The 12 Types of Anxiety and its Symptoms

The main types of anxiety are generalized anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, agoraphobia, anxiety, social phobia, specific phobias, substance-induced disorder, medical disease-induced, and mixed anxious-depressive disorder. .

Anxiety is something habitual in our life, since we can find ourselves in certain situations that trigger it: a problem at work, an exam or having to make an important decision.

In fact, it is an adaptive mechanism that sets our organization in motion to successfully meet the demands of the external environment. It is a “push” or “energy” that makes us act and overcome problems.

However, there are times when anxiety more than being useful is an impediment to lead a normal life. This occurs when symptoms of anxiety appear for no apparent reason, or else, that the level of anxiety before an event is totally disproportionate to the real danger that it entails. It is definitive for the diagnosis of anxiety that this generates a significant discomfort or that it interferes with the normal life of the person.

We are talking in this case of anxiety disorders. Although to diagnose and talk about “disorder” normally more criteria must be met, such as its extension over time.

Anxiety disorders, including all types, is the most frequent mental disorder . Although it is true that its prevalence seems to vary according to each country and culture: for example, in a study on the prevalence of panic disorder (a type of anxiety) rates were observed ranging from 0.4% in Taiwan to the 2.9% in Italy (Medscape, 2016).

In the general population, it is estimated that 29% of people have suffered or suffer from anxiety disorders. And the most frequently diagnosed types are Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Types of Anxiety 

According to the classification of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (DSM V), anxiety disorders can be classified into:

Types of Anxiety


1- Generalized anxiety disorder

This type of anxiety is characterized by persistent and excessive worries that are impossible to control. The theme is very varied, thus a person with generalized anxiety can worry about anything and suffer constant fears. It is not strange either that the individual experiences the symptoms of anxiety without knowing exactly why.

This affects well-being and can even interfere with day-to-day tasks, as they have the constant feeling that something bad is going to happen at any time. For example, a person with generalized anxiety can spend all day thinking that their partner is going to have a traffic accident while driving and will carry out the behavior of constantly calling to see if it is okay.

This condition tends to chronicity and is more common in women, in people who have abused drugs in the past, or who have a family history of anxiety. These people suffer a lot with uncertainty.

In addition, the criterion that must be met most days for a minimum period of 6 months must be met.

You can read more about this disorder and its treatment here.

2- Selective Mutism

The selective mutism is a new addition of the DSM-V, and is the inability to initiate a conversation or respond to others when it should be done. That is, those affected with selective mutism are not able to talk to others in certain social areas, but in others.

For example, if they are at home with their closest relatives they have no problem to hold conversations; but they are unable to do it in other environments (school, for example).

In summary, it could be said that these people have phobia that others hear him speak, except some known people with whom he has great confidence.

Thus, they develop other ways of communicating: nodding, gestures, whispering in the ear, and even through writing. Many times they are maintained in time by the reinforcement of other people, who understand their gestures or speak for them; causing that the affected ones do not recover since they realize that they can communicate without having to speak.

This classification is exclusive for the child population, appearing in the first years of life; mainly when he starts going to school and interacting with other children.

These children usually have a family history of anxiety, being more vulnerable to feeling fear in new situations.

The criterion for diagnosis is that the individual experiences the symptoms for at least one month, although it does not apply if it is the first month of school. Read more here

2- Separation anxiety

The separation anxiety, interestingly, can be over a lifetime (previously only diagnosed in children). Although it is very rare in adulthood.

It is defined as a strong and persistent fear or anxiety that appears when having to physically separate from someone with whom there is a close relationship. It stands out from other normal situations because the anxiety that is experienced is extreme or excessive, and interferes with the proper functioning of the person.

It is characterized by at least three clinical manifestations that are: subjective psychological distress or concern, refusal to remain alone at home or go only to other environments such as school or work, and physical symptoms when separation occurs or imagined.

In adults, the diagnostic criteria must remain for a minimum of 6 months, while in children and adolescents, 1 month. If you want to know more about this type of anxiety, enter here.

3- Agoraphobia

The agoraphobia is intense fear or anxiety that occurs in two or more considered agoraphobic typical situations, as can be: queues, be immersed in a crowd of people, open spaces, enclosed spaces such as an elevator, use public transport, go just outside the home, etc.

These people actively avoid such situations, demand to be accompanied or live with a strong anxiety.

In fact, what these individuals fear is that, in such situations, panic symptoms reach them and that they can not flee, lose control, mount a “shameful” scene or that they are alone and nobody helps them. In fact, it often happens together with panic attacks (panic attacks).

To make the diagnosis the criteria must be met for 6 months or more. In this article you can read more about agoraphobia and its treatment.

4- Anguish disorder

It is conceptualized as the presence of anguish crisis (known as panic attacks ) recurrent and unexpected. At least one of them is followed by persistent concern that new crises appear and their consequences, which last at least a month.

The crisis of anguish consists of the sudden appearance (whether the person is calm or nervous) of a fear or intense discomfort that reaches its maximum expression in a matter of minutes.

During this period of time there are symptoms such as sweating, tremors, palpitations, acceleration of the heart rate, feeling of suffocation or fainting, dizziness, chills or suffocating heat, paresthesias, fear of going crazy, fear of dying (it is common for come to think that they will die of a heart attack, which makes them even more nervous).

