The 8 Different Types of Anxiety

Explore symptoms, causes, & treatment for 8 types of anxiety disorders. Empower yourself with knowledge about these and their management.
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Author: Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
By Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
February 15, 2024(Updated: April 22, 2024)

Your heart races, and your breaths are shallow and quick. Your mind feels like it’s racing faster than the speed of light. You’re anxious.

Did you know there are 8 different types of anxiety? This article explores each type, their symptoms, causes, current treatment options, and tips on coping with anxiety.

What Is an Anxiety Disorder?

It’s normal to feel anxious sometimes. Humans are emotional creatures. Stress during the day can create feelings of uneasiness. However, when those anxious feelings become chronic and take over your life, it may mean you are at risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by persistent, excessive worry, fear, or anxiety. They can interfere with daily functioning, relationships, and overall well-being.

It is estimated that of adults in the US, 19.1% had any anxiety disorder in the past year. The prevalence was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%). Lastly, it is estimated that 31.1% of adults in the US will experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

One type of anxiety disorder is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Someone with GAD experiences extreme and persistent worry or anxiety about routine activity. Their concerns involve a wide range of issues, including health, work, family, their environment, and everyday tasks. It’s challenging for them to control their worry. The worry is often disproportionate to the actual threat. It is not limited to a specific event or situation. Their symptoms last for more than 6 months.

Stress can increase your risk of developing GAD. It’s been shown that genetics may contribute as well. However, there is no known cause.

Common symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

  • Excessive worrying
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mind going blank due to anxious thoughts
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • A heightened state of alertness
  • Sleep problems

Seeking help from a mental health professional is essential for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Treatment for GAD may involve a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and avoiding substance use.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is another type of anxiety disorder. This condition is characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks are intense episodes of fear and anxiety that peak within minutes. They are accompanied by physical and cognitive symptoms. Individuals with panic disorder often live in fear of experiencing another panic attack. This fear can significantly impact their daily lives. It is more common in women than men.

Symptoms During a Panic Attack:

  • Episode of sudden and intense fear
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach or digestive issues
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Fear of losing control or having a mental breakdown
  • Fear of dying

Panic disorder can be a challenging condition. Seeking professional help is crucial for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment approaches may include psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to help individuals manage and cope with panic attacks.

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder that mainly affects children. An individual with selective mutism will not be able to speak in certain social situations but can in other settings.

For instance, they may be able to communicate verbally with family members or in familiar settings. However, they struggle to speak in specific situations where there is an expectation for verbal communication. They may appear unresponsive or communicate through nonverbal means like nodding or gestures.

Selective mutism is often associated with social anxiety. The fear of being judged or criticized by others can contribute to the child’s silence. They may actively avoid situations or people that trigger their anxiety about speaking.

Selective mutism goes beyond shyness. It is often observed at school or other public environments. The condition is not due to disability, communication disorder, or a lack of knowledge of the spoken language. It is primarily an anxiety-based condition.

Early intervention, including behavioral therapies, is often recommended to help children overcome selective mutism. They can gradually become more comfortable with verbal communication in different settings.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety or deep fear about separation from people to whom they are emotionally attached.

For young children, it is a normal part of development to experience some level of anxiety when separated from caregivers. However, separation anxiety disorder involves more intense and prolonged symptoms that can significantly interfere with daily life.

An individual with separation anxiety disorder will excessively worry about potential harm happening to themselves or their loved ones when separated. They may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and nausea before separation.

Someone with this type of anxiety may go to great lengths to avoid being alone or may resist going to school or other places where separation is expected. They may have nightmares about separation that can negatively affect their sleep. This may cause them to be reluctant to sleep alone. They insist on sleeping with their attachment figures in the same room or bed.

Separation anxiety disorder can occur in both children and adults. It is a normal developmental phase for children. However, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional if symptoms become severe, persistent, and interfere with daily functioning.

Treatment often involves cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and may include strategies to help individuals gradually face and cope with their fears of separation.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Social anxiety disorder (previously known as social phobia) is a mental health condition characterized by an intense and persistent fear of social situations and the scrutiny of others. Individuals with social anxiety disorder often fear being embarrassed, humiliated, or negatively evaluated by others, leading to avoidance of social situations.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder:

  • Intense anxiety before, during, and after social situations
  • Avoiding social situations or enduring them with extreme distress
  • Physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, blushing, nausea, and a shaky voice
  • A distorted and negative view of themselves
  • A belief that others are judging them harshly
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations
  • Performance anxiety during social situations that involve public speaking or performing in front of an audience
  • Excessive self-consciousness

Social anxiety disorder can significantly impact an individual’s personal and professional life. Treatment options for SAD include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and, in some cases, medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can be highly effective in managing social anxiety disorder.

Phobia-Related Disorders

Phobia-related disorders involve an overwhelming and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. There are two main types: specific phobia and agoraphobia.

Specific Phobia

Whether it’s a dark basement, spiders, or heights, we all have something we are afraid of. However, having a specific phobia involves an intense fear of a particular object or situation (phobic stimulus) that poses little or no actual danger. The fear significantly impairs the individual’s ability to function daily. It causes great distress.

Individuals with specific phobias often go to great lengths to avoid the feared object or situation. When they are exposed or anticipate the exposure to their phobic stimulus, it can trigger a sudden anxiety response and may cause a panic attack.

Anxiety disorders. A swirling psychedelic bvackground with scrabble letters in the centre spelling out the word 'ANXIETY'.

