Did you know that there are 9 TYPES of anxiety? Knowing what type of anxiety you have will help you create solutions that WORK.
Here are the 9 types of anxiety: Which ones do you resonate the most with?
(1) Gut Anxiety
(2) Thought Anxiety
(3) Depressive Anxiety
(4) Cardiac Anxiety
(5) Nervous System Anxiety
(6) Angry Anxiety
(7) Endocrine Anxiety
(8) Trauma Anxiety
(9) Immune System 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.
Do you ever experience stomach discomfort alongside feelings of anxiety? Your appetite changes. Or maybe it’s so extreme that your anxiety causes diarrhea and vomiting? Believe it or not, gut health and mental health are intimately linked. In fact, there is an intricate connection between your gut and brain known as the gut-brain-axis.Thanks to the gut-brain-axis, when stress hits, it can trigger symptoms in both your mood and digestive system.
Symptoms of Gut Anxiety:
Upper Digestive Symptoms:
- Fullness or constriction in the throat and esophagus
- Stomach ulcers
- Appetite changes
Lower Digestive Symptoms:
- “Butterflies” or churning sensation
- Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Gut Anxiety: Understanding the Mind-Body Connection
The science behind gut health and your anxiety symptoms is nuanced but here are the two of the top reasons your emotional stress may show up with anxiety in your gut:
- The Enteric Nervous System: Often called the “second brain,” this network of nerves in your gut constantly communicates with your central brain, influencing digestion, mood, and overall well-being. Whe
- Gut Microbiome and Serotonin: Your gut bacteria plays a crucial role in producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential for mood regulation. When stressed, your gut microbiome can become unbalanced, leading to both digestive and emotional issues.
By understanding the gut-brain connection, you can gain valuable insight into the source of your symptoms and explore strategies for managing both your gut health and mental well-being.
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…
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.
Worry Manifesting in Your Heart:
Cardiac Anxiety is anxiety that is centralized in your chest and at your heart. While cardiac anxiety is a leading cause of emergency room visits, research shows only 15% are actual heart attacks. Anxiety can manifest physically, and the chest is a common target. This explains why many mistake panic attacks for heart attacks and vice versa.
Fight-or-Flight Response and Physical Symptoms:
During a panic attack, the body enters the “fight-or-flight” response. This triggers a cascade of physiological changes:
- Increased heart rate: Your heart races to pump more blood throughout the body.
- Muscle tension: Muscles, including those in your chest, contract, leading to tightness or pain.
- Elevated blood pressure: Blood pressure rises to prepare the body for action
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. But we’ve got way better solutions for you. In the Holistic Wellness Collective you’ll learn natural remedies, hacks, and strategies to calm cardiac anxiety, reduce anxiety-induced chest pain, and to help reduce panic attack symptoms.
Nervous System Anxiety
Have you ever experienced physical symptoms like tingling, numbness, or muscle tremors during periods of high stress or anxiety? These sensations might be a manifestation of nervous system anxiety.
Stress, Arousal, and the Body’s Stress Response:
When the body perceives danger, triggered by stress, trauma, medications, or medical conditions, it enters a state called autonomic arousal. This is a survival mechanism where hormones are released to prepare the body for “fight, flight, or freeze.”
Physiological Changes and Symptom Variations:
Autonomic arousal causes several physiological changes that can lead to nervous system anxiety symptoms:
- Constricted Blood Vessels: To prioritize blood flow to vital organs during perceived threats, smaller blood vessels constrict, potentially causing numbness and tingling in hands, feet, face, and scalp.
- Altered Nerve Firing: Nerves increase firing to prepare muscles for action, altering sensory experiences based on which nerves are impacted.
Nervous system 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 in severe cases, seizures. While extreme symptoms are relatively uncommon, knowing the root cause can empower a person to treat the root cause and get their life back.
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 over activation of the amygdala and an under activation of the prefrontal cortex.
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.
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 the Holistic Wellness Collective Membership!
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: 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. Little t traumas, or micro-traumas, refers to small, subtle injuries to the psyche that accumulate over time.
- Little t Traumas: Examples of little t traumas are gas lighting, interpersonal conflict, or legal issues.
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.
Immune System Anxiety
Do you ever feel like your symptoms are a moving target? First you get anxiety with prickling under your skin and joint pain. Then your sleep takes a turn for the worse and you’re getting hot flashes. You feel like you’re coming down with a cold every month before your cycle and every time you get sick it takes weeks longer than everyone else to recover.
Your doctors have thrown around words like, “Hashimoto’s,” “Chronic Fatigue,” “Fibromyalgia,” “Histamine Intolerance,” and “Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” but when push comes to shove, you feel like you’re a big mystery. You’ve tried a ton of different treatments but nothing really seems to stick. If this resonates, and anxiety is at the top of your list, you might be struggling with symptoms related to your immune system, which is called Immune System Anxiety.
Psychoneuroimmunology is a branch of science dedicated to exploring the complicated relationship between your emotional well being, the nervous system, and your immune system. Studies have identified many connections between these systems, and how a whole-person approach gets the best results– especially as it pertains to your emotional well-being.
9 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.