Anxiety disorder
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Anxiety disorder

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Anxiety disorder is a blanket term covering several different forms of fear, phobia and nervous condition, that come on suddenly and prevent pursuing normal daily routines including:

general anxiety disorder

social anxiety, sometimes known as 'social phobia' or 'social anxiety disorder' (SAD)

specific phobias

agoraphobia

claustrophobia

panic disorder

separation anxiety disorder

post-traumatic stress disorder

Treatment

Anxiety disorders are often debilitating chronic conditions, which can be present from an early age or begin suddenly after a triggering event. They are prone to flare up at times of high stress.

Pharmaceutical companies have created a number of drugs to combat these disorders. Many of these disorders can also be treated with the aid of a good counselor and behavioural therapies such as cognitive therapy.

 

Social anxiety

Social anxiety, sometimes known as social phobia or social anxiety disorder (SAD), is a common form of anxiety disorder that causes sufferers to dread the social interactions and public events of everyday life, e.g. parties, meetings, or even making a phone call or walking into a shop to purchase goods.

Many people have 'butterflies' or minor nerves before a date, party, or some other event that will put them on public display, but that usually does not prevent them from attending. A true social phobia is an overwhelming fear, which in extreme cases can keep the sufferer housebound and isolated for long periods of time. They are abnormally afraid of being judged, watched and possibly humiliated in public as a result of their actions, behaviour or appearance.

Social phobia should not be confused with panic disorder. Sufferers of panic disorder are convinced that their panic comes from some dire physical cause, and often go to the hospital or call for an ambulance during or after their attacks. Social phobics may experience a panic attack when triggered, but they are aware that it is extreme anxiety they are experiencing, and that the cause is an irrational fear. Few social phobics would willingly go to a hospital in that instance, because they fear rejection and judgement by authority figures (e.g. medical staff.) Dealing with authority figures is particularly difficult for most social phobics, as is making phone inquiries, attending dates, parties and job interviews.

Psychiatrists often distinguish between generalized and specific social anxiety disorders. People with generalized social anxiety may have great difficulty with most or all social situations. Those with specific social phobias may experience anxiety only in a few situations. For example the most common specific phobia is glossophobia, the fear of public speaking or performance, also known as stage fright. Other examples of specific social phobias include fears of writing in public (Scriptophobia), blushing (Erythrophobia or Ereuthrophobia or Erytophobia), eating in public, and using public restrooms (see paruresis).

Social phobia has only recently been recognised as a legitimate medical disorder in its own right, rather than being considered a manifestation of other problems. It can often be successfully treated with a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and group therapy. Anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants can also sometimes be useful therapeutic agents.

Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a form of anxiety disorder. The name is literally translated as "a fear of the marketplace", from the Greek agora, and thus of open or public spaces. Many people suffering from agoraphobia, however, are not afraid of the open spaces themselves, but of situations often associated with these spaces, such as social gatherings. Others are comfortable seeing visitors, but only in a defined space they feel in control of--such a person may live for years without leaving his home, while happily seeing visitors and working, as long as they can stay within their safety zone.

An agoraphobic experiences severe panic attacks during situations where they feel trapped, insecure, out of control, or too far from their personal comfort zone. During severe bouts of anxiety, the agoraphobic is confined not only to their home, but to one or two rooms and they may even become bedbound until their over-stimulated nervous system can quiet down, and their adrenaline levels return to a more normal level.

Agoraphobics are often extremely sensitised to their own bodily sensations, sub-consciously over-reacting to perfectly normal events. To take one example, the exertion involved in climbing a flight of stairs may be the cause for a fullblown panic attack, because it increases the heartbeat and breathing rate, which the agoraphobic interprets as the start of a panic attack instead of a normal fluctuation.

Agoraphobia can be successfully treated in many cases through a very gradual process of graduated exposure therapy combined with cognitive therapy and sometimes anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications.

Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that involves the fear of enclosed or confined spaces. Claustrophobes may suffer from panic attacks in situations such as being in elevators, trains or aircraft. Conversely, people who are prone to having panic attacks will often develop claustrophobia. If a panic attack occurs while they are in a confined space then they will be unable to escape the situation.

Claustrophobes may also fear being in crowds.

