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Anxiety is Your Body’s Natural Response to Stress

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    Anxiety Disorders are characterized by many symptoms and often associated with depressive tendencies. Although the majority are produced in a person based off of their genetic material, other influences exist environmentally that can encourage or discourage the severity of the symptoms and prognosis it has on one’s overall well-being. Early diagnosis and a systematic combination of treatments can help reduce the tensions and encourage a more normal life than what was previously experienced by the person with the disorder.

    Introduction. Anxiety is a normal part of the human process that involves a reaction to adverse reaction due to a stressor. This becomes a disorder when the anxiety induced is “abnormally severe, unduly prolonged, occur in the absence of stress, and are associated with impairment of physical, social or occupational functioning” (Ajel, Baldwin, & Garner, 2008). Anxiety Disorders are more prevalent in society than most would expect. The most occurring ones are panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder

    There are several sources that these disorders stem from but the majority is characterized by a biological basis, while others exist as symptoms of brain damage. Anxiety Disorders are encouraged or brought to surface by environmental factors as well. Psychological and pharmacological treatment is necessary especially when the normal functioning of daily life is impaired (2008). Panic Disorder Panic disorders are seen in people who have periodic episodes that consist of shortness of breath, sweating, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, lightheadedness and thoughts of being in a seriously debilitating situation.

    Women tend to be twice as likely as men to suffer from this disorder (Carlson, 2011). Like other Anxiety Disorders, people who experience this type, often reach out to emergency care because they feel as if they are experiencing a death-like situation because the timeframe is normally 30-40 minutes (Ajel, 2008). This type of disorder usually does not have a specific trigger; rather, people who suffer from this are plagued with a persistent fear that another attack may occur.

    The person’s fear is that a panic attack causes feelings of helplessness and a loss of self-control which they dread experiencing (Fleming & O’brien, 2012). Studies have looked into the possibility that this fear also has a social correlation. Therefore, a person with panic disorder may not want to leave their home because they worry that they will have another attack and do not want to be embarrassed or unable to escape. The term agoraphobia has been coined to describe this fear that is provoked from panic disorder (2008).

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder This type of Anxiety Disorder is unlike panic disorder not only in its symptoms but because it is one of the most prevalent of the disorders even though it is rarely treated or diagnosed in most people that suffer from it (Fleming, 2012). Because a person with generalized anxiety disorders often displays similar symptoms as someone with a depressive linked illness, it is difficult to distinguish between the two. This may be why psychoanalysis postulates that the two disorders occur simultaneously (Ajel, 2008).

    It is important that questions are asked related to depressive tendencies in order to attempt to distinguish between the two as thoroughly as possible. As previously mentioned, anxiety is something that is experienced by many during stressful situations; however it becomes a disorder when there is a long period of chronic anxiety about multiple things that are functioning perfectly normal in a person’s life. Generalized anxiety disorder concentrates predominantly on concerns related to their work, family and health (Barone, Elsasser & Kavan, 2009).

    These fears cause acute stress because of the excessive worry. Fatigue, muscle tension and restlessness are some of the primary symptoms experienced in generalized anxiety disorder (2009). The excess of worry and fear is only heightened due to the fact that physical ailments are normally present. If a person with this disorder is concerned over a health related matter, the unexplained physical conditions that are occurring only reinforce the beliefs and worry that is taking place inside their head. Social Anxiety Disorder

    This type of Anxiety Disorder has a direct correlation relating to social situations. A person experiencing this disorder has a chronic fear of other people’s perceptions of them. They are especially likely to avoid any situation where they are being observed by others such as giving presentations or activities that must be performed in front of an audience, large or small. In extreme circumstances where social anxiety disorder exists, a person will avoid social situations all together and will become a “hermit” in their own individual abode.

    This disorder is impairing to one’s normal life functioning because it often affects a person’s ability to perform the essential duties in a work environment. It also deters them from engaging in typical conversations because the fear of being embarrassed or judged is so extreme (Fleming, 2012). The difference between social anxiety disorder and other disorders is that a person is capable of enjoying themselves. This is because they are not impacted as severely physically since their fear is only stimulated in the event that they will have to be exposed to people outside of their comfort zone (Ajel, 2008).

    In order to curb the fears associated with this disorder, the use of drugs and alcohol is often prevalent especially in those that are unable to avoid social situations. A person may attempt to lower their inhibitions by using these recreationally before going to work or any type of social gathering. A person with social anxiety disorder who does attempt to immerse themselves in social environments will typically experience physical signs of stress such as extreme perspiration while also having an intense psychological response to their fear like worrying about throwing up in public (Ajel, 2008).

