Just as the triggers for anxiety can be different for each person, the type of anxiety they experience is equally unique. While it’s easy to loop the symptoms of anxiety into one broad category, they are actually different — and understanding these feelings can help you and your therapist make further progress in your treatment. 

Types of Anxiety

Below are some of the most common types of anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Excessive worry and rumination are the key factors of a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (also known as GAD). To receive this diagnosis, the symptoms would be present on most days and for at least 6 consecutive months. The good news is that recovery from GAD is probable with treatment … and a little persistence. One Canadian study looked at more than 2,000 participants with a history of GAD. Among other findings, they discovered that if an individual had a confidant in their life who provided a sense of emotional security and well-being; they were 3x as likely to recover — even if the anxiety was ongoing for several years. Religion, spirituality or a belief in a higher power also boosted the rate of recovery by more than 35%. Meanwhile, poor sleep, lack of exercise, isolation and depression were shown to contribute to further symptoms of anxiety. Of course, here at Bhatia Psychology Group, we would add that the therapeutic process with a trained professional is a key factor in expediting and maintaining recovery from anxiety — and science backs it up. Research shows that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing, among other modalities, can make a big impact on the daily life of someone living with anxiety. Learn more about general anxiety disorder here

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) differs from GAD because the emotions or triggers are connected to social experiences — particularly ones where the person fears that they may be in a position to be embarrassed, humiliated or criticized. As a result, the individual may completely avoid environments where these feelings may come up, whether it’s an actual threat or highly unlikely. While some individuals experience social anxiety, such as when they are required to speak in front of an audience, a social phobia can greatly impact someone’s day-to-day functioning. For example, in the workplace, it may even result in excess absenteeism.  One large, long-running study looked at cognitive behavioural therapy’s impact on social phobias and found that it was more effective at increasing the recovery rate than medication alone, or even a combination of medication and therapy. It’s worth noting that the standard of therapy and even the match between the counsellor and the client will contribute to the treatment’s success rate. Learn more about social anxiety here. 

Panic Disorders

If you have ever experienced a panic attack, it’s not something you soon forget. They can happen with little notice and are usually characterized by shortness of breath, fast heart rate, sweating, chest pain, shaking/shivering, and more. It can be extremely frightening and last 10-20 minutes. A panic disorder involves recurring panic attacks. Research from Sweden found that psychotherapy can produce long-lasting results for those who struggle with panic disorders. They found that quality of life was improved for individuals who participated in psychodynamic psychotherapy (PDT) and/or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for up to 12 weeks. Learn more about panic disorders here.  

Phobias

While you may think of a dozen things you would rather be doing than public speaking, it may not fall into the category of being a phobia if it doesn’t elicit an excessive or overwhelming fear. A phobia is a response that is typically out of proportion to the place, object or situation and is present for more than consecutive 6 months. Some of the more common phobias include:

  • fear of spiders (arachnophobia)
  • fear of snakes (ophidiophobia)
  • fear of heights (acrophobia)
  • fear of tight spaces (claustrophobia)
  • fear of flying (aerophobia)
  • fear of blood (hemophobia)
  • fear of needles (trypanophobia)
  • fear of water (hydrophobia)

With regards to phobias, the recommended treatment can include exposure therapy (a type of behavioural therapy), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and even hypnotherapy. If we use the example of arachnophobia, exposure therapy may begin with thinking about spiders, then looking at pictures, then perhaps seeing one from a distance in a safe environment, and so forth. With phobias, CBT focuses on challenging emotional responses surrounding negative or maladaptive thoughts, beliefs, behaviours. Much like other forms of anxiety, the goal of treatment is to improve the person’s quality of life.

Separation anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is another specific type of anxiety disorder. It’s not just feeling sad when someone leaves; it’s an intense fear or worry about being separated from someone you’re attached to. This can happen with children, but adults can experience it too. People with separation anxiety disorder might worry excessively about losing their loved ones or about something bad happening to them when they’re apart. They might avoid being alone or avoid going places because of this fear. Therapy and sometimes medication can help manage symptoms, allowing individuals to lead more fulfilling lives.

Agoraphobia

A fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or embarrassing is a key characteristic of a type of anxiety called agoraphobia. This fear can lead individuals to avoid crowded places, open spaces, public transportation, or even leaving their homes entirely. It can impact daily life and limit activities. Often associated with panic disorder, agoraphobia can also occur independently. Treatment usually involves therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps individuals gradually confront and manage their fears.  With proper support and treatment, many individuals with agoraphobia can regain their independence and improve their quality of life.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

While the DSM-5 no longer classifies Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as an anxiety disorder, it is often accompanied by elevated anxiety levels. OCD is more than just excessive hand washing — it comes in a variety of forms and is characterized by compulsive behaviours and obsessive thoughts. More and more research is being devoted to OCD, ranging from types of treatment to genetic predispositions to its connection to the immune system (and not just the central nervous system). One of the most effective modalities for OCD is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which typically involves exposure and response prevention. Learn more about OCD here.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) used to be classified as an anxiety disorder. However, in the current DSM-5, it is listed separately under Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders. That said, PTSD shares similarities with anxiety disorders and can have overlapping symptoms. It can occur in people who have witnessed or been involved in a traumatic event —- this can range from war to assault or a natural disaster. However, it can also be rooted in other forms, which can include bullying, harassment, childhood neglect, emotional abuse, or loss of a primary relationship. Not surprisingly, scientists have found that the COVID-19 pandemic and related fears have triggered traumatic stress in many individuals — enough for a clinical diagnosis. Finding a trauma-informed therapist is an essential first step towards treating and recovering from PTSD. Depending on the person, options can include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, hypnotherapy, group therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Learn more about PTSD and trauma here.

At Bhatia Psychology Group, we can help to determine the right type of therapy, support, and counsellor for your needs. Start today by booking your appointment with a member of our compassionate and caring team.

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