What are Anxiety Disorders? From GAD to PTSD

It’s estimated that 4% of the global population suffers from anxiety disorders. You are not alone in how you’re feeling. 

Anxiety is our natural and safe emotion of protection.  Being anxious or experiencing high levels of anxiety does not mean it is an anxiety disorder. It might be a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

There are other disorders where people feel anxious, and if anxiety is the consistent or predominating emotion, then it is likely to be an anxiety disorder. This is not the case for all disorders, such as substance abuse disorders or bulimia, but anxiety can be frequently experienced or a maintaining factor.

Anxiety is experienced in different ways, and in some cases, the specificity of it can lead to a diagnosis of a particular disorder. You may not have a diagnosis right now, and you may not even want one, but it can be useful to understand the different types to consider your options if you’re going to seek professional help.

First, let’s look at some common anxiety symptoms that can arise across all the disorders:

  • Physically feeling nervous, restless or tense.

  • Having a sense of impending danger or doom.

  • Palpitations – having an increased heart rate.

  • Hyperventilation – breathing rapidly.

  • Lightheaded and feeling faint without fainting

  • Feeling hot and sweating

  • Shaking or trembling.

  • Feeling weak or tired, leading to exhaustion.

  • Trouble concentrating and a focus present worrying thoughts.
How to deal with Anxiety and COVID-19
Anxiety is a response to perceived fear, usually associated with something going wrong in the future, but it can also arise from something happening right now.

It’s important to state here that we all experience anxiety in varying degrees. We will all find ourselves in uncomfortable situations, experience intrusive thoughts and get concerned or worried from time to time.

This does not mean we have an anxiety disorder. But, the build-up of these symptoms can become more frequent and distressing, which may start to affect your day to life. This is when it is helpful to see your GP or book an appointment with a Onebright therapist to seek a diagnosis, which can allow you to get the correct help to take back control of your life.

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social anxiety in the workplace

List of Anxiety Disorders:

Other problems that are not classified as anxiety disorders, but anxiety is the maintaining the problem or the predominating emotion are:

GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder)

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the UK. About 1 in 20 people have a generalised anxiety disorder. This type of anxiety disorder can be quite challenging to diagnose due to the broad nature of the worry.

People with GAD frequently have an intense, excessive and persistent fear about everyday situations. These episodes can manifest and express them in ‘waves’ of fear and emotion, making it harder to pinpoint what exactly causes these feelings to arise in the first place. GAD is often experienced through physical and psychological responses. Still, it can be so embedded in our daily existence that we don’t even realise when it takes over parts of our lives.


A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense anxiety about what is going on in your own body; fear of your physical sensations. Panic can make you feel like you are experiencing a life-threatening incident (often resembling a heart attack), like you’re losing control or losing your mind. It’s time to get help when the fear of a panic attack is disrupting your day-to-day life if you’re avoiding the place you had your first attack, or if you have adopted your own unhelpful coping strategies.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety disorder is also very common; it can emulate an intense fear or dread of social or performance situations. It’s a lot more than getting nervous before a work presentation. It is a persistent fear of a social situation where embarrassment may occur, and the feeling of fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the social situation. Social Anxiety makes us feel fearful that we will do or say something embarrassing and replay that scenario over and over.

Health Anxiety

Health anxiety used to be known as hypochondriasis. If you have health anxiety, it means you misinterpret usual bodily symptoms and become convinced that you have a critical or life-threatening illness. It’s time to seek help if you are very anxious and often scared about the state of your health. Also, if you’re a frequent visitor to your GP or you are developing coping behaviours to deal with your feelings, such as avoiding hospitals and medical issues or obsessing about them.

OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder)

OCD is an anxiety disorder characterised by you feeling inappropriate and distressing intrusive thoughts, images or impulses that occur against your will. The compulsions are the things we do to avoid or ‘control’ the thoughts. Those behaviours can be internal behaviours (mental activities) or physical compulsions (touching, counting) to ease the anxiety and stress surrounding the thought. OCD can be intrusive thoughts about a range of themes, including; harm, relationships, sexuality, paedophilia, religion, existentialism and contamination.


A phobia is an unreasonable fear of a situation or object. Common phobias include fear of animals, birds, insects, heights, enclosed spaces and the sight of blood or injury. The physiology of fear experienced with phobias can consist of palpitations, breathlessness, sweating and dizziness. Negative and anxious thoughts are common with phobias. It’s time to seek help when your fear disrupts your daily life; you avoid places or people because of it, and you’re always on guard, to the point where it affects your ability to function correctly.

The following are not strictly labelled under anxiety disorders, but Anxiety may be the dominant emotion or be maintaining the problem. These are:

PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)

PTSD is a mental health condition where someone has been through or witnessed a traumatic situation. The development of the disorder depends on how an individual copes with the experience rather than the severity of the incident. It is often linked to military personnel but actually affects a wide range of people, as it’s situation-based. PTSD and trauma symptoms can vary in intensity over time due to unannounced triggers being present or not.

Sex problems

Causes of sexual difficulties may be physical or psychological, or a combination. Even when there is a physical cause for sexual dysfunction, psychological factors often play a part in perpetuating it. Lack of intimacy has been named the number one cause of couples seeking therapy, and 60% of men avoid sex due to performance anxiety.

