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The Different Types Of Anxiety, And When To Seek Help

Written by Sarah Norman

Review by Alina Ivan

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  • anxiety

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Aug 30, 2023, 9 min read

Anxiety is such a broad term that it can be difficult to categorise feelings of anxiety in order to seek the appropriate treatment or use the best coping strategies. Here, we are looking at different types of anxiety that someone might experience, common anxiety disorders and how they are treated, how and when to get assessed for an anxiety disorder, and coping strategies to help ease symptoms.

There are different types of anxiety

At Augmentive, we aim to provide holistic, tailored mental health support to everyone so they can live their life to the fullest, so if you have questions about anxiety and what to do about it, whether in your personal life or for an organisation, we’re here to help.

What is anxiety?

The feeling of anxiety can be described in a variety of ways as it causes lots of different symptoms depending on the individual. It is often described as excessive fear or worry which affects how we behave.

Anxiety is a normal, everyday emotion that everyone in the world feels, but in some cases it can overtake and cause severe symptoms that need to be addressed before they impair function. According to the World Health Organization, as of 2019 there were 301 million people living with an anxiety disorder, which includes 58 million children and adolescents. The Mental Health Foundation’s recent research showed that an enormous 60% of UK adults say they’ve experienced anxiety that interfered with their daily lives in the past two weeks, with one in five people (20%) saying they feel anxious “most or all of the time.” So this is definitely not something to consider rare or unusual.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

Depending on the type of anxiety you have, you may experience symptoms that could include (but are not limited to):

  • Feelings of restlessness or being ‘on edge’
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Feelings of being out of control
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches, stomach aches and other unexplained pains
  • Feelings of worry that seem impossible to control
  • Sleep issues
  • A racing heart
  • Panic attacks

Due to the mind-body connection, anxiety can cause intense physical symptoms which many people assume must be a physical illness of some sort. In recent years, scientists have come to realise the close ties between our brain and body, and studies have found increased levels of anxiety can lead to increased pain perception and decreased pain tolerance.

Symptoms for different types of anxiety can be similar

There is evidence to show that mindfulness activities to calm anxiety and depression could be effective in treating chronic pain, making clear the close ties between our mind and body.

“I constantly thought I was dying of undiagnosed illnesses, because I was convinced that the physical symptoms were too bad to be 'just anxiety'.” - Anxiety sufferer via Mind.org.uk

Are there different types of anxiety?

Anxiety is somewhat subjective as everyone experiences different levels due to varying internal and external stimuli. Anxiety could range from a mild feeling of unease to a fully fledged panic attack, depending on the person. You might experience everyday anxiety, examples of which can include worrying that your child is too close to a steep drop, or worrying about a presentation you have to do at work tomorrow.

You may also experience mild, moderate or high levels of anxiety in everyday life, which could mean you find yourself reacting strongly to stressful situations, struggling to control worried thoughts, experiencing anxiety several times a day, and experiencing anxiety to a level where it impacts your work, home life, relationships or more. In more extreme cases, you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

What are anxiety disorders?

There are several different types of anxiety disorder with their own characteristics. At Augmentive, we believe treatment for anxiety should be bespoke and tailored to the individual, so we recommend speaking to a qualified professional as this is the best way to learn about the many different types of anxiety, and identify whether or not you have an anxiety disorder. If you are looking for an overview of the most common anxiety disorders, these include:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

According to Mental Health UK, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is the most common type of anxiety disorder in the UK, and each week in England an estimated 6 in 100 people will be diagnosed with it. This type of anxiety disorder involves a feeling of anxiousness or dread that begins to interfere with daily life. Often this feeling is not connected to stressful events, but persists indefinitely. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling restless or ‘on edge’
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Headaches, muscle aches, stomach issues and/or unexplained pain
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Sleep issues

Treatment options for Generalised Anxiety Disorder often include a combination of psychological treatments and medication. Psychological treatments might be something like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves learning to understand how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours all interconnect, by identifying negative and anxious thoughts, and learning tools to redirect them. When it comes to medication there are many options which are offered based on medical history and other circumstances. Often an antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is the first point of call to help treat Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety

Panic Disorder

It is estimated that panic disorders affect fewer than 1 in 100 people, and they can be incredibly intense when they occur. With this type of anxiety, someone might experience a sudden, overwhelming bout of fear, worry or discomfort where they feel they are losing control or in immense danger, even if there is no danger nearby.

This is called a panic attack, but it is important to distinguish that you may experience a panic attack without developing panic disorder. Panic disorder is diagnosed when panic attacks happen frequently. Symptoms of a panic attack might include:

  • Shaking or tingling
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Feelings of being out of control
  • A fear of death or impending doom
  • Nausea

Often the fear of having a panic attack can cause people to worry and alter their life to avoid triggers. In some cases, panic disorder is thought to run in families, but it is not clear exactly why some people develop this disorder while others don’t. Research has discovered several parts of the brain play a role in feelings of fear and anxiety, and it is thought panic attacks are our body’s natural survival instincts being triggered too often and/or too strongly.

