Anxiety is a perfectly natural and normal human response to feeling threatened. However, if you’re suffering from an overwhelming amount of anxiety, this is what might lead to a diagnosis for an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is an overarching term, but underneath it, sits many different types of anxiety disorder. A medical expert like a GP or psychiatrist will be able to diagnose you with a certain type of anxiety depending on the symptoms you are experiencing.
Anxiety is a feeling of worry or uneasiness, feelings which you probably recognise from attending a job interview or standing up in front of a crowd to speak. Aside from a feeling of apprehension or dread, other symptoms of anxiety include anger and irritability, being fearful or paranoid, headaches and nausea.
What Anxiety Disorder is Most Common?
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is considered to be the most common type of anxiety disorder. Statistics on anxiety levels suggest that in any given week in the UK:
- 6 in 100 people have GAD
- 4 in 100 people have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- 2 in 100 people have phobias
- 1 in 100 people have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Fewer than 1 in 100 people have panic disorder
What are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorder?
Here are the main types of anxiety disorder:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterised as excessive levels of worry and stress to the extent that you’re struggling to manage in your day-to-day life. While this may sound similar to the anxiety that many people feel from time-to-time, people who suffer from GAD will have extreme levels of anxiety most of the time and will worry about most things. There may be no explanation for your symptoms, and you’ll likely have these symptoms most days for at least six months.
GAD will affect your day-to-day life, making it difficult for you to hold down a job, sleep well at night, and perhaps even leave the house. You may find it hard to do things you enjoy, or you may not want to do anything at all. People with GAD also commonly suffer from other mental health issues such as depression or another anxiety disorder.
Read more about Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety that leads to people having regular panic attacks, often without any real explanation as to why they are happening. Panic attacks are an exaggerated physical reaction to fear. They can be very distressing and the physical symptoms you experience are often so intense that many people believe they are having a heart attack or dying.
Symptoms of panic attacks include a racing heartbeat, feeling dizzy or light-headed, and pain in your chest.
Read more about Panic Disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Also known as social phobia, social anxiety disorder is when you struggle with an extreme level of fear or dread of social situations.
People with this type of anxiety may feel anxious about any kind of social scenario, but certain events are likely to trigger deeper, more debilitating levels of anxiety. They include meeting new people, dating, or speaking in groups.
Read more about Social Anxiety Disorder.
Health anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that’s defined by a person’s worry for their health. Formerly known as ‘hypochondria’ and also referred to ‘illness anxiety’, those with health anxiety will spend a lot of time worrying when they are unwell, or be excessively worried about getting ill.
Read more about Health Anxiety.
Priory therapist Niamh Maguire explores everything you need to know about anxiety, from the symptoms and causes to the most effective treatments.
Separation anxiety is characterised by an individual experiencing significant distress and anxiety when they are separated from a close attachment figure (such as a parent or spouse), or their home environment. Whilst separation anxiety is more common in children and young people, it’s possible for this form of anxiety disorder to manifest at all stages of life.
Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder in which you have an extreme level of fear for a certain object or situation. If you’re presented with this object or scenario, you’ll likely feel a sudden rush of intense feelings of anxiety and fear which may include dizziness, a pounding heart and trembling or shaking.
The subject of a phobia can vary widely depending on the individual, but they often fall into one of the following categories:
- Animals - such as spiders or snakes
- Environment - such as heights, or deep water
- Situational - such as flying or small spaces
- Body-based - such as blood or an injection
- Sexual - such as performance anxiety
Read more about the Phobias.
Agoraphobia is considered to be a type of anxiety disorder on its own. Agoraphobia is an intense and uncontrollable fear of any scenario in which escape might be difficult or where help might not be available if something bad happens.
If you have agoraphobia, it’s likely to be severely affecting your ability to live a normal life. You might be afraid of leaving the house or using public transport.
Read more about Agoraphobia.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is an anxiety disorder you might develop after going through a traumatic event in your life. It can be triggered by a wide range of scenarios, such as physical or psychological abuse, an individual experience like a car crash or being caught up in a natural disaster, or sustained exposure to traumatic things like military combat or seeing people being hurt or killed.
Read more about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterised by someone having a series of ‘obsessions’ (regular thoughts, images, worries or doubts) and/or ‘compulsions’ (activities or behaviours that you do constantly). The obsessions create anxiety in the mind of the person with OCD, and the compulsions are done in order to relieve anxiety.
- OCD obsession: Fear of germs or contamination
- OCD compulsion: Recurring involuntary thoughts that you might say something inappropriate
Read more about the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
Related to OCD is BDD, a condition that centres around your body and general physical appearance. As with OCD, BDD manifests itself with a series of obsessions and compulsions. You might worry obsessively over what you perceive to be flaws in your appearance.
While we all can have insecurities about our appearance, BDD can severely hamper someone’s ability to lead an enjoyable life. They may find it hard to leave the house or shut themselves off from their social life.
Read more about Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
Pregnancy might also be a catalyst for severe levels of anxiety. This can be:
- Prenatal or antenatal anxiety – while you are pregnant
- Postpartum or postnatal anxiety – in the first year or so after giving birth
- Perinatal anxiety – any time from the beginning of the pregnancy to around the first year after giving birth
Postpartum depression is a widely acknowledged mental health condition, but anxiety is also a common disorder to develop during or after pregnancy. In fact, it’s common for one condition to contribute to the development of the other.
Read more about Postpartum Anxiety.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorder
If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder and it’s limiting your ability to live a happy, fruitful life, know that effective treatments are available that can help get you back on your feet. At Priory, we’re able to deliver world class mental health and anxiety support via our nationwide network of hospitals and wellbeing centres.
We offer lots of different options for anxiety treatment at Priory, ranging from intensive inpatient stays, to weekly therapy sessions that fit in with your life and work commitments - including from the comfort of your own home with online therapy.
Remember - anxiety is a mental illness, not a sign of weakness, and it’s possible for you to make a full and lasting recovery.
For more information about the mental health services that Priory offer, download our brochure.Get our brochure