top of page
  • Writer's picturemeganwilliamsphd

A Brief Overview of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are a prevalent category of mental health conditions that can significantly impact an individual's daily life. In this blog post, we'll explore an overview of the anxiety disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), shedding light on their distinctive features and commonalities.

Anxiety Disorders in the DSM-5

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about various aspects of life, including work, health, and personal relationships. Individuals with GAD often find it challenging to control their anxiety, leading to physical symptoms like muscle tension, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder involves recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, which are sudden episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and shortness of breath. Fear of future panic attacks can lead individuals to avoid certain situations, contributing to the development of agoraphobia.


Agoraphobia involves an intense fear of situations or places where escape may be difficult or embarrassing in the event of a panic attack. Individuals with agoraphobia may avoid crowded spaces, public transportation, or open areas, impacting their daily activities and social life.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Formerly known as social phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by an overwhelming fear of social situations and a persistent concern about being judged or scrutinized by others. Individuals with SAD may avoid social interactions or endure them with extreme distress.

Specific Phobia

Specific Phobia involves an intense and irrational fear of a specific object, situation, or activity. Common phobias include fear of heights, animals, flying, or needles. Avoidance behaviors are often employed to manage the anxiety associated with the phobic stimulus.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

While commonly associated with children, Separation Anxiety Disorder can also affect adults. It involves excessive fear or anxiety about separation from attachment figures, leading to distress and avoidance of situations that may result in separation.

Selective Mutism

Selective Mutism is characterized by consistently being unable to speak in certain social situations, despite being able to speak comfortably in other settings. This condition often manifests in childhood and can affect academic and social functioning.

Substance/Medication-Induced Anxiety Disorder

This category encompasses anxiety symptoms that arise due to the use of substances or medications, such as withdrawal from substances, intoxication, or exposure to medications that may induce anxiety-like symptoms.

Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition

Anxiety symptoms can also be a result of another medical condition. This category includes cases where a medical condition directly contributes to the development of anxiety, such as hyperthyroidism or cardiovascular conditions.

Other DSM-5 Diagnoses Involving Symptoms of Anxiety

There are a few mental health diagnoses that are not included in the Anxiety Disorders sections of the DSM, but are appropriate to mention here as they involve significant symptoms of anxiety.

Illness Anxiety Disorder (IAD)

Illness Anxiety Disorder, previously known as Hypochondriasis, is characterized by excessive worry about having a serious medical condition, despite minimal or no medical evidence to support the belief. Individuals with IAD often misinterpret bodily sensations as signs of a severe illness and may seek excessive medical attention, leading to unnecessary tests and procedures.

Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety is a subtype of Adjustment Disorder, a mental health condition that arises in response to significant life stressors. This subtype specifically involves symptoms of anxiety as a reaction to stressors, such as life changes, relationship issues, or work-related stress. The anxiety symptoms exceed what would be considered a normal reaction to the stressor and can significantly impair functioning.


Each anxiety disorder listed in the DSM-5 is unique in its presentation, yet they share common themes of excessive fear, avoidance behaviors, and significant distress. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, know that you are not alone. Therapy can help you learn to effectively cope with these symptoms so you get your life back.

Author: Dr. Megan Williams, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Megan Williams Psychology, LLC

IG: @meganwilliamspsychology


Looking for a therapist that specializes in anxiety in Maryland? Call (410) 617-9699 or visit to schedule a free 15-minute consult with Dr. Megan Williams.



bottom of page