The term "anxiety" is often used as a blanket term to cover all anxiety disorders. But the reality is that there are many different types of anxiety, and there are many different ways that you can experience anxiety-related symptoms. This brings into question whether it is possible to have more than one anxiety disorder.
When you suffer from more than one mental health disorder at once, the disorders are said to be "comorbid" with one another. Is it possible to have comorbid anxiety disorders?
Types of Anxiety And Differences
One thing that is clear is that anxiety disorders can present themselves in many different ways. Panic disorder is different from generalized anxiety disorder, which is different from social anxiety disorder and so on.
So even though these disorders are all referred to as "anxiety," they are different disorders each with their own set of symptoms (sometimes the symptoms overlap). This brings up an interesting question: can you have more than one anxiety disorder? The answer is yes. Here are some of the anxiety disorders that can be diagnosed, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of disorders (the DSM V):
- Selective Mutism
- Specific Phobia
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Comorbid Anxiety Disorders
People who have anxiety disorders are likely to present with features of more than just one disorder. Psychologists acknowledge that people can suffer from many different forms of anxiety (see the 2015 paper referenced below for more information), and that it’s entirely possible to have more than one anxiety disorder at the same time.
One of the best examples of this is social anxiety. Many people with other anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, have or go on to develop social anxiety. It's also possible for anyone with anxiety to get PTSD (which is no longer classified as an anxiety disorder, but which often co-occurs with anxiety disorders nonetheless. On the other hand, some people may suffer from a combination of, for example, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder at the same time.
It's easy to see why comorbid anxiety disorders are possible. Often a person's most debilitating disorder is the focus of treatment, but comorbid anxiety is possible.
Other Mental Health Disorders Comorbid With Anxiety
It’s entirely possible for a person with an anxiety disorder to have other comorbid conditions that are not anxiety disorders. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand, for example; and other disorders including personality disorders, ADHD and somatization disorders can all be comorbid with anxiety. Remember, anxiety is often linked to long-term, persistent stress. Living with any disorder can be very difficult, and cause a lot of stress that may lead to anxiety. On the other hand, the stress of living with anxiety may also make you more vulnerable to developing other psychological disorders.
Getting Treatment is Important – And it Works
The more anxiety (and other disorders) you experience, the harder life can feel. But what's interesting about anxiety is that it is a highly treatable condition: research from 2007 shows that existing treatment methods are often highly effective. Not every treatment works right away, and often you have to continue working on it in the long term, but there is simply no excuse not to seek out treatment and get the help you need.