Types of anxiety disorders

There are many different types of anxiety disorder.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder. The main symptom of GAD is excessive worrying about different activities and events. You may feel anxious a lot of the time if you have GAD. You might feel ‘on edge’ and hyper-alert to your surroundings.

GAD can affect your day-to-day life. You might find that it affects several areas of your life including:

  • Your ability to work or hold down employment.
  • Travel, or leave the house.
  • Your energy, sleep or concentration.

You might also have physical symptoms, such as muscle tension and sweating.

It is common to have other conditions such as depression or other anxiety disorders if you have GAD.

GAD can be difficult to diagnose because it doesn’t have some of the unique symptoms of other anxiety disorders. Your doctor is likely to say you have GAD if you have felt anxious for most days over six months and it has had a negative impact on multiple areas of your life.

Visit our generalised anxiety disorder condition page for further information.

Panic disorder

Panic disorder means you have regular panic attacks with no particular trigger. They can happen suddenly and feel very intense and frightening, it is also possible to dissociate during panic attacks (feel detached from your body). You may also be fearful about having panic attacks in the future.

Fear of certain situations can cause panic attacks, for example, if you don’t like small spaces but have to use a lift. But this doesn’t mean that you have a panic disorder.

Panic disorder symptoms can include:

  • An overwhelming sense of dread or fear
  • Chest pain or a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly
  • Feeling that you might be dying or having a heart attack
  • Sweating and hot flushes, or chills and shivering
  • A dry mouth, shortness of breath or feeling like you’re choking
  • Nausea, dizziness and feeling faint
  • Numbness, pins and needles or a tingling sensation in your fingers
  • A need to go to the toilet
  • A churning stomach
  • Ringing in your ears

Visit our panic disorder condition page for further information.

Social anxiety disorder

It’s normal to worry about social or performance situations. social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is when you will have an intense fear or dread of social situations. This can happen before, during or after an event.

Some common situations where you may experience anxiety:

  • Speaking in public or in groups
  • Meeting new people or strangers
  • Dating
  • Eating or drinking in public

You may be worried that you will do something or act in a way that is embarrassing. You might feel aware of the physical signs of your anxiety, such as:

  • Sweating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shaky voice
  • Blushing

You may worry that others will notice or judge you and you might try to avoid certain situations. You may see that your fears aren’t logical , but it’s difficult to control them.

Visit our social anxiety disorder condition page for further information.

Health anxiety

Health anxiety is the constant worry that you are ill, or that you are going to get ill. If you have health anxiety you may find that you are:

  • Constantly checking your body for signs of illness such as lumps or pain
  • Seeking reassurance from others or from medical professionals that you are not ill
  • Worrying that advice or results from medical professionals are incorrect
  • Obsessively consume health related information on the internet and match descriptions of illness to own symptoms
  • Avoid health related content, such as TV soaps

The physical symptoms of anxiety may replicate symptoms of illness which can be mistaken for signs of serious illness by those who have health anxiety.


A phobia is an overwhelming fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.

Phobias are  a more intense feeling than fear. They develop when a person has heightened feelings of danger towards a situation or object. Someone with a phobia may avoid the thing that’s causing them anxiety.

Common examples of phobias include:

  • Animals – Such spiders, snakes or rodents
  • Environmental – Such as heights and germs
  • Situational – Such as going to the dentist
  • Body – Such as blood or being sick
  • Sexual – Such as performance anxiety

Visit our phobias condition page for further information.


Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult. Or situations where help wouldn’t be available if things go wrong. This could be:

  • Leaving home
  • Being in public spaces
  • Using public transport
  • Being in crowded spaces

You might find that these situations affect your daily routine by actively avoiding them as they make you feel distressed, panicked or anxious.

If you have agoraphobia you may find it difficult to make an appointment with your GP to talk about your symptoms. You might feel unable to leave your house to go to the GP surgery. You can arrange a telephone appointment if you have symptoms of agoraphobia.

Visit our phobias condition page for further information.

Other mental health conditions related to anxiety disorders:

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

You will have obsessions and/or compulsions if you have OCD.

An obsession is a repeated unwelcome thought or image. These can be difficult to ignore. These thoughts can be disturbing, which can make you feel distressed and anxious.

A compulsion is something you think about or do repeatedly to help relieve anxiety. Such as saying a phrase in your head to calm yourself. Or checking that the front door is locked.

You might believe that something bad will happen if you don’t do these things. You may realise that your thinking and behaviour is not logical but still find it very difficult to stop.

There are different types of OCD including:

  • Contamination – An impulse to clean or wash because you perceive something as contaminated
  • Checking – The constant need to check yourself or your environment to prevent damage, fire, leaks or harm
  • Intrusive thoughts – Repetitive thoughts which may be horrific and upsetting
  • Hoarding – Not feeling able to throw away useless or worn out items

Speak to your GP if you think you have OCD. They should discuss treatment options with you.

Visit our OCD condition page for further information.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is caused by a threatening situation, such as a car crash or abuse. You can feel anxious for months or years after the event, even if you weren’t physically harmed at the time.

Visit our post-traumatic stress disorder condition page for further information.


Skin picking is medically known as dermatillomania. It is an impulse control disorder where you regularly pick at your skin and find it difficult to stop yourself doing it. It can cause damage including bleeding, bruising and scarring. It is common to pick the skin on your face, but might also pick other areas of the body.

It is thought that skin-picking could be a type of addiction Or that it relieves tension and stress. It is common to have OCD and dermatillomania at the same time.

Your GP may arrange for you to see a specialist mental health doctor like a psychiatrist for diagnosis and treatment.

Hair pulling

Hair pulling is an impulse control disorder medically known as trichotillomania. If you have this condition you feel the urge to pull out your hair and find it difficult to stop yourself from doing it. It can be from your scalp or other places such as your arms, eyelashes, eyebrows, legs or pubic area.

You might experience a build-up of tension which you can release by pulling out your hair. You may feel relief or pleasure from pulling hair out, or you might not even be aware that you’re doing it.

It can be difficult to stop this habit, which can result in hair loss and distress. Which could make you feel guilty, embarrassed and affect how you feel about yourself or how people see you.

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