Is What You’re Feeling Actually Anxiety?

Anxiety Disorder?  Do I have one?

I don’t like labels. In the anxiety counseling field, therapists have a defined set of “anxiety disorders” to use for diagnosis.

I prefer an individualized approach… looking at the unique way that anxiety surfaces for each person, and making a customized plan for getting relief.   But people often ask whether different problems are actually anxiety, so here’s a look at different types of anxiety without worrying about the labels. Remember these are generalities and show up differently for different people.

Different Types of Anxiety

Holistic Anxiety therapy with Di Philippi, MA, LPCChronic Worry

You would probably call yourself a “worry wart.” You constantly worry about a number of different things… work, health, relationships. You think of worst-case scenarios and often wonder “what if” this or “what if” that.

Panic Attacks (aka Anxiety Attacks)

You suddenly feel physical symptoms that feel out of control, such as heart racing, dizziness, trembling, sweating, chills or flush, tingling or numbness. It comes out of nowhere and is very scary.  That causes more panic. You might think you’re having a heart attack and go to the emergency room, only to find out nothing is physically wrong.

Fears and Phobias

You have strong fears of very specific things, such as: flying, driving, heights, enclosed spaces (like elevators, planes, or rooms without a clear exit route), bugs, blood, driving, being alone, or being away from home. These are just some examples.

Social Anxiety (Shyness)

You often feel nervous around other people, perhaps only in a certain social situation, or in many different ones. You feel very self-conscious, wonder what people are thinking about you, and worry about embarrassing yourself.

Obsessive Thinking

You have the very same upsetting thoughts over and over again. This could include thoughts of losing control, being contaminated (or contaminating others) with dirt or germs, or feeling guilty for things you didn’t even do.

Compulsive Behaviors

You have an urge to do certain things. Perhaps count things, check and re-check things, wash/clean repeatedly, repeat words, or arrange things in a certain way. It’s like you HAVE TO do them or you’re certain something bad will happen.

Post-Traumatic Stress

You still have intense memories, flashbacks, and/or nightmares related to a past traumatic situation you witnessed or experienced. You may avoid certain places, people or situations. You may feel jumpy or “on alert” much of the time. Traumatic situations could include abuse, rape, violence, car accidents, bullying, injury/illness, someone dying, or many other things.


“Stuff” is overtaking your home. You may collect too many things, have a problem getting rid of things, and/or have a problem organizing things… to the point where it limits the use of your living spaces and wastes significant amounts of time.

Health Concerns and Worry

Your doctor tells you there is nothing to be concerned about, but you still seem to have health complaints and symptoms. You often focus on health problems and wonder if you have a serious medical condition even though you’ve never been diagnosed with one.

Body Image Issues

You’re convinced there’s something about your physical appearance that looks terrible. You’re sure everyone notices so you don’t believe them when they say that they don’t see anything wrong. It could related to your body shape, weight, hair, nose or another body feature.

Public Speaking Anxiety

You dread having to speak in front of a group of people (small or large). You get extremely nervous and may start to panic, afraid that your mind will go blank or that you may make a fool of yourself.

Performance Anxiety

You get overly anxious and may start to panic when you’re expected to perform or compete in front of others.

“Shy Bladder”

You avoid public restrooms. You can’t urinate when others are in the bathroom or might be within earshot. Even if you try, you just can’t go.

White Coat Syndrome

You get nervous and your blood pressure spikes every time you go to a doctor’s office (and therefore they often want to give you medication for it).