If you have anxiety it may include panic attacks, constantly searching for a way to escape, a non-stop sense of fear and dread about what could happen, trouble being in public, or the inability to speak. Anxiety includes much more than this which and every person will experience their anxiety in a somewhat different way. Whether you meet the criteria to qualify for a formal diagnosis or not, to say that having anxiety is stressful is an understatement.
Ironically, those with anxiety often find worry uncontrollably even though they know that what they're worried most about isn't realistic.
What are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety Disorders all have a common theme that involves excessive fear and anxiety, along with the tendency to try to avoid the source of that fear and/or anxiety.
Fear can be thought of as an emotional response to an immediate threat, while anxiety is an emotional response to a threat that is anticipated. Both fear and anxiety reactions can be quite intense, even when an anticipated threat is not realistic or likely to actually happen. Some people with an Anxiety Disorder will experience short, intense bursts of fear called a panic attack, while others may experience a less intense, though still powerful, consistent, and persistent feeling of anticipatory anxiety (meaning a constant fear that something will happen in the near future).
It is not uncommon for a person diagnosed with one Anxiety Disorder to also develop one or more additional Anxiety Disorders.
List of Anxiety Disorders
The following make up the formal list of diagnosable Anxiety Disorders. Click on a link to learn more.
Separation Anxiety Disorder involves fear and/or anxiety associated from actually or potentially being separated from someone you feel a strong connection to.
A person with Selective Mutism will consistently not speak in specific situations where speaking is expected. This is in spite of their ability to otherwise speak.
A Specific Phobia refers to cases where an individual expresses significant levels of fear or anxiety about a specific situation or object (e.g. injections, heights, animals, natural disasters, or flying on a plane).
A person with Social Anxiety Disorder will have intense levels of fear or anxiety of social situations in which that person may feel exposed, evaluated, judged, or scrutinized by others (e.g. public speaking or eating out). Social Anxiety Disorder may also be referred to as Social Phobia.
Panic Disorder involves recurrent, unexpected panic attacks along with anxiety about having additional panic attacks and/or changes in behavior designed to avoid having future panic attacks. Panic attacks symptoms can be numerous and may include a racing heart, sweating, shaking, chest pain, dizziness, nausea, a fear of going crazy or dying, or feelings of tingling/numbness in the body.
Agoraphobia involves fear and/or anxiety related to using public transportation, being in open spaces, being in enclosed spaces, standing in line, being in a crowd, or being away from home and alone. Being in such situations in turn causes anxiety around it possibly being difficult to get help or escape should the person begin to experience symptoms of a panic attack or find themselves in an embarrassing situation.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves having persistent and excessive amounts of anxiety and worry that happen more often than not about a variety of different topics. Additional symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, or sleep troubles will also be present.
This diagnosis involves anxiety or panic attacks occurring as a result of using medication, illegal drugs, or other chemical substances or from the withdrawal of using such substances.
This diagnosis involves anxiety or panic attacks that occurs as a result of or side effect of a separate medical condition.
This set of diagnoses are used by clinicians when a person's symptoms don't perfectly match with another one of the Anxiety Disorders listed above, a person would otherwise fall short due to a technicality, or not enough information about a person is readily available; but the symptoms are still impactful enough to cause distress in a person's life that warrants attention.
Do I Have an Anxiety Disorder?
The term "Anxiety Disorders" refers to a formal group of clinical diagnoses. You can learn more about some of the specific diagnoses by following the links provided on this page.
This information is intended to provide you with a broad overview of each condition, without getting bogged down in some of the details that may come with a formal diagnosis. Please remember that meeting the full criteria of an Anxiety Disorder diagnosis isn't what makes your symptoms and feelings real. A diagnosis is just a label used for convenience. See our article on the problem with labeling.
Regardless... if the anxiety you're feeling is negatively impacting your life please consider reaching out for help. Some ways to do this include speaking with someone you trust or talking to a therapist. You can research therapists online, contact 211 to identify local social service providers, browse through some the Resources such as crisis hotlines that we've put together, or contact your insurance carrier (look for "behavioral health").
All information on this website has been professionally prepared, but also intentionally written in a manner that is not overly technical. The terms used here are usually, but not always the formal and proper terminology or diagnoses that would be used between professionals. Similarly, we made a decision to not provide the full and exhaustive diagnostic criteria here. This is done so as to be informative and more easily understood by people who are not in the field of mental health. At the same time all reasonable efforts are taken to assure that the information presented here is as accurate as possible. We also provide a list of common definitions and abbreviations that you may find useful.
While clinical descriptions are not intended to be overly technical, they do attempt to be accurate and consistent with the DSM standards. Any changes made are superficial and done so for the sake of ease of comprehension.
It’s important to point out that the information provided on this website is not designed to replace a proper clinical assessment performed by a qualified professional. The descriptions on this website are not intended, nor should they be used to self-diagnose or to diagnose those around you.