What are the "types" of anxiety? I have produced the following list and brief descriptions. Sources include but are not limited to WebMD, Wikipedia, personal interviews with psychiatrists, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV) and my personal experience. Thus, while this list is not authoritative, I regard it as reasonably complete and free of any substantive factual errors.
Panic disorder: The sudden onset of a sense of terror, imminent danger, need to escape, or the notion that one is "going crazy." Symptoms include rapid or uneven pulse and/or the sense of not being able to breath. Sometimes, the onset may seem to occur for no particular reason, and sometimes, panic may be triggered by a certain place or situation or sensory experience such as hearing or smelling. Adaptations include avoidance of trigger places or situations, such as flying or the theater or a certain roadway.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Thoughts or fears and which occur so often that they occupy a great deal of waking experience and obstruct the ability to experience life without on-going concern for addressing the situations that create the thoughts and fears. The "obsession" refers to the thinking process or fear, such as fear of germs or health disorders or overwhelming uncertainty about personal safety or safety of others, or even the need to affirm that objects are properly organized or stored. The adaptation to the thought or fear, which is to say the specific behavior deployed to correct or address the obsession, is the "compulsion." Frequent hand-washing, checking blood pressure often, repeatedly affirming the location of people, and repeated confirmation that doors or locked or the coffee pot is off are all examples. The corrective behaviors frequently take the form of rituals which must be performed in a certain way to be regarded as effective.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Persistent and frightening or disturbing thoughts about past events which resulted in trauma, that is, extraordinary mental or physical stress and/or injury. Examples may include sudden events, such as a natural disaster, or severe experience such as combat, imprisonment or abuse. It is not the nature of the event itself which is controlling on the question of its severity, but rather the reaction to it which qualifies it as traumatic.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD): Overwhelming and/or disabling concern about routine social situations and people encountered in everyday life when the concern is unsupported or not well supported by actual fact. Excessive worry about being judged by others, inappropriate appearance, or the possibility of embarrassing behavior are examples. The disorder is also known as "social phobia."
Specific phobias: An intense and inappropriate fear of a specific object or situation in which results in extraordinary measures to avoid or control exposure to the object or situation. Included among the top phobias are fear of spiders, snakes, blood, flying, confined spaces, heights, vomit, cancer, thunderstorms and death.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) : Excessive worry and tension which cannot be immediately related to a particular external cause or internal thoughts.
PLEASE NOTE WELL: Any one, any combination, or all of the above may be and are present in normal life and experience to some degree at one time or another. Basically, they become disorders when they are so prominent in our thoughts and behavior that they frequently or profoundly interfere with our peace-of-mind and sense of well-being and/or our ability to perform the ordinary and routine tasks of daily living.
Be advised that the above list is simply a classification system which enables people to apply, for diagnostic purposes, a label to sets of conditions and symptoms which are frequently found grouped together in human experience generally. Long story short: the NAME of a disorder is simply a kind of short-hand that refers to a larger body of conditions. In actual fact, people who suffer mainly from one disorder, may also have components of other disorders as well. For example, a fear of snakes may also carry a panic reaction. (In fact, the DSM-IV says that "panic attack" itself is NOT a diagnosis, but rather the reaction to something else).
The practical benefit of the classification of anxiety types is that it may suggest to medical professionals the kinds of treatments and therapies which have been shown to be effective in relieving the disorder. And it may also help us come to grips with the ways in which professionals may be likely to think about the symptoms we present.