There’s more than one kind of anxiety. Here, experts provide an overview of panic disorder, social anxiety, OCD, and more.
“Anxiety” is often used as a catch-all term for worrisome thoughts. But the reality is, there’s more than one type of anxiety—and each has different symptoms.
Identifying the types can be tricky, in part because it’s possible to experience more than one at the same time. “A lot [of the types] overlap in my clinical practice,” says Elizabeth Ochoa, PhD, a chief psychologist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City. Someone with generalized anxiety disorder may also suffer from panic attacks, for example; while a person who has social anxiety could also exhibit symptoms of OCD.
To shed light on the various types of anxiety, we asked experts to highlight the unique signs to look for. Below is an overview of the five most common disorders.
But if you suspect you (or a loved one) might suffer from anxiety, an evaluation from a mental health professional can help you find out for sure, and determine the best course of treatment.
This is probably the most uncomfortable type of anxiety, says Ochoa. It’s characterized by brief surges of very intense, overwhelming worry or fear. A person’s triggers may be obvious (stress is a common one), or unknown.
While a panic attack starts in the mind, the physical symptoms are all too real: They may include heart palpitations, sweating, difficulty breathing, shaking, chest pain, and nausea.
Another characteristic of panic attacks is derealization: “[People will] feel like things are not real, or feel detached from oneself,” says Ben Michaelis, PhD, a New York City-based clinical psychologist and founder of the YouTube channel One Minute Diagnosis.
Many people will experience at least one panic attack in their lives, likely during a period of acute stress. But if you get panic attacks more frequently, or they start interfering with your life (causing you to avoid places where you had an attack in the past, for example), you might be suffering from a panic disorder.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn coping strategies, and pinpoint your triggers.