The 5 Types of Anxiety Disorders

a woman is hugging a pillow

Oftentimes, we use the word anxiety as an umbrella term to describe the many types of this single disorder. However, there are actually at least 5 types of anxiety disorders, and each one will manifest in a different way.

While the different kinds of anxiety disorders come with their own unique symptoms, they do share some things in common. Most notably, all types of anxiety generate disruptive thoughts that interfere with day to day living. These disorders also exist on spectrums, meaning that some people may experience one of the 5 types of anxiety disorders with more or less severity than others.

Anxiety is a natural response to stress, and everybody experiences it to some degree. What makes it a disorder is when the response is intense and all-consuming. And, while the many types of anxiety can affect any person of any gender at any age, being aware of what each type looks like and how they manifest can make it easier to seek out help when it’s warranted.

types of anxiety disorders infographic


Different Kinds of Anxiety

An anxiety disorder can present in many different types of ways. Keeping in mind that this list is not all-inclusive, here are five of the most common types of anxiety disorders and how they’re characterized.

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
    Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined by excessive and pervasive fear and worry occurring most days of the week for at least six months. Aside from difficulties controlling these negative thoughts, individuals with GAD may also experience trouble sleeping, restlessness, difficulties with concentration, and irritability.
  2. Social Anxiety Disorder
    Sometimes referred to as Social Phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by irrational fears related to social situations, such as fears of being judged or humiliated, or fears of unwittingly offending others. People with Social Anxiety Disorder may avoid social situations as a way to cope, or they may find themselves constantly replaying interactions in their mind after the fact.
  3. Separation Anxiety
    We often hear about Separation Anxiety as it applies to household pets, but it’s actually a common anxiety disorder in humans too. People with Separation Anxiety experience significant distress when they are not near to or cannot otherwise reach their loved ones. This distress may devolve into panic attacks, social withdrawal, extreme sadness, or a lack of ability to concentrate until the separation is over.
  4. Specific Phobia
    Specific Phobia refers to a type of anxiety disorder where a person feels an intense (and often irrational) fear of a certain trigger, such as an object or situation. This fear is generally out of proportion with the actual risk, with common phobias being fear of flying, fear of spiders and other insects, and fear of blood.
  5. Panic Disorder
    Panic Disorder is characterized by panic attacks brought on either unexpectedly or in response to a certain trigger. These attacks can be quite serious, and may include heart palpitations, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, and feelings of impending doom. And for those who suffer, fear of the next panic attack can induce a significant amount of additional worry and distress.

What About OCD and PTSD?

There is some confusion around what is and isn’t considered an anxiety disorder, especially when it comes to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Here’s what to know.

Is OCD considered an anxiety disorder?

Not anymore. While it was previously characterized as an anxiety disorder, OCD is now designated as its own separate disorder class by the DSM-5.

Is PTSD considered an anxiety disorder?

No. Same as OCD, it previously was classified as an anxiety disorder by the DSM-5 but has since gained its own separate classification.

What is the difference between anxiety and PTSD?

Anxiety and PTSD do have some similarities, but they are different in scope. What’s notable with PTSD, is that people do not experience any breaks from the fear, worry, and helplessness they are feeling. Vivid flashbacks, lucid dreams and the feeling of being constantly alert to perceived threats may occur, too. What is interesting to note however, is that PTSD and anxiety may occur concurrently, and one can certainly exacerbate the other.

With so many types of anxiety disorders—and anxiety-adjacent disorders—it’s important to get a correct diagnosis so that a proper method of treatment can be pursued. If you are in need of professional support for your anxiety, schedule an appointment with Synergy Health to speak with a licensed physician via telehealth, or fill out an online mental health assessment form.


February 17th, 2021