Did you know that there are 8 TYPES of anxiety? Knowing what type of anxiety you have will help you create solutions that WORK.
Here are the 8 types of anxiety: Which ones do you resonate the most with?
(1) Gut Anxiety
(2) Thought Anxiety
(3) Depressive Anxiety
(4) Cardiac Anxiety
(5) Neurological Anxiety
(6) Angry Anxiety
(7) Endocrine Anxiety
(8) Trauma Anxiety
Let’s expand on each of these types of anxiety. In each section you will learn more about each type of anxiety, have the opportunity to take a quiz to identify which forms of anxiety you might be dealing with, and learn about my top tips for managing each.
If you get butterflies in your stomach with anxiety, or gas, bloating, indigestion, or pain, you might be experiencing Gut Anxiety.
Gut Anxiety is anxiety that manifests in symptoms in your digestive tract. This can relate to symptoms in your upper digestive tract, like: reflux/ heartburn, burping, and fullness or constriction in your throat and esophagus, nausea, stomach ulcers, and appetite changes, as well as symptoms in your lower digestive tract, like: gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, butterflies, churning, and even digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
There are 2 primary reasons that anxiety can manifest in your gut:
First: Your gut and your brain are intimately connected via what is referred to as the Enteric Nervous System. The Enteric Nervous system is often referred to as The Second Brain, (Cleveland Clinic, 2020) because the nerves in the gut communicate back and forth with your brain Your gut is filled with nerves that communicate back and forth with your brain (ADAA, 2018).
Second: It is well established that the microflora of your gut is responsible for producing approximately 95% of your serotonin levels (APA, 2012). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is important in regulating your mood. When your serotonin levels are out of balance, you may experience digestive upset, as well as changes in your mood.
(2) Thought Anxiety
Does it ever feel like your brain is constantly tormenting you with intrusive, persistent, and obsessive thoughts? This is one of the most frustrating anxiety symptoms because these thoughts can crush our confidence, distract us from what really matters, and hijack our happiness. If you resonate with this, it is likely you are struggling with Thought Anxiety (ADAA, 2019).
Thought Anxiety is particularly tricky, because no matter where we are and what we do, our brains are with us. And where our brains are, our thoughts will be, too. The other difficult part about Thought Anxiety is that we need thoughts to survive.
There are 3 key factors that put you at an increased risk of thought anxiety, they are:
- You have directly experienced or have witnessed trauma, resulting in you needing to be hyper-aware or hyper-vigilant of your circumstances, relationships or surroundings.
- Your life is high-pressure, high-demand, and requires you constantly be on the top of your game intellectually and emotionally.
- You tend to problem-solve by thinking through your struggles instead of relying on your emotions and body.
While depression and anxiety are technically different conditions, they often occur together (Mayo Clinic, 2017). If you struggle with feelings of anxiety primarily, but experience depressive undertones, it is possible you may be dealing with Depressive Anxiety. While it’s normal to feel discouraged or disheartened when anxiety is high, Depressive Anxiety occurs when the depression becomes persistent and intense enough to interfere in your life.
The first step is to identify symptoms of depression and symptoms of anxiety.
Symptoms of Depression
- Feeling sad, empty, hopeless.
- Loss of interest in activities or people.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Appetite changes.
- Difficulties with concentration and memory.
- Feeling worthless, guilty, or fixated thoughts.
- Lowered self-confidence.
- Thoughts or behaviors related to suicide and death.
Symptoms of Anxiety
- Persistent worry.
- Feelings of doom or foreboding.
- Overthinking worst-case possibilities.
- Struggling with uncertainty or lack of control.
- Feeling indecisive.
- Feeling keyed up or on edge
- Depersonalization/ dissociation.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Restlessness, trembling, digestive upset, numbness, tingling…
Reference for symptoms of depression (Mayo Clinic, 2018)
Reference for symptoms of anxiety (Mayo Clinic, 2017)
Your heart is racing, palpitating, skipping beats and you’re terrified that you’re having a heart attack. But you go to the ER and after running a battery of tests they tell you your heart is healthy and that your symptoms are caused by anxiety or panic.
