Definition

 

While we all experience temporary anxiety at some time or another, the anxiety disorders are long-term states of anxiety triggered by various causes. The American Psychological Association describes anxiety and anxiety disorders as, “...an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry.” In anxiety disorders, the anxieties do not gradually decline or go away over time. In fact, they may increase in occurrence or intensity over time. They often interfere with interpersonal relationships, school, or job performance. Anxiety disorders may take several different forms: generalized anxiety, panic attacks, or differing forms of social anxiety disorders:

 

Signs and Symptoms

 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

 

Generalized anxiety disorder takes the form of excessive anxieties or worry for long periods of time. Typical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are:

 

  • General feelings of restlessness

  • Feeling “on edge”

  • Getting tired easily

  • problem in concentrating

  • Occasionally having the mind “go blank”

  • Being irritable

  • Feelings of tension in the muscles

  • Obsessive worrying

  • Problems in sleeping, such as difficulty in falling asleep, inability to remain asleep, or feelings of dissatisfaction with the quality of sleep.

 

Panic Disorder

 

This disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks. A panic attack is feelings of sudden fear without clear or distinctive causation accompanied by palpitation or pounding of the heart, rapid heart rate, shaking or trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, feeling of smothering, and feelings of impending disaster or doom.

 

Most common symptoms of panic disorder are:

 

  • Sudden attacks of intense, unreasoning fear

  • Repeated attacks of sudden intense, unreasoning fear

  • The feeling of loss of control or being out of control

  • Constant worry about when the next attack will occur

  • Fear of certain situations which appear to have triggered panic attacks in the past

  • Avoidance of situations or places which appear to have triggered panic attacks in the past

 

 

Social Anxiety Disorder

 

Social anxiety disorder, which is also called “social phobia,” is characterized by intense worries about and fears social situations. Fears may focus on embarrassment, negative judgments of other people, fears of possible rejection, and fears of inappropriate behaviors.

 

Other symptoms of social anxiety disorder are:

 

  • Anxiety about being in situations with other people

  • Anxiety about the ability to talk to other people, to carry on a natural conversation

  • Extreme self-consciousness in situations in front of other people/

  • Anxiety about being humiliated in front of other people

  • Anxiety about being rejected by other people

  • Anxieties about offending other people.

  • Fears of being judged adversely by other people

  • Excessive worry about future social situations

  • Avoiding social situations

  • Difficulties in making and keeping friends

  • Anxious reactions, such as sweating, trembling, or blushing when around other people

  • feelings of nauseousness or being sick to the stomach when with other people or in social situations.

 

 

A psychologist should asses the presence of social anxiety disorder as there are certain health conditions which may cause behaviors similar to social anxiety disorder. Some medications, also, might cause similar reactions and behaviors. The psychological assessment will consider the person as a whole in regard to symptoms and behaviors rather than disproportionately focusing on specific behaviors. Thus, the assessment may discover associated conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression.

 

Risk Factors

 

There are a number of risk factors to the incidence of anxiety disorders, among which are::

 

  • Having been a shy child

  • Females are more likely to develop anxieties disorders than males

  • Poverty or few economic resources

  • The status of being divorced or widowed

  • Having been exposed to stressful life experiences in childhood or later

  • Genetic predispositions, anxiety disorders sometimes follow family lines

  • Parent having suffered from mental disorders

 

Treatments and Therapies

 

The treatments for anxiety disorders involve psychotherapy and may also include medications.

 

Psychotherapy

 

Psychotherapy, or “Talk therapy,” focuses on the personal background of the patient, the identification of circumstantial and situational causative factors for anxiwety, therapeutic approaches to defusing causative circumstances and situations, and the development of coping mechanisms. A part of psychotherapy would be some temporary discomfort in thinking about the causation and reactions to particular feared situations in learning to get past them

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides another approach in psychotherapy in dealing with anxiety disorders. The focus of this therapy is on learning new ways of thinking about and reacting to anxiety-producing situations. CBT can assist in the learning of new social skills and in the development of coping mechanisms to anxiety-producing situations. The intent of cognitive therapy is on the identification, challenging, and then the neutralization of thoughts related to anxiety-inducing circumstances.

 

Exposure therapy is another approach which gives the patient the opportunity to confront fears for the purpose of conditioning their responses from negative to positive. This is effective in aiding people who fear particular situations or circumstances to be more comfortable and functional in them.

 

Thus, there are a variety of approaches to leaning to deal with anxiety disorders through psychotherapy. The objective of psychotherapy is the create within the client the ability for normal, anxiety-free functioning in otherwise fearful situations and circumstances.