Global levels of anxiety increased by 25% around the globe in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Anxiety was already one of the most common mental health disorders in the US, affecting about 23.4% of women and 14.3% of men.
In fact, about a third of adults will experience at least one episode of anxiety during their lifetimes. Rates are even higher among adolescents; almost a third of kids in the US aged 13-18 have an anxiety disorder.
If you’re feeling anxious, afraid, or uncertain, that could be a normal reaction to short-term stress, or it could be the sign of an anxiety disorder that would benefit from treatment. Our team of experts at The Soho Center for Mental Health put together this brief guide to help you understand the different — and often overlapping — types of anxiety and how to overcome them.
Generalized anxiety disorder
If you’re constantly worried about a variety of things — from finances, to your health, to experiencing a sense of impending doom — you may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Symptoms of GAD include:
- Tense muscles
- Trouble concentrating
You may chronically feel “on edge,” as if something “bad” is about to happen.
If you have a panic disorder, you may have panic attacks that appear seemingly out of nowhere. One minute you’re fine, the next, you feel like the world is spinning outside your control. Panic attacks usually have distinct physical symptoms, such as:
- Racing heart
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
You may be so upset and embarrassed about your panic attacks that just worrying about when the next one might occur can actually trigger an attack. Panic attacks can be scary; you might even feel as if you’re having a heart attack.
When you avoid social situations because you’re afraid of being judged, rejected, or ridiculed, you may have social anxiety. You may reduce the number of social interactions you have to be able to control your anxiety.
You may feel social anxiety in only particular situations, such as public speaking or eating in front of other people, or in all social settings. Social phobias and anxiety can severely limit your quality of life. Your career and personal relationships may suffer as a result of avoiding other people.
When you worry about the same things over and over (i.e., obsess), or repeat the same action again and again (i.e., a compulsion), you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When you have OCD, you may engage in ritualistic behaviors, such as compulsive hand washing, to ward off the unwanted event.
Rituals can offer short-term relief, but do nothing to address the underlying causes of OCD. Also, if you can’t perform the ritual, that may lead to increased anxiety and worry.
Phobias are fears about things or situations that are, in themselves, not inherently dangerous or triggering for most people. If you have a phobia, you may be afraid of and avoid triggers, such as:
You may have more than one phobia. Even if you aren’t in a situation where you’re exposed to the trigger, you may have compulsive thoughts about your phobia.
Anxiety gets better with treatment
Anxieties are treated and managed with a variety of therapies that are customized to your needs and types of anxiety. We recommend dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help you manage fear. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you change thought patterns so that they’re more helpful.
You can lessen anxiety or leave it behind entirely by taking just one step today: Contact our team for an in-depth diagnosis and treatment plan today. We’re also pleased to offer teletherapy via a secure online portal.