Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety Disorder

– Everyone has experienced a feeling of apprehension, stress, anxiety, feelings of physical or mental discomfort in situations before such as the night before an exam at a job interview, a job change or even to some threatening situations. However this mild anxiety can help to facilitate individuals by keeping them vigilant and focused to cope with difficult situations. These moments of discomfort are related to these events and would usually fade as soon as life returns to normal. It is normal anxiety.

Sometimes, however, the response system is overwhelmed by anxiety and malfunction. More specifically, anxiety is disproportionate and may even sometimes occur in the absence of any obvious danger. The individual will feel paralyzed with a sense of helplessness and, in general, there is a deterioration of physiological and psychosocial functioning. It is said that anxiety can occur at inappropriate times or cause strong and lasting impressions that it interferes with normal activities of the person. This is considered as a disorder. An individual who suffers from this disorder also suffers from depression at some point of time. Nonetheless with proper and effective treatment by a psychiatrist, individuals with this disorder can lead normal lives again.

Major types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Phobic Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is diagnosed when one feels excessive worry or nervousness most of the time for at least six months. Individuals would have persisting fears or worries and often have a constant feeling that something bad is about to happen. The cause of these intense feelings of anxiety can be difficult to identify and it often hinder individuals from concentrating on their daily tasks.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by persistent involuntary feelings or obsessive thoughts that are uncontrollable and unwanted. Individuals who suffer from this disorder would usually perform routines or rituals repetitively such as washing hands excessively for fear of germs.

Panic disorder (or panic attack)

The patient experiences sudden feelings, intense and unprovoked terror and dread that arise spontaneously. Usually individuals with this disorder develop much fear and stress wondering when their next anxiety attack, also known as panic attack might occur and therefore often limit their activities. These attacks can be as short-lived as 1–5 minutes, but can last for 20 minutes to more than an hour, or until help is rendered.

Phobic Disorder

Phobic Disorder is whereby the essentials feature the presence of a persistent irrational fear to a specific object, activity or situation and the consequent avoidance of the feared object. Specific phobias involve things such as fear of flying, birds or open spaces, whereas social phobias involve the fear of social settings or public places.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Some people who have serious physical or emotional trauma, such as those produced by a natural disaster or serious accident or crime may experience PSTD. PTSD is characterized by persistent memories of the traumatic event, avoidance behaviours or numbing of memories of the event for months or even years.

These disorders are multifaceted and can take as many forms emotionally and physically. Examples of emotional symptoms are extreme fear, apprehension and nervous tension. Physical symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, tremors and headaches are common in these disorders. The disorder can occur at any time and would usually surface in the adolescence or early adulthood period. It is deduced that people who suffers from this disorder also suffers from depression at some point of time. There is also some evidence that anxiety disorder is hereditary and thus some people are more likely than others to suffer from these disorders.

Importance to seek treatment

Anxiety disorders can have serious consequence. People who are untreated are prone to other psychological disorders such as depression, and are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Relationships with family, friends and co-workers may become very strained and job performance can suffer.

Treatment

Anxiety disorders respond well to treatment in a relatively short period of time.Treatment depends on the type of anxiety disorder and its severity. But in general, most of these disorders are treated with behavioural therapy, medication or a combination of both. New research has also revealed a number of beneficial complementary therapies in moderate anxiety cases.

Behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are two treatments that have proven effective in the treatment of these disorders. Both are types of behavioural therapies, which mean they focus on behaviour rather than on psychological conflicts or problems of the past.

• Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – As its name suggests, CBT focuses on thoughts or cognitions – in addition to behaviour. In the treatment of this disorders, CBT helps individuals to identify negative and irrational beliefs that fuel their anxiety thoughts.

• Exposure therapy – In exposure therapy, individuals confront their fears safely in a controlled environment. Through repeated exposure, either in imagination or in reality, individuals gain a greater sense of control of the object or the feared situation.

Medications

Several medications, including benzodiazepines and antidepressants are used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. The drugs are most effective when combined with therapy (and vice versa).

Complementary treatments

Several other treatments are promising and complement both therapy and medication. In case of mild anxiety, these treatments can provide significant assistance.

• Physical exercise is a natural anti-stress. The literature shows that only half an hour of exercise three to five times a week can substantially reduce anxiety. The optimum is one hour aerobics per day.

• Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and controlled breathing can reduce anxiety and increase the feeling of relaxation and emotional well-being when practiced regularly.

• Meditation is increasingly integrated with CBT to treat anxiety.