Understanding Different Types of Anxiety

Students who struggle with anxiety can find ways to help.

Photo Courtesy of: Google Images

Students who struggle with anxiety can find ways to help.

Mrs. Carroll, Counselor

Feeling a small amount of anxiousness when in certain situations is normal.  Maybe there is a test you want to get a good grade on, or you play a sport and you want to do well in and win, or you like someone and want to ask them out.  In all of these situations, it is perfectly normal to feel butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, or your heart beating faster.  However, when someone’s anxiety keeps them from being able to handle everyday situations or causes them to avoid situations altogether, this is when it can fall into an anxiety disorder diagnosis.  

Common symptoms for anxiety include:

Trouble sleeping

Complaining about stomach aches or other physical problems

Avoiding situations

Trouble focusing in class or showing fidgety behavior

Disruptive behaviors or outbursts

Overly self-conscious behavior


Different anxiety disorders are below along with what to look for:

Social Anxiety Disorder

This is someone who is extremely self-conscious, finds it hard to socialize with peers, and could even have panic attacks at the thought of presenting in front of the class.

A student’s fear of being humiliated must be severe enough to interfere with normal day to day functioning.  Symptoms include:

Actively avoiding social situations that cause anxiety or suffering through them with extreme distress.

A panic reaction; sweating, shaking, or shortness of breath when responding to a social situation.

Selective Mutism

This is someone who has a hard time speaking in some situations which goes beyond just being shy.  Students with SM can become ‘frozen’ and unable to speak.  Symptoms include:

Able to speak in certain situations but not in others.

This condition has to have been ongoing for months.

Not being able to speak has to interfere with school and social situations.

Not being able to speak is not because the student doesn’t know how to communicate.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Someone who is diagnosed with GAD worries about a wide variety of situations in their day to day life.  Their worry can be mild to excessive and is generally attached to school and perfectionism.

This student feels their anxiety is beyond their control and causes significant distress and feels it is consistent for more days than not.  For a diagnosis, this feeling must last for more than six months.  Symptoms include:


Feeling on-edge

Always tired

Unable to concentrate


Trouble sleeping

Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are unexpected, unpredictable, and leave someone feeling that they are misinterpreted while also feeling disconnected from reality.  Physically someone may feel as if they are experiencing heart attack-like symptoms.  

Panic disorders are diagnosed only after medical signs and symptoms have been excluded.  Psychiatric disorders such as PTSD and OCD must also be excluded.  Attacks must be recurring and unexpected and the following other signs must accompany it:

Preoccupied with future attacks.

Fear of the effects of another attack; the feeling of having a heart attack or going crazy.

Changes in normal behavior after an attack such as avoiding places associated with them.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Someone experiencing this disorder will constantly feel intrusive thoughts or worries so much so that they develop habits they feel to perform in order to control the anxiety.  A diagnosis is given when someone has obsessive or compulsive thoughts or both.  Symptoms include:

Unwanted intrusive thoughts, images, or impulses that cause upset or anxiety.

When compulsive rituals are driven by the need to get rid of anxiety.

How to Treat Anxiety

One of the best ways to help anxiety is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).  This therapy is based on how we think and act affects how we feel.  Changing distorted thoughts and dysfunctional behavior, we can change how we feel.  Some students also find success with medication.

For more information on anxiety go to childmind.org.