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All About Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

anxiety disorder imageAnxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying.

These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.

People often experience a general state of worry or fear before confronting something challenging such as a test, examination, recital, or interview. These feelings are easily justified and considered normal. Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or otherwise function. Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.

Anxiety disorders can be classified into several more specific types. The most common are briefly described below.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic disorder characterized by excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations.

GAD sufferers often feel afraid and worry about health, money, family, work, or school, but they have trouble both identifying the specific fear and controlling the worries. Their fear is usually unrealistic or out of proportion with what may be expected in their situation. Sufferers expect failure and disaster to the point that it interferes with daily functions like work, school, social activities, and relationships.

In this short video from The Psych Network, Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses Generalized Anxiety Disorder and how it affects sufferers.

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety characterized by brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension that leads to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing. Panic attacks tend to arise abruptly and peak after 10 minutes, but they then may last for hours. Panic disorders usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress, but they can be spontaneous as well.

A panic attack may lead an individual to be acutely aware of any change in normal body function, interpreting it as a life threatening illness – hypervigiliance followed by hypochondriasis. In addition, panic attacks lead a sufferer to expect future attacks, which may cause drastic behavioral changes in order to avoid these attacks.

Phobias

A Phobia is an irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. Phobias are different from generalized anxiety disorders because a phobia has a fear response identified with a specific cause. The fear may be acknowledged as irrational or unnecessary, but the person is still unable to control the anxiety that results. Stimuli for phobia may be as varied as situations, animals, or everyday objects. For example, agoraphobia occurs when one avoids a place or situation to avoid an anxiety or panic attack. Agoraphobics will situate themselves so that escape will not be difficult or embarrassing, and they will change their behavior to reduce anxiety about being able to escape.

In this short video from HealthGuru, Dr. J. Clive Spiegel M.D. talks about the difference between fear and phobia.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of social phobia characterized by a fear of being negatively judged by others or a fear of public embarrassment due to impulsive actions. This includes feelings such as stage fright, a fear of intimacy, and a fear of humiliation. This disorder can cause people to avoid public situations and human contact to the point that normal life is rendered impossible.

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Know More about Phobia

A phobia is an irrational fear, a kind of anxiety disorder in which the sufferer has a relentless dread of a situation, living creature, place or thing.

phobiasIndividuals with a phobia go to great lengths to avoid a perceived danger which is much greater in their minds than in real life. If confronted with the source of their phobia, the person will suffer enormous distress, which can interfere with their normal function; it can sometimes lead to total panic. For some people, even thinking about their phobia is immensely distressing.

A phobia starts when a person begins organizing their lives around avoiding the object of their fear. A phobia is much more serious than a simple fear. Sufferers have an overpowering need to steer clear of anything which triggers their anxiety.

If the phobia is of something the phobic person very rarely comes into contact with, such as snakes, their daily lives will not be affected. However, some complex phobias are impossible to avoid, such as agoraphobia (fear of leaving home or public places) or social phobia (fear of being among groups of people).

Non-psychological phobiasphotophobia means sensitivity to light. For example, if you have conjunctivitis or a migraine your eyes may be particularly sensitive to light. This does not mean the person is afraid of light. One of the symptoms of rabies is hydrophobia, which is the inability to drink water.

Discrimination or prejudice – some words which include the word “phobia” do not refer to fear, but rather to prejudice or discrimination. Homophobia is not an uncontrollable fear of homosexual people; it is a dislike, a discrimination against them. Some older people may dislike youths or teenagers (ephebiphobia). Xenophobia is a dislike of strangers, foreigners or the unknown.

There are three main categories of phobias:

    • Specific phobias (simple phobias) – involve a disproportionate fear about specific situations, living creatures, places, activities, or things. Examples include a fear of:

      – Dentists (dentophobia)
      – Bats (chiroptophobia)
      – Dogs (cynophobia)
      – Flying (aviophobia)
      – Snakes (opidiophobia)
      – Birds (ornithophobia)
      – Frogs (ranidaphobia)

The two cateogories below, social phobia and agoraphobia are known as complex phobias. They are linked to a deep-rooted fear or anxiety about certain situations, incidents or circumstances, which make them much more disabling than simple phobias.

    • Social phobia – now called social anxiety disorder. A person with social phobia finds being in social situations difficult and sometimes unbearable. Going to parties, weddings, functions, or exhibitions cause sufferers anxiety; there is fear of being embarrassed or humiliated in public. The ultimate nightmare for a person with social phobia is probably to have to talk in public or act on a stage of front of an audience.

      There is a fear of being judged by other people. People affected with social phobia feel that they will be scrutinized and singled out in the crowd, which would be an unbearably embarrassing ordeal. The dread of being laughed at because of their clothes, voice or some feature of their body is so intense that they prefer to avoid social gatherings altogether.

      Psychologists say that a high proportion of adults with social phobia started taking measures to avoid social situations during their teenage years. Studies have shown that their progressively isolated lifestyles make them more susceptible to developing depression. Experts emphasize that social phobia is not the same as shyness.

      Obese people may develop social anxiety disorder, simply because of their weight.

    • Agoraphobia – an individual with agoraphobia is frightened of finding himself/herself in situations where there is no escape; they fear being stuck in a desperate situation with no help. Agoraphobia may include a dread of traveling on buses or trains, going into large shops or shopping malls. When symptoms are severe, the patient may find it unbearable to even step out of their own home.

Sufferers have an 80% risk of also suffering from panic disorder. As with social phobia, crowded and public places are avoided.

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