Anxiety is without a doubt a ferocious beast that many of us find ourselves at the mercy of from time to time.
When we talk about this dimension of psychology, we often think of it as a single issue. In reality, however, there are different degrees, origins, and personal situations that contribute to anxiety.
In the field of psychology, specialists differentiate between seven different types.
First of all, we want to make it clear that anxiety is a normal emotion.
When it’s properly managed, it’s what sets your psychological mechanisms in motion to help you deal with situations of uncertainty or when you have to push yourself very hard.
Often, however, your fears get the better of you and your brain unleashes a series of processes that cause you to completely lose control.
Understanding a little more about these seven types of anxiety will help. Nevertheless, it’s important to always remember that if you’ve lost control and feel totally helpless, you may need the help of a specialist.
1. Generalized anxiety disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common type of anxiety. It affects millions of people and all of us, at some point in our lives, can experience that mental strain and nervousness that has no specific origin at first.
This feeling of anxiety causes deep uncertainty and a distressing feeling of emptiness.
It can have several triggers: an upcoming job interview, a public presentation, a conflict, changing your routine, trying something new…
It’s not always inspired by a situation, however. Generalized anxiety disorder can also have a root cause: living in a state of worry all the time.
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Here are some of the symptoms:
- Constant restlessness, irritability, nervousness, or loss of control,
- Fatigue, frequent loss of energy,
- Tight muscles, especially in the back, neck, and shoulders,
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks or activities,
- Obsession with negative thoughts, catastrophic thoughts.
2. Social phobiaIn this second type of anxiety, social scenarios cause constant discomfort, restlessness, and worry.
This category includes people who don’t like spaces that are filled with people, particularly if they have to carry out a task like public speaking, a debate, or a presentation. It may occur with something as simple as returning an item of clothing.
The symptoms are:
- A feeling of fear or helplessness before strangers or situations,
- Obsession with being observed and judged,
- Cold sweats, stuttering, and a pit in the bottom of your stomach when you are introduced to someone new or in a scenario that you don’t control.
3. Panic disorderPanic disorder is a very debilitating anxiety disorder. This disorder causes moments when you have the clear belief that you’re going to die, suffer from a heart attack, get in an accident, or that someone is out to hurt you.
This is also a feedback disorder: since you already know about anxiety and panic attacks, you have a fear of experiencing them again.
Panic attacks are intense physical and mental sensations that are triggered by stress. Sometimes, there may even be no apparent cause at all, as strange as it might seem.
This is a very complex disorder that can only be understood by someone who has experienced it.
Here are some of the symptoms:
- Elevated heartbeat,
- Excessive sweating,
- Numbness or weakness,
- A feeling that you are outside of your body,
- Difficulty breathing,
- Sensation of lightheadedness or dizziness,
- Chest or stomach pain,
- Trouble with digestion.
Everyone has heard of agoraphobia: a fear of large spaces, going beyond the threshold of your known boundaries, or entering an unfamiliar place.
We should also be clear that suffering from agoraphobia doesn’t mean that you’re unable to leave the house. Many people with this type of anxiety do, but they are limited to their ordinary routes: home, work, the grocery store, etc.
We should also point out that agoraphobia is related to panic disorder. When a sufferer finds that they are in an open space, it triggers the symptoms we mentioned before.
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5. Specific phobias
Almost all of us have some kind of particular phobia: a fear of spiders, clowns, loud noises, thunder, knives…
These fears are normal and don’t become a problem until you start to obsess over them to the point that your quality of life changes.
For example, if you stopped leaving your home for fear of finding spiders, rain and lightning, being bitten by a dog, then you may suffer from a serious phobia.
These are the symptoms:
- Excessive and constant fear of a particular thing,
- An immediate sense of threat or attack,
- Total inability to control your fear, despite knowing that it’s irrational,
- A complete restriction on your normal routine.
6. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Unfortunately, your safety in life is never guaranteed, just as you may not always be protected, respected, or loved.
Traumatic events leave their marks. Accidents, fights, losses, and shocks are events that can change you and hurt you from the inside out.
The symptoms of PTSD are the following:
- Reliving traumas: The most common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder is to constantly relive the trauma. Often, just a trigger is enough for you to remember that fact from your past and relive all the suffering.
- Recurrent anxiety is another factor. The trauma of the event may fade over time, but it changed you in a real way.
- Anxiety will continue to be present in many ways in everyday situations: insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, etc.
7. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)Finally, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, can also be a very destructive anxiety disorder.
Those who observe it from the outside never understand why someone follows a series of seemingly meaningless rituals, manias, and repetitive behaviors.
However, it’s also important to know how to differentiate compulsions from obsessions, because they’re not the same. The following are some of the nuances that differentiate them and are undoubtedly worth knowing:
Obsessions are concerns that revolve around a specific (and almost always negative) thought that a person can’t let go of (someone is going to hurt me or abandon me…).
Compulsions, on the other hand, are actions that a person takes to try and deal with obsessions. For example, locking and re-locking the door five times makes you feel more safe or washing your hands over and over to keep infection at bay are compulsions.
Remember: We all get some anxiety sometimes
To conclude, the types of anxiety we described here are the main clinical categories that may require specific treatments depending on their origin.
When it doesn’t reach these extreme levels, however, anxiety is a nothing more than a normal emotion that comes and goes. You just have to learn how to manage it appropriately.