What type of anxiety do I have?

World Bipolar Day is celebrated each year on March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was posthumously diagnosed as having the disorder.

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 estimated that 4% of the global population suffers from an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is experienced in different ways, and in some cases, the specificity of it can lead to a diagnosis in a particular disorder. You may not have a diagnosis right now, 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 thought.

It’s important to state here that we all experience Anxiety.

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 a therapist about a diagnosis, which can allow you to get the correct help to take back control of your life.

What type of Anxiety do I have?

GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder)

GAD is the most common type of anxiety disorder but 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 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, existential 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, you’re always on guard 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.

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

In the UK, most people who are seeking treatment for anxiety fall between the ages of 29-35.

All of our therapists are BABCP accredited, meaning we offer the highest standard of CBT therapy available. Find out more about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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