Anxiety is the most common mental disorder. It is the overreaction to perceived threats, stress, and problems. There are four main categories for anxiety. Below we’ll explore each of them in detail. More information can be found in the DSM-5 and the National Institute for Mental Health.

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder):

OCD is characterized by responding to anxiety by performing certain tasks and chores (often referred to as “rituals”) in an attempt to relieve that anxiety.  Specific obsessions in OCD can be many things, but some common obsessions are:

  • Fear of contamination or dirt
  • Fear of disaster
  • Unreasonable need for things to be orderly and symmetrical
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming self or others

The ways that individuals respond to obsessions like these can also be many different things, but some common responses (“rituals”) are:

  • Washing and cleaning
  • Checking
  • Counting
  • Orderliness
  • Following a strict routine
  • Demanding reassurances

Panic Disorder:

An anxiety disorder characterized by panic attacks. Panic attacks are episodes of extreme fear and anxiety. Physical symptoms typically come with panic attacks, some of them might be:

  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Spiked heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

An anxiety-induced panic attack is scary because there is no bear chasing you, but your body is reacting in the same way.

General Anxiety Disorder:

A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Your response is counterproductive for the situation. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive and persistent worrying about a problem in a way that is greater than the actual problem
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Fear of making the wrong decision
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and/or feeling on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”

Social Anxiety:

An anxiety disorder triggered by being around large crowds of people. Symptoms can include:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Intense fear of interacting or talking with strangers
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing, sweating, trembling or having a shaky voice
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety
  • Spending time after a social situation analyzing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation

Phobias are also a common source of anxiety. However, most people aren’t bothered by their phobias because they address them by simply avoiding the thing they fear. I have another blog post presenting some simple ways to manage anxiety. I’ve also done a few podcast episodes on anxiety as well. Feel free to check those out if you have more questions!