If this sounds familiar, you might be dealing with a type of anxiety called Cardiac Anxiety.
Cardiac Anxiety is anxiety that is centralized in your chest and at your heart. Cardiac Anxiety is one of the top causes of hospital admissions but according to research, only 15% of those admissions were for actual heart attacks (Heart Sisters.org, 2016).
Anxiety can cause symptoms head to toe, and a very common location of anxiety is in your chest. It is no wonder that so many people mistake panic for heart attacks and visa versa. One of the reasons you might be experiencing chest pain with anxiety is because in panic, your body goes into what is called the fight, flight, freeze response. When this response is activated, your heart rate will speed up, muscles in your body including your chest will contract, and your blood pressure will rise.
One important thing to keep in mind: If you are ever in doubt, always call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. But if you’ve been appropriately examined and the doctor has assured you it’s a panic attack, there are solutions. Standard medical practice offers a mix of cognitive behavioral therapy and anxiety medications (SSRI antidepressants, beta-blockers, or benzodiazepines are among the most common.
Have you ever felt so anxious that your hands and feet literally go numb? Or maybe you feel shooting pains across your nerves. One of my most common anxiety symptoms is soreness and spasming of my muscles– especially in my neck, which causes tension headaches.
These are all symptoms of a type of anxiety called Neurological Anxiety (Pubmed, 1999, PMID: 10378953).
Neurological Anxiety can range in severity from mild numbness and tingling or muscle tension, all the way to the other end of the spectrum where people may experience debilitating pains or even seizures (Mayo Clinic, 2019). While extreme symptoms are relatively uncommon, knowing the root cause can empower a person to treat the root cause and get their life back.
So let’s talk a little bit about what Neurological Anxiety is, and why it may happen in anxiety. When the body is under stress, undergoes trauma, or if the nervous system is activated by a medication or other medical condition, it shits into a state called autonomic arousal. Autonomic arousal is what the body uses to protect itself when danger is perceived and a whole cascade of hormones are released that causes your body to be able to fight, flight, or freeze.
One of the changes that these chemicals cause is constriction of the smaller blood vessels in your body so more blood can be sent to your heart and to the larger muscle groups that will aid your escape from danger. The constriction of blood flow can cause numbness and tingling in the blood-deprived areas. So you may notice numbness and tingling in your hands, feet, and maybe even in your face and scalp.
Another change is that the nerves in your body may fire differently. For example, in order to contract muscles to brace your body, your nerves increase their rate of firing. Your experiences will change depending on which nerves are turned up versus which are turned down.
Every body’s body is different, and we all have nerves and blood vessels running from head to toe, and so that means that Neurological Anxiety can cause symptoms throughout the entire nervous system and musculoskeletal system (Medical News Today, 2021).
When you’re overwhelmed, do you ever feel irritated and annoyed? If you’re on a deadline and someone interrupts you do you want to lash out? If you feel like your stress, overwhelm, anxiety and anger often merge into each other, know that you’re not alone.
For purposes of this conversation, I am defining anger as an intense feeling of feeling hurt, frustrated, disappointed, or even threatened. Anger is a natural response the body and mind uses to help move us out of those negative experiences into those where we feel greater control or protection.
Anger and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. One of the reasons is that the neurochemicals that your body releases when anxious are quite similar to those released in anger. One of the key chemicals released that leads to anger is called adrenaline. Adrenaline, otherwise referred to as epinephrine/ or norepinephrine is a hormone released by your adrenal glands in response to extreme stress. These stress signals go to the brain and a cascade of physical and emotional responses occur. In particular, we see a part of the brain, called the amygdala, becoming activated in anger. The amygdala is the emotional center of the brain, and it’s job is to detect threats or danger, and respond (National Forum, 2013).
There are several variables that makes Anger Anxiety different from anxiety-anxiety, these include:
- Emotional regulation of the stress response: Does the person go into a fight? Or do they tend to fall into collapse or escape into flight?
