Anxiety disorders can be difficult to diagnose, and often even harder to remedy. Being able to identify which disorder a person has can be key in creating an effective treatment program.

The US Department of Health identifies five different types of anxiety disorder[1] in this article we first look at the different traits of these conditions and then some of the best ways in which to manage them, according to leading experts.

The Five Types of Anxiety Disorders

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder(GAD)

This anxiety disorder is characterized by a pronounced feeling of worry and tension, with chronic anxiety not brought on for any specific reason.

GAD not only tends to affect one’s ability to work, travel or even leave the house,it can also lead to insomnia and fatigue at the same time, with many sufferers left in a constant state of exhaustion [2].

2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Noted traits of OCD involve recurring and unwanted obsessions, usually coupled with repetitive behaviors. Even when the individual is fully aware of their irrational nature, they can still find it impossible to stop. Different types of OCD include fixations on cleanliness, hoarding, and excessive double-checking of things like door locks or alarms [3].

3. Panic Disorder

This condition produces acute physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath or dizziness that arise suddenly and sometimes for no apparent reason. Many times, the sufferer can feel that they’re having a heart attack, which obviously adds to their overall distress.

A panic disorder is particularly frightening and overwhelming due to its physical effects and repeated episodic nature [4].

4. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

While it’s mostly associated with veterans of the military, PTSD can affect anyone who might have been witness to a traumatic event, such as a violent assault, accident or natural disaster. Sufferers might have flashbacks or nightmares of the event, reliving the experience over and over, or feel upset by things that remind them of that time.

Others might perceive a sufferer to be emotionally distanced, and they are also more susceptible to periods of depression [5].

5. Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)

Social phobia is distinct due to its specific situational characteristic, where anxieties happens about by everyday social settings. This can bring on low self-esteem or excessive self-awareness, and be accompanied by other physical signs of anxiety like sweating [6].

The fear of doing something embarrassing means people with this disorder will do their best to avoid certain situations or even turn to substance abuse to mask their inhibitions.

How To Manage Your Anxiety

how to manage anxiety

Just as there are a variety of anxiety disorders, so too are there different ways in which to manage them. Treatment should be individualized; and what might work for one person might not work for all.

Ultimately, when it comes to the most effective path to recovery, there is no ‘perfect’ treatment that is more effective. Whether on basis of medicinal, therapeutic or lifestyle, the patient should decide the choice of treatment and their treatment specialist; and can include one or more of the following:

1. Therapy

Therapy will usually be the first port of call for many, aiming to understand the deeper root of the problem. So that the individual can take action to address the adverse behavior a disorder might be causing.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) looks to address the emotional response of the sufferer; allowing the patient to identify and alter thought patterns that might trigger deep anxiety or panic. Indeed, a study from the University of Pennsylvania showed CBT to be one of the most successful treatments of anxiety disorders [7].

2. Healthy diet plans

healthy diet plans

Diet plays an important role in helping manage anxiety, says Uma Naidoo, MD, of Harvard Medical School [8]. Looking at a person’s approach to their nutrition and putting together a healthy diet plan can be of great benefit in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

For example, less caffeine can reduce the risk of panic attacks, whilst switching to more complex carbohydrates, which are abundant in whole foods rather than processed foods, maintains more consistent blood sugar levels, resulting in a calmer feeling throughout the day [9].

3. Medication

There are some medications that help with anxiety, however these should only be used under the guidance of medical specialists.

  • Anti-depressants (in the form of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)) are widely in use, especially for those experiencing anxiety and depression together. While some people react well to medication, studies have debated their effectiveness, largely due to the associated adverse side-effects [10].
  • Beta-blockers slow the heart rate by blocking the effects of adrenaline, and in doing so decrease the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders, like uncontrollable shaking [11].
  • Psychoactive drugs (such as Benzodiazepines) are used in the most serious cases of anxiety treatment since although they’re effective in the short term, they can create a risk of dependency and addiction [12].

4. Exercise

aerobic exercise

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America sees exercise as an effective treatment against anxiety disorders.

Even just five minutes of aerobic exercise produces chemicals that lessen anxiety. This, in turn has a positive effect on the immune system, helping patients feel more in control of their health and reducing stress levels further.

5. Adequate Sleep

Harvard Medical School stands by the fact that getting less sleep than needed creates stress and can contribute to depression [13].

Lack of sleep means less time for vital REM sleep and deep sleep; which are both essential for health and well-being. Regular, good quality sleep relaxes the heart rate and encourages both physical and mental healing, resulting in lower overall stress levels.


As we’ve seen, there are many different types of anxiety disorders and each has a specific set of distressing symptoms. Very few people can manage their anxiety alone. So, while you can take steps to improve your sleep, diet and physical activity, it’s certainly advisable to seek professional help. With the right guidance and treatment, it’s possible to overcome anxiety and go on to lead a happy, healthy life.