These crises can be unexpected or expected. As time passes, they become more frequent, because the triggering factor of the crises is usually the fear of the symptoms of anxiety itself (generating more nervousness when you think the symptoms are going to appear); acting like a vicious circle.

Finally they end up developing a series of behaviors that have the objective of avoiding these panic attacks in the future, such as avoiding going to certain places where an attack happened in the past, doing physical exercise or going to new places.

In addition, security behaviors frequently appear. They suppose an attempt to avoid or alleviate the anxiety in some way that in the long term ends up maintaining it or increasing it. Some examples are: carry anxiolytics, tranquillizers or alcohol; Sit near the door in case you have to flee, demand to always be accompanied, etc.

5- Social anxiety disorder

More commonly known as social phobia, it is defined by an excessive and persistent fear of one or more social situations in which the person is exposed to the possible evaluation of others, or has to deal with strangers.

The greatest fear of these people is to act in some humiliating or shameful way in front of others, or that they realize that they are anxious. This means that social situations of almost every type are avoided or lived accompanied by obvious symptoms of anxiety that they try to disguise.

In the end, it causes the individual with this condition to have problems in his daily life: little social life, difficulties at work or at school, or discomfort due to the phobia itself.

It has to last to be diagnosed, 6 months or more. It is one of the most common types of anxiety, being present in 2-3% of the general population approximately. Visit our article on Everything about Social Phobia if you are interested in the subject.

6- Specific phobia

Phobia consists of an exaggerated or unreal fear of a specific object, situation or activity. There is an exaggerated reaction to something that does not really entail danger or that the probability of being in danger is noticeably low.

Phobias can encompass a large number of situations and objects, although the most common are: fear of animals and insects (like snakes), fear of flying or fear of heights.

The subtypes of phobias are: animal, natural environment, blood / injuries / injections, situational, or others. And they must be present for at least 6 months.

In the most serious cases, the person can spend a lot of time worrying about the phobia and gets to have problems in their day to day to avoid it. But, it is important to emphasize that those who want to overcome a phobia must expose themselves to it and not avoid it, because by avoiding it it becomes stronger. Here you can see How to Overcome a Phobia in 10 Steps.

On the other hand, these are some of the rarest phobias that exist: anatideafobia, pogonophobia or aletophobia.

7- Substance-induced anxiety disorder / medication

In this case, there is evidence that anxiety symptoms or panic attacks have appeared shortly after or during an intoxication or period of abstinence from a substance. Or, for having taken a drug capable of producing such responses.

8- Anxiety disorder due to medical illnesses

Anxiety or anxiety crisis is due to direct physiological aspects of other medical conditions.

9- Other specified / unspecified anxiety disorders

This includes anxiety disorders that present clinically significant symptoms, but fails to meet all of the diagnostic criteria for any of the disorders discussed above.

You can specify the reason why the criteria are not met (that the condition does not last the set time, for example) or these criteria may not be specified due to lack of information.

On the other hand, the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases), in addition to the conditions of which we have spoken, add:

10- Mixed anxiety-depressive disorder

The mixed anxiety-depressive disorder occurs when there are both symptoms that correspond to anxiety and depression, but neither of the two disorders predominates over the other nor are they sufficiently intense to be diagnosed separately. It is a very frequent condition and is linked to work or academic losses, although being somewhat milder than other disorders, they are the ones that least ask for psychological help.

It should extend for more than a month and should not be associated with very stressful and significant life events (otherwise, it would fall into the category of adjustment disorders). Learn more about this disorder here.

11- Other mixed anxiety disorders

These are conditions in which the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder are met but also have certain characteristics of other disorders (although the criteria of the latter are not strictly met).

For example: obsessive-compulsive disorder, dissociative disorders (such as dissociative fugue), somatization disorders, undifferentiated somatoform disorder, and hypochondriacal disorder.

In fact, in previous versions of the DSM, obsessive compulsive disorder and hypochondria belonged to anxiety disorders. In the last version they were extracted from that category, although it can not be doubted that anxiety plays an important role in these conditions.

Symptoms present in all types of anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety are practically the same in all types, but there are variants depending on how it appears or in what situation the symptoms arise. In this way, each person can have a different presentation: some suffer from panic attacks in an unexpected and intense way while others experience anxiety when they think they have to meet new people.

However, there are symptoms that usually occur in all types of anxiety:

– Feelings of worry, discomfort, fear or panic.

– Cold or sweaty hands or feet.

– Tingling or numbness of the extremities.

– Muscle tension.

– Feeling of breathlessness or breathing difficulties.

– Nausea or gastrointestinal upset.

– Dizziness or vertigo.

– Dry mouth.

– Palpitations, tachycardias.

– Sleep problems or sleep disorders.

– Feeling that you lose control over your symptoms and that you can not relax.

– Being continually tense or worried about things that normally do not cause that degree of concern in most people.

– Depersonalization and derealization. Find out more about this here.

Also Read: Algophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

However, thanks to the treatment many affected manage to improve remarkably and lead a satisfactory life, having a good prognosis in the future.