- Genetics: We see a significantly higher predisposition to anger, for example, in individuals with a genetic disorder called Kleinfelter.
- Trauma, PTSD whether direct or witnessed
- Brain changes: Generally an overactivation of the amygdala and an underactivation of the prefrontal cortex.
Reference for variables of anger: Pubmed, 2012, PMID: 22267973
Years ago, my good friend Charlotte developed pretty severe anxiety and several doctors told her: “It’s all in your head.” But she tried therapy, exercise, mediation and even an antidepressant, but her anxiety got worse and now she was experiencing more troubling physical symptoms. Finally, Charlotte was able to get a doctor to take her seriously. Long story short, we finally identified the root of Charlotte’s anxiety: Grave’s Thyroiditis. She had anxiety to be sure, but the anxiety was coming from her thyroid gland. There is a happy end to this story. Once Charlotte had dialed in on the root cause of her symptoms, she was able to treat the cause, and not only did her anxiety get better, but her thyroid did, too (by the way, she did not have to have her thyroid removed, but that is a story for another time).
Charlotte had Endocrine Anxiety. Endocrine Anxiety is anxiety that is caused by an imbalance in your endocrine system. Your endocrine system is a series of glands that release hormones all over your body to carry out all sorts of functions. Examples of endocrine glands are: Thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, hypothalamus, pancreas, ovaries, testicles, and parathyroid (Hormone.org, 2021).
If you’re wondering if your thyroid is causing your anxiety, or if your adrenals are causing your anxiety, or if your hormones are out of balance and if that’s leading to your symptoms, you deserve a doctor who will help you get to the root cause.
This can be an overwhelming process and to save you money and avoid “spray and pray” testing, I’ve actually created an algorithm to help you determine what tests are best for you given your symptoms. You can find this algorithm in Module III, Testing and Targeting of the Anxiety Breakthrough Program, you can learn more by clicking HERE.
Trauma anxiety is anxiety that occurs as a result of a trauma. You may have heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but what you may not know is that your anxiety may be the result of trauma even if you are not diagnosed with PTSD.
Different types of trauma: There are two main categories of trauma, we call the Big T traumas, and little t traumas. Big T traumas are traumas that occur as a result of a massive event, like a car accident, combat, assault, or going through a natural disaster (Psych Today, 2017). Little t traumas, or microtraumas, refers to small, subtle injuries to the psyche that accumulate over time. Examples of little t traumas are gas lighting, interpersonal conflict, or legal issues (APA, 2019).
Traumas can be acute or chronic and both may cause long-term symptoms. When it comes to anxiety, one of the main causes is trauma.
8 Types of Anxiety FAQ
Q: Can I have multiple types of anxiety at once?
A: Yes absolutely. Think of it as a multi-layer salad. At the bottom you may have spinach, then on top of that layer are tomatoes, then cheese and at the top croutons. Similarly, the root of your anxiety might be an imbalance in your estrogen and progesterone levels (Endocrine Anxiety), but your irritability is more bothersome than the hormonal symptoms (Anger Anxiety) and the most bothersome part, the croutons on the top, is the numbness in your fingers and toes (Neurological Anxiety). The body will guide you where to start by making those symptoms the most apparent. So in this example, start by tending to your nervous system, then work on the frustration and anger, and then once those pieces are in place, do the trauma work.
Q: Which anxiety type do I start with if I have more than one?
A: Knowing the type of anxiety will help guide you to how to optimally address your symptoms. Start with the main thing, and then work your way backwards. If the main thing is the palpitations in your chest, and less annoying but still present is gas and bloating, instead of taking a bunch of supplements for your gut, focus on soothing the Chest Anxiety and then after that do the gut work.
Q: Can my anxiety type change over time?
A: Yes, absolutely. Our bodies are continuously adjusting and adapting over time, and therefore paying attention to your needs in the moment will help you get the best results with your treatments.
Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.