How Many Forms Can Anxiety Take?

How Many Forms Can Anxiety Take?

Anxiety can take many forms. Anxiety is a normal emotion to experience. Anxiety is a powerful source of motivation. When we experience it at a low level, we are motivated to act. Action reduces anxiety. 

When anxiety reaches levels that are too high, it can leave us unable to act. 

This is the Yerkes-Dodson Law of psychology (Cohen, 2011).

A certain level of arousal will improve our performance. Too high an arousal level will impair our performance. When high is experienced at a high level and on a long term basis, it can be defined as a psychological disorder. This level of anxiety is maladaptive, and results in dysfunction and distress and impairment. Here is an overview of anxiety disorders.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  1. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:  PTSD is rooted in a traumatizing event. This event could be a one-time occurrence, which is referred to as shock trauma, or it could be chronic stress over months or years. PTSD is the sick realization that the world is no longer a safe place. This perception of safety can be ripped away suddenly or gradually eroded. People with PTSD have insomnia, nightmares, vivid memories of the trauma, and are easily startled. Use of alcohol and drugs in a vain effort to control symptoms is also common (American Psychiatric Association, 2017)

  2. Illness Anxiety Disorder: IAD is better known as hypochondria. Hypochondria is anxiety about illness. There will be recurring fear of illness, greatly exaggerated and dramatic descriptions of minor or benign symptoms, and either avoidance or frequent attendance at medical appointments, seeking reassurance or fearful they will be diagnosed with some terrible disease (Porter, 2014)

  3. Social phobia: Social phobia is anxiety around social interactions. People with social anxiety are not shy or introverted; they want to have social interaction but are full of self-doubt that others will accept them (Porter, 2014d)    

  4. Specific phobias are too numerous to comprehensively describe or list here. Specific phobias are an irrational fear of a situation or object. Common examples are:  

    1. Glossophobia - fear of public speaking   
    2. Achluophobia - fear of the dark      
    3. Aerophobia - fear of heights 
    4. Gephyrophobia - fear of high or long bridges
    5. Pteromerhanophobia - fear of flying    
    6. Agoraphobia - fear of open spaces         
    7. Claustrophobia - fear of enclosed spaces (Cherry, 2019).     

  5. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:  OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive and unwanted thoughts and images. The person suffering from OCD will engage in compulsive behaviors in an effort to stop the intrusive thoughts and images. They will experience terrible fears of what might happen if they don't engage in the behaviors. The worst part of OCD will be the awareness that the thoughts are unwanted and a product of one's own mind, and that the behaviors are useless. This will result in constant conflict and an ongoing and exhausting internal battle (American Psychiatric Association, 2017).   

  6. General Anxiety disorder: GAD is an umbrella or wastebasket term for anxiety. This is a type of anxiety that does not fit into any of the prior categories (American Psychiatric Association, 2017).   

  7. Panic disorder can be a part of any of the preceding forms of anxiety. Panic disorder is the frequent recurring acute activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The The sympathetic nervous system regulates our Flight/Fight/Freeze response. It is our bodies emergency alarm system, designed to keep us safe from harm through fleeing from a threat, engaging the threat, or immobilizing so the threat passes us by. This system can malfunction, and sound the alarm in the absence of a real threat (American Psychiatric Association, 2017).


“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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Treatment Options For Anxiety

The good news about anxiety disorders is that they are very treatable. Anxiety disorders are well managed through:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): 
CBT is very effective for managing anxiety. CBT is rooted in the philosophy of stoicism. The basic premise of both the treatment method and philosophy is that it is not objective reality which is distressing; it is our subjective interpretation of that reality which can be distressing or not (IQWIG, 2016).

SSRI's (Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors):
This is a class of medications that all work similarly, by increasing the availability of Serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or biochemical which is involved with communication between nerve cells. Low levels of serotonin are implicated in anxiety, as well as depression (National Health Services, 2018).

Lifestyle changes

This is where you will do the work. CBT works well to manage anxiety. SSRI's work well. Combining CBT with an SSRI is even more effective. The other very important element is to look at your day to day behaviors, and make adjustments which are conducive to anxiety reduction.

  • Eat regularly & hydrate sufficiently. Hypoglycemia- low blood sugar- is well established as a trigger of anxiety.
  • Check your posture. Stand and sit up straight, with your head held high and your shoulders back. A change in posture can change your mood for the better. When you draw into yourself, cringing from the world, it does not help your mood (Jocko Willink, 2018).
  • Social connections. What kind of people are in your life? Do they offer you comfort and encouragement while holding you accountable? Or are they a cause of your anxiety. We outgrow people as we progress through life. Consider when it is time to cut people loose who do not add value to your life.
  • Journaling, Sleep & Exercise: See the hyperlinked articles for details (Porter, 2014, 2014b, and 2014c). 


The bottom line is anxiety comes in many forms, and can be overwhelming. There are effective treatments available.

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American Psychiatric Association. (2017). What Are Anxiety Disorders? American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

Cherry, K. (2019). A to Z: Strange and Common List of Phobias. verywellmind. Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

Cohen R.A. (2011) Yerkes–Dodson Law. In: Kreutzer J.S., DeLuca J., Caplan B. (eds) Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. Springer, New York, NY

IQWIG. (2016). Cognitive behavioral therapy. NCBI Bookshelf. Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

Jocko Willink. (2018). Stand up Straight and Be Competent - Jocko Willink and Jordan Peterson . Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

National Health Services. (2018). Overview - Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

Porter, D.A. (2014a) Illness Anxiety Disorder DSM-5 300.7 (F45.21). Theravive. Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

Porter, D.A. (2014b). Journal Writing as a Therapeutic Tool. Theravive. Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

Porter, D.A. (2014c) Managing Your Mood with Exercise. Theravive. Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

Porter, D.A. (2014d) Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) DSM-5 300.23 (F40.10)Theravive. Retrieved April 5, 2020 from

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