Types of anxiety

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What are the different ways you might experience anxiety?

There are different types of anxiety, but most of the time, they share feelings of discomfort and worry in common. The difference between types of anxiety generally depends on the situations or stressors that cause these feelings.

Some of the ways you can experience anxiety as a mental health problem include:

  • Generalised anxiety, which relates to excessive and uncontrollable worries about aspects of everyday life
  • Social anxiety, which relates to the fear of:
    • Being judged – for example, having a conversation or meeting new people
    • Being observed – for example, eating or drinking
    • Performing in front of others – for example, giving a speech.

Having a fear of socialising or being judged can lead to avoiding social situations, which can create feelings of isolation and loneliness.

  • Phobias, which relate to out-of-proportion and long-lasting fears of specific objects, activities or situations, such as going outside or flying
  • Panic attacks, which involve sudden episodes of intense dread or fear that often come without warning, and last for between 5 and 20 minutes. They usually involve:
    • Rapid, shallow breathing
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • A fear of losing control or going crazy.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can develop in people who have been exposed to an actual or threatened traumatic experience. The intrusive symptoms of PTSD can include:
    • Flashbacks
    • Nightmares
    • Being overly alert
    • Feelings of numbness
    • Recurrent memories.
Trauma is not the story of something that happened back then. It's the current imprint of that pain, horror and fear living inside people.
Bessel van der Kolk
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which may consist of uncontrollable and overpowering desires to do something, such as excessively double checking locks or appliances, tapping or counting, or cleaning things. OCD may also include intrusive thoughts or urges that trigger distressing feelings, as well as behaviours that attempt to deal with those thoughts (for example, excessively checking in with loved ones as a result of fearing they’re hurt). OCD is now classified separately to anxiety disorders, but it is often associated with immense anxiety or fear.
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