Types of anxiety
Anxiety disorders can be categorised as any of the following types:
- Agoraphobia: A person will experience an intense fear and react by avoiding situations or places that might cause feelings of panic helplessness, embarrassment or a sense of being trapped.
- Anxiety disorder due to a medical condition: This involves feelings of intense anxiety or panic directly as a result of a medically diagnosed condition or illness.
- Substance-induced anxiety disorder: Intense anxiety or panic can occur as a direct result of substance abuse, taking medications or being exposed to a toxic substance. Anxiety experienced with withdrawal from a substance is also common.
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): Persistent and excessive worry that is often unprovoked, about ordinary, routine issues, activities and events. Anxiety of this nature is generally out of proportion (unrealistic) to an actual circumstance, is difficult to control and affects how you feel physically. GAD is often diagnosed with other anxiety disorders or depression.
- Panic disorder: This disorder involves anxiety, fear or terror that generally occurs in repeated episodes of sudden intensity (with little or no warning at all). A strong sense of impending doom, shortness of breath, chest pain, a choking sensation and heart palpitations are commonly experienced. Often panic attacks are likened to a sense of having a heart attack or a feeling that one is “going crazy”. Panic attacks can lead to more worry and anxiety about them re-occuring. This may lead to a person taking steps to avoid situations in which a panic attack has previously occurred.
- Selective mutism: This commonly affects children who express their anxiety by displaying consistent failure to speak in specific situations. This can occur in the home with close family or within a school or social environment.
- Separation anxiety disorder: Often a childhood disorder, anxiety becomes excessive for a child’s developmental level and results in difficulties with separating from parents or others who have parental roles.
- Social anxiety disorder (social phobia): High levels of anxiety, fear and potential embarrassment can lead to avoidance of social situations and self-consciousness. A fear of being viewed negatively, ridiculed or judged by others is typical of someone suffering this disorder type.
- Specific phobias: These are characterised by major anxiety that occurs when exposed to a specific object or situation (such as flying or heights). A sufferer has an intense desire to avoid it and generally experiences an inappropriate level of fear to the situation or object. The fear can reach a tipping point at times can cause a panic attack.
- Hypochondriasis (also known as hypochondria): Intense anxiety about one’s health.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: Intense anxiety following a highly traumatic event.
- Other specified anxiety disorders and unspecified anxiety disorders: When an anxiety or phobia doesn’t meet any exact criteria for any other disorder type, it will fall into this category. The level of anxiety, though, will be significant enough that it is distressing and disruptive to a person’s lifestyle.