Anxiety is an umbrella term characterized by feelings of worry and fear. There are several different types of anxiety, all of which have unique characteristics. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder, often abbreviated as GAD, is a near-continuous sense of dread with no specific focus. That means that the disorder cycles from one topic to another. Individuals with GAD frequently fixate on one worry before moving on to the next, without any apparent connection between the two.

Those with GAD may attempt to dismiss their fixations as "normal worries." However, the power and persuasiveness of these fixations can impact how they function at work and home. It's important to note that with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessions have little or no basis in reality.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Unlike GAD, which can be triggered by anything, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is an unreasonable fear of interacting in social settings. Interactions that can trigger SAD can be as simple as a one-on-one conversation or as large-scale as speaking in front of an audience. Individuals with SAD are frequently wary of participating in social activities, such as going to concerts or clubs.

People with SAD may avoid interactions within the public. However, social anxiety is not to be confused with agoraphobia, a type of disorder classified by the fear and avoidance of places or situations which can make you feel trapped or embarrassed. Instead, SAD may go hand-in-hand with agoraphobia as a co-occurring condition. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after a terrifying event, such as a violent crime, trauma, accident, military combat, or sexual assault. PTSD involves flashbacks or sudden memories of the event that create an intense physical and emotional response. Symptoms of PTSD can include nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and heightened reactions to scenarios that trigger flashbacks. 

Individuals experiencing PTSD may avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the trauma --  this is also different than agoraphobia. PTSD can create feelings of both anxiety and depression, with it often being one of the multiple co-occurring conditions.

Panic Disorder

Similar to PTSD, panic disorder involves episodes triggered by a specific memory or social setting. These episodes are panic attacks. Though rarely fatal, panic attacks bring on feelings of intense, uncontrollable terror with an overpowering sense of dread. Some individuals experiencing panic disorder fear they might be facing impending death.

During a panic attack, a person experiences a rapid heartbeat, palpitations, feelings of choking, and even hyperventilation. Panic disorder can also result in nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and other unforeseen side effects. Like SAD and GAD, panic disorder is usually not founded in any legitimate source of danger.

Specific Phobias

Phobias are irrational fears of precise objects, animals, or situations. For example, a debilitating fear of heights is known as acrophobia, and the intense fear of the dark is called nyctophobia. One of the most common phobias is arachnophobia or the extreme fear of spiders. 

People with phobias will go out of their way to avoid the subject of their fear, even when it interferes with their daily lives. When an individual encounters that fear, their reaction may seem irrational and overly dramatic.

Understanding the different types of anxiety can be beneficial in receiving the help you need. If you believe your feelings indicate one of the above disorders, reach out to a specialist to receive the care you deserve.