Dealing with Anxiety, Part 3: The Types of Anxiety

Article Summary:

  • Anxiety vs Anxiety Disorder
  • Types of Anxiety
  • Tips and Tools


We all have anxiety and fear from time to time. That’s just part of being human.  When does normal levels of anxiety begin to look like a disorder?  Frankly stated, anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder when 1) the level of anxiety experienced is higher than would normally be appropriate in a given situation, and 2) when it begins to impede on normal living (1, p 9). In other words, when anxiety begins to pervade our life and shape our behavior, it is time to see that we have an anxiety disorder.

What are the types of anxiety?

Specific Phobia: An intense fear when you come in contact with a certain object or situation. Examples include acrophobia, claustrophobia, etc.

Social Anxiety Disorder: An intense fear and anxiety in social situations due to a fear of negative evaluation (example, being judged).  There is usually an avoidance of these situations.

Panic Disorder: Frequent, sometimes out-of-the-blue panic attacks, as well as worry about the meaning or outcome of those attacks.  People may feel that they are going crazy or dying.  Often, people will try to avoid situations that they fear will bring these about.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Intense, intrusive, and repetitive troublesome thoughts and ideas that might be  viewed as strange and not understood.  This is followed by behavior that is deemed helpful to alleviate the obsessions.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): “Generalized anxiety disorder is a relatively common anxiety problem, affecting 3-4% of the population, that turns daily life into a state of worry, anxiety, and fear. Excessive thinking and dwelling on the “what ifs” characterizes this anxiety disorder. As a result, the person feels there’s no way out of the vicious cycle of anxiety and worry, and becomes depressed about life and the chronic state of anxiety they find themselves in. Generalized anxiety usually does not cause people to avoid situations” (2).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A diagnosis of PTSD requires people to have experienced a traumatic event before they can be diagnosed with it.  The symptoms include “intrusive thoughts and memories about the event, avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event, difficulties experiencing positive emotions, feeling detached from others, and hyperarousal and hypervigilance (or always feeling on guard)” (3).

Tool #4

Instructions for mindful observation (4):

  1. Start by paying attention to the sounds that you hear: Shine a spotlight on your attention on sounds. Listen attentively, carefully, and with curiosity, as if all the sounds you hear were new to you.  Just see what you notice.
  2. Bring the spotlight of your attention to the sensations of sitting: Notice what it feels like to be sitting down, notice where the chair or cushion contacts your body, and pay attention to any sensations, whether you notice pressure, warmth, pain, hardness, or any other sensation. Whatever you notice is perfectly okay, just pay attention.
  3. Now bring your attention to what you see around you. Start by looking down at the floor, and notice what you see there. If you have emotional reactions to or thoughts about what you see, simply allow them to come and go, and bring you mind back to what you see. Slowly raise your gaze from the floor, and look at the walls and furniture (if you’re in a room with walls and furniture). Pay close attention to each object you look at. Try your best to look at it with curiosity, as if you have never seen it before.



(1) Chapman, A.L, Gratz, K.L., & Tull, M.T. (2011). The dialectical behavior therapy skills  workbook for anxiety: Breaking free from worry, panic, PTSD, & other anxiety symptoms. New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Oakland, CA.


(3) Chapman et al. (2011), p 12

(4) Ibid, p. 31



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