Low self-esteem

Self-esteem is your view of yourself, your perception of how others see you, and the thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself, your world and your future. When your perception of yourself is negative, it can lead to an overwhelming feeling of low self-worth; and you may find yourself thinking that you’re not good enough. These are not just negative, automatic thoughts that we all might have from time to time, but firm ideas about yourself that keep on reoccurring.

Eco Anxiety

‘Eco-anxiety’ refers to the chronic fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster. This feeling is driven by the growing awareness of the environmental challenges facing our planet, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, pollution, and more. People with eco-anxiety are deeply concerned about the future of the environment and can feel overwhelmed, helpless, or distressed about the current trajectory of ecological events.

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Anxiety assessment (GAD-7)

The GAD-7 is used to screen for generalised anxiety and determine its severity. While it’s primarily designed for generalised anxiety disorder, it can also provide insight into the severity of symptoms of other anxiety disorders.

The assessment consists of seven questions that ask individuals how often, during the last two weeks, they’ve been bothered by specific anxiety-related issues. These questions address symptoms like feeling nervous, having trouble relaxing, and becoming easily annoyed or irritable.

The GAD-7 is short, easy to understand, and can be quickly administered. It’s been found to have good reliability and validity.

What happens after an anxiety diagnosis has been made?

Once a diagnosis has been established, the clinician will discuss it with the patient. This discussion may include an explanation of the specific anxiety disorder, its causes, symptoms, and prognosis. It’s an opportunity for the patient to ask questions and express any concerns.

The clinician will outline treatment options tailored to the patient’s needs and the severity of the disorder. Common treatments for anxiety disorders include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is a popular form of talk therapy that helps patients recognise and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to anxiety.

Online therapy for anxiety disorders

Access to accredited CBT therapists
The convenience factor
A flexible solution
Personalised approach
Confidential and fully encrypted
Comfortable Environment
The recommended treatment for anxiety is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Accessing high-quality mental health care online has never been easier, regardless of which treatment option you choose.

Online therapy for anxiety has become a popular and accessible way for individuals who are suffering from the condition to receive mental health support. With the ease and convenience of accessing therapy from the comfort of one’s own home, combined with the increasing awareness and stigma reduction surrounding mental health, online therapy is a powerful tool for those seeking support for their anxiety.

Given the convenience and availability of online therapy, virtual treatment for anxiety has become widely available. Anxiety disorders are treatable, yet only one-third of those suffering receive treatment.

Nevertheless, thanks to communication technology, you can meet with a qualified psychotherapist, licensed CBT therapist, or psychiatrist from the comfort and privacy of your home. If you worry about travelling, fitting therapy into your working day or meeting new people in person, talking to a therapist online can be the perfect solution.

The Best Online Therapy for Anxiety 2023
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4 Ways to Relieve Anxiety in the Moment:

relieve symptoms of anxiety

Take a few deep breaths

Our natural response to an anxious situation can cause an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, blushed cheeks and pacing around. But, if you can pause and just focus on your breath, you are redirecting your attention to your body in a calm manner. Being present is difficult for those who struggle with an anxiety disorder as so often their thoughts surround worries and concerns for the future. Breathing exercises can take your brain away from the negative future thinking to a more grounded, rational place right now.

Label and accept the feeling

This is anxiety; it is just a feeling; it does not mean there is something to fear. It’s an emotional reaction, call it out for what it is, and it could stop you spiralling in your head. It’s not pleasant, but it won’t last forever; giving the feeling a name can disconnect it from your true self. You can respond to your anxiety as if it was a person hijacking your brain, saying, “You have reared your ugly head again, I see you, but I will not engage with you”. Accepting your anxiety is also quite crucial and can be difficult for some. It doesn’t mean liking it or engaging fully with it, just observing it for what it is. It can be very powerful to address your anxiety as an imposter of the mind, as opposed to it being a meaningful part of you.

Don’t fight the thoughts

Observe them without judgement, as if you dig and dig to analyse them, they will likely only grow. You can question them to a degree, asking yourself “Is this worry realistic?” “Am I thinking rationally?”, but too much questioning can again lead you down a rabbit hole. Often, with anxious minds, we cannot accept not knowing the answers to our worries and fears, which fuels the cycle. Allowing the thoughts to flow in and out will take away the need to react as if they are scary. The more you try and block them, or stop them from entering your mind, the more your anxiety will grow.

Focus on something physical

Redirecting your body and mind onto something physical can decrease the immediate sensations felt by your anxious mind. What would you do if you weren’t anxious? Try doing that. Having something to refocus on in times of heightened anxiety can be a great asset to your toolbox when dealing with an overactive brain. An example of this could be washing the dishes, or cooking a meal, something that requires your attention to a physical task.

CBT Therapy Techniques for End-of-Holiday Anxiety

Choose Onebright for anxiety treatment

If you would like to seek professional help for a type of anxiety or think you may be struggling with a specific disorder, we are here to help.

Wherever you are in the world, Onebright therapists are highly trained and experienced in the evidence-based approach of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is highly effective in treating anxiety disorders. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours contributing to anxiety.

Our network therapists are BABCP accredited, meaning we offer the gold standard of CBT therapy available in the UK. Find out more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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