Common types of specific phobias include:

  • Specific animals such as spiders, dogs, and snakes
  • The environment, such as heights, water, thunder, lightning, and darkness
  • The situation such as small spaces, flying, going to the doctors and elevators
  • Body-related such as getting a medical procedure, seeing blood, or giving birth
  • Sexual acts or nudity
  • Certain foods and objects or people dressed in specific costumes


Agoraphobia involves an intense fear of situations or places where escape might be difficult. They are afraid help will not be available in case they experience a panic attack. This causes them to avoid situations with crowds, such as going to events with lots of people, shopping malls, and taking public transportation.

Treatment for phobia-related disorders typically involves exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and, in some cases, medication. Early intervention can be effective in reducing the impact of phobias on an individual’s life.

Causes of Anxiety Disorders

The exact risk factors and causes of anxiety disorders are not fully understood. However, a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors may contribute.


A family history of anxiety disorders may increase the likelihood of developing one.

Brain Chemistry 

Another factor that plays a role in anxiety is imbalances in neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers in the brain. Disturbances in serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are often associated with anxiety disorders.

Environmental Factors

Several environmental factors play a role in the development of an anxiety disorder:

  • Trauma: Experiencing traumatic events, such as abuse, violence, or a significant loss, can increase the risk of anxiety disorders.
  • Stressful Life Events: Persistent stress or major life changes, like divorce, the death of a loved one, or job loss, can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.
  • Childhood Trauma: Adverse experiences in childhood, including neglect or early exposure to abuse and violence, may contribute to the risk of an anxiety disorder.


Certain personality traits, such as being shy, reserved, or perfectionistic, may contribute to the development of anxiety disorders.

Medical Conditions 

Chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses can be associated with anxiety disorders. Anxiety is often a side effect of certain medications or substances.

Substance Use

The use of alcohol, drugs, or other substances can contribute to the development or exacerbation of anxiety disorders.


It is generally more likely for women to experience anxiety disorders than men. Hormonal fluctuations, life experiences, or social factors may influence this difference.

Other Mental Health Conditions

Anxiety often coexists with other mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Learn More About The Root Cause of Anxiety and Depression

Treatment Options and Tips for Coping with Anxiety

It’s important to know that risk factors of anxiety disorders interact in complex ways. Not everyone with risk factors will develop an anxiety disorder. In addition, some individuals may develop anxiety without identifiable risk factors. 

Early intervention, effective coping strategies, and appropriate treatment can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with anxiety disorders. Treatment often involves a combination of therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. Here’s an overview of treatment options for anxiety and coping strategies:

Psychotherapy (Counseling)

Seeking guidance from mental health professionals is crucial for developing coping skills and addressing underlying issues. Types of psychotherapy that may be involved in your treatment include:

Psychedelic Therapy

Psychedelic therapy involves the use of psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin or MDMA, in a therapeutic setting to address various mental health issues, including anxiety disorders. 

Substances that are psychedelic primarily impact the serotonin system in the brain, influencing mood, perception, and cognition. For example, psilocybin may facilitate the processing of repressed emotions and memories. It may allow individuals to confront and work through underlying issues contributing to their anxiety.

Psychedelics may temporarily reduce activity in the default mode network (DMN), a network associated with self-referential thoughts and the sense of ego. This reduction could be linked to decreased anxiety and a broader perspective.

Ongoing clinical trials and research are exploring the potential of psychedelics in treating various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders.

Learn More About Psychedelic Therapy for Anxiety


Certain medications can help with the symptoms that you may experience with an anxiety disorder.

  • Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed. Anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines may be used on a short-term basis as some people become dependent on them.
  • Beta-Blockers: These medicines can help control physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat.

Lifestyle Changes

Making changes to your lifestyle can be a great way to manage your anxiety and improve your overall health.

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity has been shown to reduce anxiety and boost mood by promoting the release of endorphins and improving overall well-being.
  • Healthy Diet: Nutrient-rich foods can positively impact mood and energy levels. It can be helpful to avoid or limit excessive caffeine and alcohol intake, as these can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.
  • Adequate Sleep: Lack of sleep can exacerbate anxiety. Establishing a consistent sleep routine can help you get deeper and more restful sleep.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can help manage stress.

Support Groups

Connecting with others who experience similar challenges can provide understanding, empathy, and practical advice.

Self-Care Strategies

Regularly practicing self-care strategies can keep those anxious thoughts at bay.

  • Journaling: Writing down thoughts and feelings can provide a sense of release and help identify patterns.
  • Setting Realistic Goals: Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps can reduce feelings of overwhelm.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like meditation and guided imagery can promote relaxation.

It’s important for individuals experiencing anxiety to work closely with healthcare providers to determine the most effective treatment plan for their specific needs. Building a toolbox of coping strategies and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can contribute to long-term well-being.

Find a licensed mental health care provider in our vetted online provider directory.


Bahrami, F., & Yousefi, N. (2011). Females are more anxious than males: a metacognitive perspective. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 5(2), 83–90.

Cleveland Clinic. (2020, December 17). Anxiety disorders. Cleveland Clinic; Cleveland Clinic.

Dacey, J. S., Mack, M. D., & Fiore, L. B. (2016). The Eight Types of Anxiety Disorder. Your Anxious Child, 23–37.

Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 4). Anxiety disorders. Mayo Clinic; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

National Institute of Mental Health. (2023). Any Anxiety Disorder.;National Institute of Mental Health.

National Library of Medicine (NIH). (2023, October 4). 4 types of common anxiety disorders. NIH MedlinePlus Magazine.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2023, April). NIMH» Anxiety Disorders.

The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

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Author: Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
Katharine has over 15 years of experience working in British Columbia's healthcare system, leading patient safety incident investigations, quality and systems improvement projects, and change management initiatives within mental health, emergency health services, and women's health. She has published in scientific journals and co-authored health research books. Her bylines include Verywell Mind, CBC Parents, Family Education, Mamamia Australia, HuffPost Canada, and CafeMom. Check out her books at Sum (心,♡) on Sleeve.

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