The Somethings guides
A Parents' Guide to Anxiety
What are the types of anxiety?
6 min read
Anxiety is a complex experience that affects different teens in different ways. Now that we’ve talked a bit about what might cause anxiety, let’s dive in to some of the different kinds of anxiety that teens might face. Each of the following is a clinical diagnosis for anxiety grounded in descriptions from the NIMH to be as accurate as possible.
Social Anxiety Disorder
“Social anxiety disorder is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. This fear can affect work, school, and other daily activities. It can even make it hard to make and keep friends. The good news is social anxiety disorder is treatable. A person with social anxiety disorder feels symptoms of anxiety or fear in situations where they may be scrutinized, evaluated, or judged by others, such as speaking in public, meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class, or having to talk to a cashier in a store. Doing everyday things, such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom, also may cause anxiety or fear due to concerns about being humiliated, judged, and rejected.”(1)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
“Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Many people may worry about things such as health, money, or family problems. But people with GAD feel extremely worried or nervous more frequently about these and other things—even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. GAD usually involves a persistent feeling of anxiety or dread that interferes with how you live your life. It is not the same as occasionally worrying about things or experiencing anxiety due to stressful life events. People living with GAD experience frequent anxiety for months, if not years.” (2)
“Specific phobia is an intense, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. Although adults with phobias may realize that these fears are irrational, even thinking about facing the feared object or situation brings on severe anxiety symptoms.” (3)
“People with panic disorder have frequent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks are characterized by a sudden wave of fear or discomfort or a sense of losing control even when there is no clear danger or trigger. Not everyone who experiences a panic attack will develop panic disorder.
Panic attacks often include physical symptoms that might feel like a heart attack, such as trembling, tingling, or rapid heart rate. Panic attacks can occur at any time. Many people with panic disorder worry about the possibility of having another attack and may significantly change their life to avoid having another attack. Panic attacks can occur as frequently as several times a day or as rarely as a few times a year.” (4)
“Separation anxiety is often thought of as something that only children deal with. However, adults can also be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder. People with separation anxiety disorder fear being away from the people they are close to. They often worry that something bad might happen to their loved ones while they are not together. This fear makes them avoid being alone or away from their loved ones. They may have bad dreams about being separated or feel unwell when separation is about to happen.” (5)
“The teens I work with day to day experience anxiety in all shapes and forms that don’t always conform to what we read in clinical manuals. What’s important is that they speak about their experience with someone that they trust.” - Ahmed Khan
As we’ve said before, anxiety can be experienced in many different ways that don’t fit into these five categories. If your teen’s symptoms don’t necessarily fall into one of these categories but you still have concerns, consult with a mental health professional who can help you understand what might be going on.