Treatment options for panic disorders usually include a combination of psychotherapy and medication, but this will be offered after a healthcare professional has checked there are no physical issues causing your symptoms.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is often used to treat panic disorder by teaching different ways of thinking, behaving and reacting to feelings during or before an attack. By learning how to react to attacks, they may become less frequent. You may also be offered exposure therapy, which helps you confront beliefs associated with panic disorder, and medications such as antidepressants, beta-blockers to slow your heart rate, or anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines, which are effective in decreasing panic attack symptoms.

Phobias

While phobias may not seem like a type of anxiety, they are based on a fear of a specific object or situation which leads to anxiety. A phobia can be described as an intense fear that occurs only when encountering a specific scenario, even if that scenario poses no real danger to them. This could be something like flying or small spaces. Symptoms of phobias include:

  • Excessively worrying about facing a feared object or situation
  • Avoidance of the phobia trigger
  • Intense feelings of anxiety when faced with the phobia trigger

Treatment options for phobias include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and exposure therapy, as described above, but therapists may also utilise mindfulness techniques such as meditation, breathwork or progressive muscle relaxation to help reduce stress levels.

Social Anxiety Disorder

We have all felt nervous to go to a party or socialise with certain people in the past, but Social Anxiety Disorder is different in that it feels intense and doesn’t ease once the socialising has started. People with Social Anxiety Disorder may feel they are being watched or judged by those around them, and may experience fear in the lead up to social situations. This can affect everything from their career to their everyday interactions with strangers. Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder include:

  • Excessive blushing, sweating or shaking
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Stomach issues
  • An inability to control body posture or tone of voice
  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Difficulty being around strangers
  • Feelings of self-consciousness
  • Feelings of being judged

Treatment options for Social Anxiety Disorder often include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, as described above, or medications such as antidepressants, beta-blockers or anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines.

Social anxiety disorder is a type of anxiety

Should you get assessed for an anxiety disorder, and how does that work?

If you feel anxious regularly and are concerned you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, it’s best to speak to a specialist who can identify the specifics of your anxiety, suggest an appropriate treatment plan and support you throughout so you can either eradicate your anxiety or learn to cope with it long-term. You can visit your GP to start this process or reach out to a private healthcare professional who specialises in anxiety.

Our free 15 minute consultation can help match you with the best practitioner for you.

Healthcare professionals often use the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) to identify and diagnose anxiety or other mental health concerns based on symptoms. In the case of Generalised Anxiety Disorder, the criteria usually involve:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry most days about many things for at least six months
  • Difficulty controlling your worry
  • Appearance of three of the following six symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, and difficulty concentrating
  • Symptoms significantly interfering with your life
  • Symptoms not being caused by direct psychological effects of medications or medical conditions
  • Symptoms aren’t due to another mental disorder (e.g. anxiety about oncoming panic attacks with panic disorder, anxiety due to a social disorder, etc.)

What are some other coping tips for anxiety?

As well as the above treatment options for specific types of anxiety, there are other things that can ease the symptoms of anxiety in daily life, or at least help make them more manageable to live with. Some helpful coping strategies for anxiety include:

Coping tips for different types of anxiety
  • Live a healthy lifestyle: Research has found evidence to suggest healthy eating can reduce anxiety symptoms, so making simple changes like cutting out high-sugar or high-salt foods, and eating less processed foods could provide benefits.
  • Move your body: Studies have found physical activity can help to prevent or treat anxiety disorders, so even adding some gentle, low-impact exercises to your weekly routine could help. This might be yoga, swimming, a long walk, or something else. Find the type of movement you enjoy most as you will be more likely to stick to it.
  • Talk about it: Speaking to someone you trust can help you process your emotions and share your worries in order to give them less power over you. Sometimes getting the perspective of an outside party can help you find solutions you may not have thought of on your own.
  • Avoid social media: If you are feeling anxious, often social media scrolling can make things worse. Avoid social media and your phone as best you can by adding app timers, or putting it in a drawer until you really need it.
  • Mindfulness exercises: Deep breathing, meditation, journaling and more can be useful for calming the body during stressful times. Try some and find the one that works best for you to relax, and provides a sanctuary from racing thoughts.
  • Take a step back: Think about what is bothering you, and whether or not you can change it or take steps to make the situation better. Sometimes stepping away, if you can, allows you to see it more clearly and make rational decisions before reacting.
  • Reframe negative thoughts: It is important to challenge each negative thought, because often they are untrue. Therapy can help you do this if you are struggling.
  • Enlist help: If something in particular is causing you anxiety, such as a work project, studies show peer support could help. Don’t be afraid to let people know if you are afraid of something, and ask for support. Avoiding the thing you are afraid of means you will never improve your anxiety.

Here are 8 tried and tested ways to calm your mind that you may find helpful, and if you know someone struggling, here are 5 tips on how to support someone with anxiety.

Support for different types of anxiety

Whether you’re feeling off-kilter or want to shake up your routine, our state-of-the-art mental wellbeing platform gives you quick and seamless access to world-class support on your terms, from private psychiatric assessments and reviews to broader private mental health care.

If you have a question about anxiety, like whether or not the daith or "anxiety piercing" really works, we’re here to assist on your journey. Our free 15 minute consultation can guide you to the most relevant specialists to answer your questions and discuss next steps.

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