Types of Anxiety: Information You Need to Know

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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, (DSM-IV), anxiety disorder is a broad psychological term which encompasses several categories of illness. These include generalised anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders, and panic attacks.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

This type of anxiety disorder is characterised by a nearly constant state of feeling highly anxious and is sometimes referred to as a “free-floating” anxiety condition. There is no specific trigger but often situations or events considered minor to most people will cause extreme stress in someone suffering form generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). It is usually accompanied by depression.

If you have concern that you may be suffering from GAD, there are four key factors which should induce you to seek medical help. They are: a feeling of nervousness or being “on edge” lasting for six months or longer, insomnia and problems staying asleep, tension in muscles due to constant worry or fear, and a frequent feeling of being tense and irritable.


Phobias are also a type of anxiety disorder. They are characterised by an irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that is not inherently dangerous. People can develop a phobia to nearly anything – from fear of leaving their own home to insects, heights, enclosed spaces, or even clowns.

While everyone has something which they are not fond of, in a phobic the response to that object or situation is extreme. Outside of feeling fearful or nervous, a phobic will demonstrate physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, nausea, and loss of motor function. Usually sufferers will cope with the stress by avoiding the trigger(s). This can make it quite difficult to lead a normal life.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

There are two components to this disorder – obsessions, or unwanted, repetitive and obtrusive thoughts which result in an unreasonable fear, and compulsions, or the desire to carry out a ritual in order to avoid an imagined consequence. Anxiety occurs after carrying out a compulsion, although not always in conjunction with an obsession. Compulsions are such behaviours as constant hand washing while obsessions are excessive worries about such things as germs or illness.

In order to determine if you may have an obsessive compulsive disorder ask yourself if your worries about possible dangers or contamination by dirt or germs are constant and if you feel compelled to indulge in certain behaviours to minimise the risk. Another symptom may manifest itself as a compulsion to check, repeat, or count things endlessly.

Panic Attacks

While all sufferers of anxiety disorders experience a panic attack, it is diagnosed as a separate illness when the attack occurs with no apparent triggering event. In fact, panic attack patients often feel fine one minute while experiencing extreme anxiety the next. Physical manifestations of the disorder include rapid heart rate and abdominal discomfort. Because they have no idea when the next panic attack will occur, there is often constant fear which interferes with daily activities.

You may be diagnosed as having panic attacks if you find yourself experiencing sudden, intense periods of anxiety or fear which you are unable to control. If you constantly worry about feeling this way and change your behaviour as a result, it would be wise to consult with a medical professional.

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