Claustrophobia can be treated in similar ways to other anxiety disorders, with a range of treatments including cognitive behavior therapy and the use of antidepressant medication.

The opposite of claustrophobia is agoraphobia

Phobia

The term phobia, which comes from the Ancient Greek word for fear (φόβος, fobos), denotes a number of psychological and physiological conditions that can range from serious disabilities to common fears to minor quirks.

Phobias are the most common form of anxiety disorder. An American study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found that between 5.1 and 21.5 percent of Americans suffer from phobias. Broken down by age and gender, the study found that phobias were the most common mental illness among women in all age groups and the second most common illness among men older than

Understanding and classifying phobias

Most psychologists and psychiatrists divide phobias into three categories:

Social phobias - fears to do with other people and social relationships such as performance anxiety, fears of eating in public etc.

Specific phobias - fear of a single specific panic trigger, like dogs, flying, running water and so on.

Agoraphobia - a generalised fear of leaving your home or your small familiar 'safe' area, and of the inevitable panic attacks that will follow. Agoraphobia is the only phobia regularly treated as a medical condition.

Many specific phobias, such as fears of dogs, heights, spider bites, and so forth, are extensions of fears that everyone has. People with these phobias treat them by avoiding the thing they fear.

Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Social phobias and agoraphobia have more complex causes that are not entirely known at this time. It is believed that heredity, genetics and brain-chemistry combine with life-experiences to play a major role in the development of anxiety disorders and phobias.

Phobias vary in severity among individuals, with some phobics simply disliking or avoiding the subject of their fear and suffering mild anxiety. Others suffer fully-fledged panic attacks with all the associated disabling symptoms.

It is possible for a sufferer to become phobic about virtually anything. The name of a phobia generally contains a Greek word for what the patient fears plus the suffix -phobia. Creating these terms is something of a word game. Few of these terms are found in medical literature.

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Types of phobia

Common phobias include:

Arachnophobia - Fear of spiders.

Anthrophobia - Fear of people or society

Aerophobia - Fear of drafts, air swallowing or airborne noxious substances.

Agoraphobia - Fear of the outdoors, crowds or uncontrolled social conditions.

Claustrophobia - Fear of confined spaces.

Acrophobia - Fear of heights.

Cancerophobia - Fear of cancer.

Astraphobia - Fear of thunder and lightning.

Necrophobia - Fear of death or dead things.

Cardiophobia - Fear of heart disease.

Dental phobia - Fear of dentists, dental surgery, or teeth.

Pornophobia - Fear of pornographic material

More phobia names are listed in the List of phobias.

Treatment

Some therapists use virtual reality to desensitize patients to the feared thing. Other forms of therapy that may be of benefit to phobics are graduated exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Anti-anxiety medication can also be of assistance in some cases. Most phobics understand that they are suffering from an irrational fear, but are powerless to override their initial panic reaction.

Graduated Exposure and CBT both work towards the goal of desensitising the sufferer, and changing the thought patterns that are contributing to their panic. Gradual desensitisation treatment and CBT are often extremely successful, provided the phobic is willing to endure some discomfort and to make a continuous effort over a long period of time. Practitioners of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) claim to have a procedure that can be used to alleviate most specific phobias in a single therapeutic session, though this has not yet been verified scientifically.

Separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder (or simply separation anxiety) is a psychological condition in which an individual has excessive anxiety regarding separation from home, or from those with whom the individual has a strong attachment. Separation anxiety is often characterized by some of the following symptoms:

Recurring distress when separation from home or subject of attachment occurs or is anticipated

Persistent, excessive worry about losing subject of attachment

Persistent, excessive worry that some event will lead to separation from a major attachment figure

Continuing reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere because of fear of separation

Excessive fear about being alone without subject of attachment

Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home

Recurrent nightmares about separation

Repeated complaints of physical symptoms when separation is imminent.

Animals

Separation anxiety is not limited to humans: other animals may exhibit symptoms of anxiety as well, when separated from a companion, either human or any other animal, or when removed from their familiar environment. Pets in particular may experience this disorder, as do animals which are socialised in packs, or any animal which has a close attachment to another. Animals have exhibited separation anxiety even when separated from an animal of a radically dissimilar species.

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