Types of Anxiety Disorders & Treatments
Laguna Beach Psychology Services
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting approximately 40 million adults (18.1% of the population). The list below includes a brief overview of common types of anxiety disorders and the specific type of treatment I am able to provide for people depending on the disorder. This information is provided for informational purposes only to help you better understand anxiety disorders, but is not to be used in place of a professional assessment and diagnosis.
Please note, it is common for people to experience anxiety, but not quite fit into one specific category. It is also common for people to suffer from multiple disorders, such as an anxiety disorder and a depressive disorder. If you feel you may be suffering from a mental health issue and are ready to get help, or even if you’re unsure if you need help at this time and just want more information, please contact me today. If you are experiencing a psychiatric emergency, meaning likely to harm yourself or others, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder involves nearly constant anxiety and worry over many events or activities (e.g., worrying about school, work, finances, health, other family members, etc.). People with generalized anxiety disorder have trouble controlling their worries and may feel restless, have trouble concentrating, feel irritable, feel tired easily, experience tension in their body, or have sleep issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered an evidence-based treatment for generalized anxiety disorder and involves learning to tolerate and cope with your worries in a more effective way.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder involves fear or anxiety surrounding social situations related to the possibility that you may be judged by others. People often experience social anxiety during social events, when performing in front of others (e.g., giving a presentation or speech), or during situations where people may feel as if they’re being observed, such as while eating lunch at work or being called on in class. With social anxiety, people also fear they might do something to make their anxiety visible to others and will consequently be judged negatively (e.g., “My face will turn red and everyone will laugh at me”). There is often an intense fear of being embarrassed or rejected by others. Because of this, people with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations completely or get through them with significant anxiety. Exposure therapy, a specific type of CBT treatment, is considered an evidence-based treatment for social anxiety disorder and involves gradually facing anxiety-producing situations, which leads to a reduction of anxiety symptoms over time as people learn to cope more effectively.
Panic disorder occurs when people experience repeated, often unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are episodes of brief, intense fear that can include a variety of physical or psychological symptoms. Common physical symptoms include racing heart, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, chest pain, numbness or tingling in your extremities, stomach issues, and feeling dizzy or faint. Common psychological symptoms include feeling detached or unreal, fearing that you may die, or fearing that you may be going crazy because of the symptoms. Many people experience at least one panic attack in their lifetime; however, people who develop panic disorder start having significant worries that they may have another panic attack at any time, or, may suffer serious negative outcomes from a panic attack (e.g., a heart attack or “I will lose my mind”). With panic disorder, people also start engaging in avoidance behaviors, such as avoiding caffeine, exercise, or situations where they may fear a panic attack could occur. Exposure therapy, a specific type of CBT treatment, is considered an evidence-based treatment for panic disorder and involves gradually facing anxiety-producing situations and/or physical sensations, which leads to a reduction of anxiety symptoms over time as you learn to cope more effectively.
Agoraphobia may or may not accompany panic disorder and involves experiencing intense fear or anxiety in certain situations. Common activities or situations that activate anxiety in people with agoraphobia include riding on buses, flying on planes, going to stores or movie theaters, being in large crowds, or leaving one’s home alone. Often times people will start to avoid these situations entirely or face them with intense anxiety out of a fear they might not be able to escape the situation if needed, or, that they won’t be able to get help if they have a panic attack or related symptoms (e.g., “I might have stomach issues and not be able to get to the bathroom in time”). People with agoraphobia may also require having a companion go places with them, which serves to help reduce their anxiety in these situations. Exposure therapy, a specific type of CBT treatment, is considered an evidence-based treatment for agoraphobia and involves gradually facing anxiety-producing situations, which leads to a reduction of anxiety symptoms over time as you learn to cope more effectively.
Specific phobias occur when people experience an intense feeling of fear or anxiety when exposed to certain objects or situations. For example, people may experience intense anxiety during – or even at the thought of – flying, standing on top of a tall building, driving, getting their blood drawn, seeing a spider, etc. As is common with most anxiety disorders, people with specific phobias tend to avoid the objects or situations they fear, or, face them with extreme distress. Exposure therapy, a specific type of CBT treatment, is considered an evidence-based treatment for specific phobias and involves gradually facing anxiety-producing objects or situations, which leads to a reduction of anxiety symptoms over time as you learn to cope more effectively.