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Types of Anxiety Disorders: What You Need to Know

From a clinical perspective, the term “anxiety” can refer to several distinct mental health conditions. Learning more about the different types of anxiety disorders can help you find the right type of care for yourself or a loved one. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, we can help. Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers premier mental health programs in Atlanta, Georgia. Call us now at 770-202-1274 or verify your insurance.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are a category of mental health conditions that are characterized by excessive fear and worry. Some types of anxiety disorders also cause various forms of physical symptoms in addition to their psychological effects.

It is important to understand that the symptoms of anxiety disorders are far more troublesome than the “normal” worries and fears that virtually everyone has from time to time. For someone who has an anxiety disorder, their symptoms will be:

  • Sources of extreme emotional pain
  • Persistent, recurring, and unyielding
  • Disproportionate to any actual threat
  • Causes for drastic changes in behavior

As we will discuss in the next section, the primary differentiators between various types of anxiety disorders are the circumstances or situations that can trigger the onset of symptoms.

panic disorder vs generalized anxiety disorder

Types of Anxiety Disorders

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) contains entries for the following 11 types of anxiety disorders.

Panic Disorder 

People who have panic disorder experience recurring panic attacks. These highly distressing experiences, which typically occur with little to no warning and no obvious trigger, can include:

  • Racing heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Hot flashes and chills
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sense of being smothered or choked
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Sense of detachment from your body, mind, and/or surroundings
  • Feeling like you are “going crazy”
  • Fearing that you are about to die

Though panic attacks typically don’t last for more than a few minutes, it is difficult to overstate how excruciating they can be. Someone who has panic disorder may even feel forced to change their behaviors so that they don’t have a panic attack at a particularly inopportune or even dangerous time. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Along with panic disorder, GAD is also one of the types of anxiety disorders with symptoms that can occur without an easily identifiable trigger. 

Someone who has generalized anxiety disorder may experience intense apprehension, overwhelming worry, and/or a persistent sense of dread for no apparent reason. These symptoms can be accompanied by:

  • Restlessness
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle tension
  • Impaired concentration
  • Irritability
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported that about 2.7% of adults in the United States had symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the previous 12 months. NIMH data also indicates that the past-year prevalence of this condition is higher among women (3.4%) than among men (1.9%).

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

The fears that are symptomatic of social anxiety disorder are related to events during which a person might be observed, judged, and rejected. Situations that may become the focus of this condition include:

  • Meeting new people
  • Shaking hands and engaging in conversation
  • Dining in a restaurant or other public place
  • Giving a speech or presentation
  • Performing, such as singing, acting, or playing an instrument

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) has reported that about 7.1% of the adult population in the United States have social anxiety disorder. The ADAA has also noted that more than one third of people with this condition wait at least 10 years before they seek professional help.

Specific Phobia

The symptoms of specific phobia result from proximity to (or even thoughts of) certain objects or experiences, such as:

  • Snakes, spiders, dogs, or other animals
  • Needles or blood
  • Flying in an airplane
  • Heights

According to the DSM-5, the median age of onset of specific phobia symptoms is 7-11, though people can develop symptoms later in life, especially in the aftermath of a traumatic incident.


Agoraphobia is a location-based type of anxiety disorder. Someone with this disorder may develop highly disruptive symptoms when they are:

  • In an enclosed place such as a store or theater
  • In a wide open space such as a field or parking lot
  • Within a crowd of other people
  • Using a bus, train, car, or other form of transportation
  • Outside of their home by themselves

The agony of agoraphobia is often related to the fear that the individual will be unable to escape or get help if they have a panic attack, become incapacitated, or experience some other type of crisis.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is most common among children, though adolescents and adults can also exhibit symptoms. As the name of this condition implies, symptoms are prompted by the thought of being separated from a major attachment figure. 

Even temporary separations can be extremely distressing to someone who has this condition. They may be unwilling to leave their house, even for school or work, and they may suffer from recurring nightmares about separation.

Other symptoms include fear that their loved one will be kidnapped, severely injured, hospitalized, or even killed. A person who has this disorder may also respond to separations (or even thoughts of separations) by becoming physically ill.

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is another type of anxiety disorder that is most common among children. Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Persistent failure to speak in some situations (such as in school) despite being willing to speak in other situations (such as at home)
  • Disrupted academic progress as a result of this failure to speak
  • Continuing to exhibit this unwillingness to speak for more than 30 days

To accurately diagnose a young person with selective mutism, a treatment professional must be sure that their lack of speech isn’t due to a medical concern or another mental health condition, such as autism or schizophrenia.

Other Anxiety Disorders

In addition to the seven types of anxiety disorders that we have already discussed, the DSM-5 also includes diagnostic criteria for the following:

  • Substance/medication-induced anxiety disorder: Common symptoms include panic attacks that are related to the use of legal or illicit drugs.
  • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition: This disorder also often involves panic attacks, but in this case there is a medical or neurological cause.
  • Other specified anxiety disorder: Symptoms will be disruptive, but won’t fulfill the diagnostic criteria for any of the other types of anxiety disorders. Clinicians who make this diagnosis will usually indicate which other anxiety disorder is closest to what the patient is experiencing.
  • Other unspecified anxiety disorder: This is similar to other specified anxiety disorder, with the exception that the clinician will not indicate which type of disorder the patient’s symptoms are similar to. 

Learn More About Anxiety Disorder Treatment in Atlanta

If you have been experiencing the symptoms of any type of anxiety disorder, Peachtree Wellness Solutions is here to help.

At our anxiety treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, you can receive life-affirming care and compassionate support at the residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient program levels. Your treatment will be guided by a customized plan that reflects your unique needs, so that you can make sustained progress toward a healthier and more hopeful future.To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.