Anxiety Disorders

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Post  Matthew on Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:51 pm


Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a common chronic disorder that affects twice as many women as men and can lead to considerable impairment. As the name implies, generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any particular object or situation. In other words it is unspecific or free-floating. People with this disorder feel afraid of something but are unable to articulate the specific fear. They fret constantly and have a hard time controlling their worries. Because of persistent muscle tension and autonomic fear reactions, they may develop headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, and insomnia. These physical complaints, combined with the intense, long-term anxiety, make it difficult to cope with normal daily activities.

Panic disorder

In panic disorder, a person suffers brief attacks of intense terror and apprehension that cause trembling and shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing, and feelings of impending doom or a situation that would be embarrassing. One who is often plagued by sudden bouts of intense anxiety might be said to be afflicted by this disorder. The American Psychiatric Association (2000) defines a panic attack as fear or discomfort that arises abruptly and peaks in 10 minutes or less, and can occasionally last hours.

Although panic attacks sometimes seem to occur out of nowhere, they generally happen after frightening experiences, prolonged stress, or even exercise. Many people who have panic attacks (especially their first one) think they are having a heart attack and often end up at the doctor or emergency room. Even if the tests all come back normal the person will still worry, with the physical manifestations of anxiety only reinforcing their fear that something is wrong with their body. Heightened awareness (hypervigilance) of any change in the normal function of the human body, will be noticed and interpreted as a possible life threatening illness by an individual suffering from panic attacks.

Normal changes in heartbeat, such as when climbing a flight of stairs will be noticed by a panic sufferer and lead them to think something is wrong with their heart or they are about to have another panic attack. Some begin to worry excessively and even quit jobs or refuse to leave home to avoid future attacks. Panic disorder can be diagnosed when several apparently spontaneous attacks lead to a persistent concern about future attacks.


A common complication of panic disorder is agoraphobia, anxiety about being in a place or situation where escape is difficult or embarrassing. It seems that the definition of the word has expanded to refer to avoidance behaviors that sufferers often develop. If a sufferer of panic attacks seems to have them while driving, for example, then he or she may avoid driving, which relieves the anxiety, and subsequently makes future driving more difficult, as a result of behavioral reinforcement.

"Sufferers of Depersonalisation or Derealization feel divorced from both the world and from their own body. Often people who experience depersonalisation claim that life "feels like a dream", things seem unreal, or hazy; some say they feel detached from their own body. Another symptom of this condition can be the constant worrying or strange thoughts that people find hard to switch off."[2] DP/DR builds up slowly with the underlying anxiety, but is noticed suddenly often after a panic attack, and difficult or impossible to ignore until recovery is made. This symptom of anxiety can be crippling to the sufferer and may lead to avoidance behaviour. Sufferers of DP/DR often see this strange phenomenon as being something catastrophic, and may become obsessed with an explanation they have come up with in their mind. It is often difficult to accept that such a disturbing symptom is a result of anxiety, and the sufferer is often thinking it must be something more, or something worse.


This category involves a strong, irrational fear and avoidance of an object or situation. The person knows the fear is irrational, yet the anxiety remains. Phobic disorders differ from generalized anxiety disorders and panic disorders because there is a specific stimulus or situation that elicits a strong fear response. A person suffering from a phobia of spiders might feel so frightened by a spider that he or she would try to jump out of a speeding car to get away from one.

People with phobias have especially powerful imaginations, so they vividly anticipate terrifying consequences from encountering such feared objects as knives, bridges, blood, enclosed places, certain animals or situations. These individuals generally recognize that their fears are excessive and unreasonable but are generally unable to control their anxiety.

Social anxiety disorder

Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia. Individuals with this disorder experience intense fear of being negatively evaluated by others or of being publicly embarrassed because of impulsive acts. Almost everyone experiences "stage fright" when speaking or performing in front of a group. Since occasionally there are artists or performers with social anxiety disorder who are able to perform publicly without significant anxiety, their love of performing and practicing their art may be diminishing their anxiety. Even such high-functioning phobics such as Glenn Gould experience anxiety in performance. But people with social phobias often become so anxious that performance, if they are not natural performers, such as children playing musical instruments from a young age, is out of the question. In fact, their fear of public scrutiny and potential humiliation becomes so pervasive that normal life can become impossible. Another social phobia is love-shyness, which most adversely affects certain men. Those afflicted find themselves unable to initiate intimate adult relationships.

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety Disorder is the feeling of excessive and inappropriate levels of anxiety over being separated from an attachment figure or from a person or place that gives a feeling of safety. While it is seen in children (for example on being left at school) it is also seen in adolescents and adults.

Separation Anxiety itself is a normal part of development in babies or children. It is only when this feeling is excessive or inappropriate that it can be considered a disorder.

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