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What is Anxiety? What are the Different Types of Anxiety?

abnormal psychology, anxiety, cognitive psychology, biological psychology
What is Anxiety?

Today’s episode of The Psychology World Podcast is on anxiety disorders and the different types.

Today’s show notes are taken from my Abnormal Psychology 2nd Edition book:

After looking at depression, I thought that it would be good to look at some other psychological conditions that people can develop.

Personally, I loved this lecture at university because I love learning but it gave me the chance to learn about other types of mental conditions as well.

What are anxiety disorders?

This is a group of disorders that are distinguished by feelings of wrong and intense stress as well as when the sufferer makes attempts to deal with these feelings. Their methods are disruptive and largely unsuccessful.

Unfortunately, anxiety disorders are moderately common as the lifetime prevalence; how common the condition is in a population; of this condition is 29% (Kessler et al, 2005) and it’s more common in women than men. (Bresula, Chilcoal, Kessler and Davis, 1999)

In addition, the term anxiety disorders can be broken down into a lot of different sub-categories.


Phobias are a great subcategory to start off with as they’re well-known and television programmes love to use them.

But what actually are phobias?

A phobia is a very intense and irrational fear that is usually paired with great determination as well as effort to avoid to the object.

Such as: if you have a phobia of spiders then you would not only have an intense fear of spiders, but you would do everything in your power to avoid them as well.

Additionally, specific phobias are any disorder that is characterised by an extreme as well as irrational fear of a certain object or situation. Like: flying, spiders or snakes.

Overall, the prevalence of any specific phobia is 13% (Kessler et al, 2005) and women are twice as likely to have a specific phobia than men. (Bourdon et al, 1988)

Social Phobia/ Social Anxiety Disorder:

I once knew a girl who suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder and it was interesting from a psychological perspective; at least; to talk to her about social situations because she hated them. She hated being watched, judged and anything to do with being social.

Yet she was very social with certain people who she knew wouldn’t judge her.

Moving onto the content, people with social phobias are very fearful about being watched or judged by others.

Interestingly, it is not only negative perception or evaluation that is fearful but positive evaluation as well. (Weeks, Heinberg, Rodebaugh and Norton, 2008)

That fact makes this disorder very interesting because it’s natural to assume that the person would be concerned about negative evaluations. Like:

“She looks awful,”

“What is he doing? What an idiot?”

“The gym obviously isn’t working for them!”

Yet it makes almost no sense for them to be concerned about positive evaluations. Such as:

“He’s great to talk to,”

“That’s an amazing piece of work!”

“I love your cake, Sarah!”

Nonetheless, one of the possible reasons for why sufferers of this condition might hate positive evaluations is because it sets a standard and then they become fearful of them missing the standard in the future. Leading to people judging them because they failed this time.

Putting that into practice using the cake example, Sarah could make a great cake this time but as her friends think she’s an amazing cook now. She could become anxious over the thought of failing to bake another amazing cake, and her friends judging her for her failure.

Furthermore, men and women are affected equally by this disorder as well as it typically manifests itself in childhood or adolescences. (Robins and Regier, 1991)

This is a very interesting fact and it probably explains the behaviour of the girl that I knew.

Interestingly, sometimes a social phobia is limited to only one situation; like: speaking in groups; whilst in other cases, social phobias are widespread or generalised to many or all social situation.

Going back to the girl I knew, she hated meeting strangers and talking to them, but she was fine being the centre of attention for people that she knew.

Another downside of Social Anxiety Disorder:

In addition, to the suffering, the panic and the awful feelings associated with this condition.

When forced into situations, people that suffer from social phobia may use drugs or alcohol to ‘fortify’ themselves. This increases the risk of alcohol and substance abuse or dependency. (Pollack, 2001)

Which leads to many more problems for the individual.

Panic disorders:

This is another type of disorder that I’ve accounted in my life as I’ve had one or two friends that suffer from panic attacks as well as panic disorders. Especially, in social situations.

What are Panic Disorders?

This is a type of anxiety disorder that can be characterised by repeated or debilitating panic attacks.

Panic attacks are a sudden episode of horrific bodily symptoms. Like: choking, chest pains and distress.

All anxiety disorders involve panic attacks, yet a panic disorder involves panic attacks that come out the blue.

For example, the girl I knew that suffered from Social Anxiety Disorder had panic attacks in social situations and only those situations.

Nevertheless, a sufferer of a panic disorder would suffer from a panic attack in any situation.

Finally, panic disorders are found in 5% women and 2% men. (Barlow, 2002)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder:

Whilst, people with phobias and panic attacks suffer massively and their lives can be very disturbed. Both of these conditions are limited as without the stimulus or trigger these people can function almost ‘normally’

This doesn’t apply to people with Generalised Anxiety Disorder because these people aren’t anxious about a particular thing. Instead, their anxiety is continuous and severe.

This disorder is relatively common as it has a prevalence of 6% (Kessler et al 2005) as well as it’s twice as likely to be found in women than men.

An example of Generalised Anxiety Disorder is: “I’m so nervous about making a mistake at work I take all my reports home to rewrite them the night before I’m suppose to hand them in” (White, 1999, p.72)

People with generalised anxiety disorder worry about everything and anything as well as these people feel inadequate, can’t concentrate, are oversensitive and may sometimes suffer from insomnia.

According to Rickels and Ryan (2001), these behaviours can be accompanied by irregular breathing, chronic diaherria, rapid heart rate and excessive sweating.

Personally, I feel so sorry for these people as Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be very debilitating and stop you from enjoying life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of The Psychology World Podcast and if you want to learn more about Abnormal Psychology then please check out my Abnormal Psychology 2nd Edition book here.

Have a great day,


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