Mental health disorders such as anxiety are diagnosed by mental health professionals with the help of a clinical book called the Diagnostic Statistics Manual. There is an entire section of the DSM dedicated to ‘anxiety’. Most people have a general idea of what anxiety is, and most also lump it into the one big category. The truth is, there are several different kinds of clinical anxiety that become important to be aware of if you have been diagnosed with anxiety or suspect that you are anxious. It is wise to always ask and be clear with a mental health professional what kind of anxiety you are suffering from.
Some anxiety can be what is called ‘non-clinical anxiety’, which means that the symptoms and experience does not rise to the level where it requires medical or counseling intervention. Everyone gets a bit worried or anxious sometimes, and anxiety that is not clinical might include situations that arise in our lives like worries over money, school grades or employment, or the health of ourselves or others. There is a thin line between the experience of every day worries and clinical anxiety, and that line can be drawn when looking at how persistent the anxiety is, if it occurs in all environments, and if it inhibits daily functioning and comfort.
The major classifications of anxiety from the DSM appear below, with brief descriptions of each:
Separation anxiety disorder: This kind of anxiety is seen mainly in children, but can be seen in teens and adults as well. It is an unusual level of anxiety for the age of the person who has it, when they are about to be separated or are separated from another person, or place. The anxiety persists during the entire time of separation, and does not ease, like when a small child begins to play with peers and forgets all about mom or dad not being present.
Selective mutism: This anxiety reaction is also most often seen in small children, and though rare, can be seen in older people as well. It is easily recognized because the individual becomes so anxious that they cannot speak in particular circumstances.
Phobia: There are many dozens of specific phobias (arachnophobia, fear of spiders is well known
like spiders, going out of their home, or bridges, for example.
Social anxiety disorder: This is by far one of the most common anxiety issues; many people have anxious feelings when they are in social situations (not just a mild fear of speaking in front of a crowd).
Panic disorder: This kind of anxiety reaction can arise alongside the other kinds of anxiety; it is characterized by a sudden, intense set of emotions and physical symptoms that may make the individual believe they are having a heart attack or otherwise dying.
Generalized anxiety disorder: Likely the number one anxiety diagnosed, generalized anxiety disorder is what might be called ‘free floating’ in that the individual is never quite free of anxious feelings, and the feelings of anxiety are present in most all environments.
Substance or medicine induced: This is anxiety states that have their source in an ingested substance or prescribed medications. For example, some hallucinogenic drugs can create intense anxiety in some individuals.
Due to a medical condition: Some medical conditions can create anxious reactions.
Other/unspecified: This category is used when the source of anxiety is yet undetermined.
In the USA
18% of the population copes with anxiety
People with anxiety go to the doctor more often
nxious people are often depressed as well
2.7% of the popualtion have panic disorder
6.8% have social anxiety disorder
8.7% have specific phobias
Women are twice as likely a men to have anxiety
About one in eight kids have significant clinical anxiety
Anxiety can get worse if left untreated
You may notice that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are not included in this category. Though these disorders do have anxiety symptoms and behaviors associated with them, they are in categories other than ‘anxiety’ because the source of their anxious symptoms is different than that of those in the anxiety category.
In most cases, a combination of medications and clinical counseling are the typical and most effective route to recovery and keeping anxiety in remission. One of the most positive evidence based approaches is that of Cogintive Behavior Therapy. The medicines can help boost and balance a few important brain chemicals known to influence mood stability. Finding the right med at the right dose is sometimes frustrating, but when found, is a real blessing to help the anxious person to get out of the ‘hole’ and stay out. Great care must be taken with medications for anxiety, as some of them can be quite addictive and damaging to the person who has anxiety. It is very important to list to and follow your doctor’s directions on how to take the prescribed medication, and if you find yourself taking more and more, address the issue with your doctor and counselor. Medication alone is not enough to treat anxiety though, and learning how to change your thinking and behavior are key in helping the medicine to continue to be effective, and to get your goals, plans, and life back on a satisfying track.
Angela Joseph from Florida on August 06, 2015:
Very helpful article. In behavioral health we also train patients to use relaxation techniques and deep breathing when they feel anxiety coming on. I agree that patients have to be careful with anti-anxiety meds.
Rodric Anthony from Surprise, Arizona on July 24, 2015:
Informative. I have an friend who suffers from anxiety disorder. Her therapist told her to combat it cognitively to focus on a color or a point in the room where they are--basically redirection. It works. Learning to deal with anxiety without medicine is the best option. Medicine brings its own set of problems.