having a specific phobia in their lifetime. When in the presence of a trigger or even thinking about the source of fear, a person with a specific phobia may experience trembling, nausea, increased heartbeat, dissociation, or fixation on the target of the fear.

Treatment Options for All Types of Anxiety Disorders

NuLife Behavioral Health in Worcester and Framingham, Massachusetts, offers the following treatments, therapies, and services:

  • Personalized Counseling. Individual therapy sessions with a certified professional help you understand what drives your anxiety. One-on-one therapy also helps you learn coping skills to reduce and eliminate anxiety.
  • Peer Group Sessions. Sharing experiences with others facing problems from anxiety helps maintain improvements for long-term recovery.
  • Experiential Therapies: Besides traditional treatments, NuLife offers alternative therapies like art and music therapy.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Designed for those who need a higher level of care but don’t need inpatient treatment. NuLife’s intensive outpatient program allows a client a greater degree of flexibility in their treatment than other approaches. As with partial hospitalization programs, IOP participants return home after their daily sessions end.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Ideal for those who have completed inpatient treatment but still require intensive therapy and medical oversight.
  • Dual Diagnosis: Personalized treatment plans are available for people dealing with mental health conditions alongside substance abuse.
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS is an FDA-approved, non-invasive treatment for PTSD and generalized anxiety disorders. TMS may also be used to treat substance addiction disorders.
  • Medication therapy. Sometimes, clients need medication to reduce anxiety symptoms, such as antidepressants. Some antidepressants have powerful anti-anxiety effects.

Mental health treatment may also be specific based on the types of anxiety disorders. For individuals with more than one anxiety diagnosis, trying more than one therapy or combination approach is often helpful. Treatment is tailored to an individual’s unique needs. Because each person is different, their anxiety treatment should reflect this.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Many therapists utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a popular technique to address negative self-talk contributing to anxiety. CBT allows individuals to identify and modify how they perceive the world.

Another therapeutic approach similar to CBT is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT employs strategies to reduce anxiety and discomfort, such as mindfulness and setting goals. People report feeling like they can view their anxiety symptoms as more neutral and less harmful with skills learned from ACT.

Illness Anxiety Disorder Treatment

IAD is generally treated with psychotherapy, with techniques borrowed from CBT to process harmful beliefs and habits of excessive checking for signs of illness. CBT can help a person learn to differentiate “normal” bodily sensations from actual signs of disease.

Social Anxiety Treatment

CBT is utilized often to help people practice social skills and increase confidence in social settings. CBT teaches you different ways of thinking, behaving, and managing responses to situations to help you feel less anxious and fearful.

Panic Disorder Treatment

CBT is used to manage and better understand panic disorder. A standard CBT method is exposure therapy, which focuses on confronting the fears and beliefs that cause panic. Exposure therapy is sometimes used alongside relaxation and mindfulness exercises.

PTSD Treatment

PTSD is often treated with talk therapies, focusing on “trauma-informed” approaches.

This means the treatment focuses on the traumatic event and its meaning to the person and may include various strategies, including the following:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE)

OCD Treatment

Behavioral therapy is a gold-standard therapy for OCD, which aims to disrupt the link between intrusive, sometimes horrifying thoughts and the following compulsions. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a behavioral therapy designed to gradually expose someone with OCD to triggers in a safe and controlled environment. OCD treatment may include antidepressant medications alongside talk therapy approaches.

Specific Phobias Treatment

Exposure therapy is a common approach for managing phobias. People with a phobia start small, generally beginning treatment with indirect feared scenarios in a safe setting. Eventually, treatment involves more direct exposures to reduce the impact of the phobia trigger.

CBT may also be utilized to increase treatment effectiveness, sometimes in tandem with exposure therapy. Emotional regulation is improved with the combination of CBT, exposure therapy, and mindfulness strategies to reduce stress.


Anxiety can feel overwhelming, but with treatment, you can manage and overcome it. By seeking professional support, incorporating healthy coping strategies, and prioritizing self-care, you can reduce anxiety’s impact on your life. Embracing the journey toward inner peace is done one step at a time. Remember, you are not alone, and your anxiety can be effectively managed, allowing you to lead the life you want to live.

Find a Path Forward at NuLife Behavioral Health Massachusetts

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction or mental health concerns, know that you are not alone. The team at NuLife Behavioral Health Massachusetts is here to help you on your journey to recovery. We offer a variety of evidence-based treatment programs, including group therapy, that can help you find a path forward.

To learn more about our group therapy program or any of the other services we offer, contact us today at 888.568.2057.

Medically Reviewed by Riaz Rahman