    Each of these contributes to the increasing prevalence and impact of the disorder in the person’s everyday life. Experiencing these symptoms after trying to conquer their fears will only discourage future attempts because of the physical and psychological distress that they went through. The person will be unable to forget the experience and this will cause them to anticipate the same reaction when placed in another social situation. The prevalence of social anxiety disorder is in-turn increased. This shows that a disorder such as this is ot one that can go without treatment because of the extreme affects it has on a person’s ability to communicate. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Like many other Anxiety Disorders, an obsessive compulsive disorder is based on irrational assumptions. Just as the title of this disorder infers, it is a thought that exists as an obsession which is played out through a compulsive tendency to perform an absurd ritual to tame the thought. Commitment to performing the compulsive behavior is the only way the person believes they can reduce the anxiety.

    The obsessive thoughts are typically of the same nature in all people with obsessive compulsive disorder. They consist of “concern of disgust with bodily secretions, dirt, germs, and such; fear that something terrible might happen; and a need for symmetry, order, or exactness” (Carlson, 2011, p. 470). They act on these thoughts in an almost instinctive manner by performing acts that involve numerous counts and checks or excessive sanitizing. Other forms of this disorder may be concerned with vain thoughts.

    For instance, a person that has constant issues with their appearance may continue to invest in plastic surgery procedures to correct the erroneous thoughts that plague their mind when they see images of themselves or look in a mirror (Ajel, 2008). Obsessive compulsive disorder is likely to have a correlation with other neurological illnesses. The two combined causes an increase in severity of the disorder and the likelihood that full recovery will never be possible. This Anxiety Disorder is often associated with the term ‘comorbid’. This means that the disorder exists next to a depressive illness.

    Approximately one third of people diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder also met the criteria for major depression (Ajel, 2008). If one is treated, it is probable that the other will go away if diagnosed early enough. However, this is only true when the depression precedes the disorder which means that treatment may vary (2008). Causes & Diagnosis All Anxiety Disorders show a substantial association in biological factors. Even those that are often said to be encouraged from environmental factors such as trauma experienced in childhood still must have a genetic link present in order for the disorder to manifest to the point that the anxiety hich ensues can be characterized as a disorder. In depression, which is known to be comorbid with Anxiety Disorders, imbalances in serotonergic and noradrenergic neurotransmission are imminent causes for its presence (Ajel, 2008). These disturbances have been evident in many of the Anxiety Disorders. Other studies have shown that the amygdala and prefrontal, insular and frontal cortices are correlated as well (Carlson, 2011). For instance, by increasing the activity of the amygdala and insular cortex, a heightened level of anxiety will occur.

    Thus, it is the combination of “neurobiological, genetic, and environmental factors” to the development of the illness (Fleming, 2012). Diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder occurs once the symptoms related to a disorder have occurred for an extended duration of time. It is important to predict the disorder as accurately as possible so that appropriate treatment will follow. Misdiagnosis can lead to an increase in the symptoms or encourage additional physical and psychological issues to commence. Psychoanalysts must ask questions that are directly related to the symptoms and hereditable features (Ajel, 2008).

    Yet, these questions no matter how direct are prone to error because the patient could be lying, fabricating due to not knowing or be susceptible to the debilitating effects of the illness they are suffering from which can thwart the accuracy of their answers. This encourages additional testing to be done in order to diagnose if the patient does in fact have an Anxiety Disorder. Because they are unlikely to be fully removed after treatment, it is of the utmost importance not to misdiagnose a patient. It is a stigma that they will have to carry around with them for the rest of their life.

    The purpose of the diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder is to be able to give them the necessary treatment to help them manage their stress and function more normally in their every-day life. Adolescents VS. Ederly The key majority of Anxiety Disorders do not appear later in life but are rather seen earlier during the period known as adolescents. Because of this, a person who is likely to have one of these disorders may be severely impaired in adaptation to society throughout major developmental times in their life.

    A pediatrician is typically the only doctor that a child goes to; this is why most of them evaluate the stress levels of their patients by asking intuitive questions directly relating to the child’s levels of irritability, isolation, school attendance, worries, nervous ticks and about recurring physical complaints (Boydston, Hsiao & Varley, 2012). Parents should also engage in addressing concerns with the pediatrician so that proper diagnosis can be assessed on multiple levels.

    Unfortunately, this psychological evaluation does not seem to exist in many pediatric practices considering the overwhelming statistic that only approximately 20 percent of adolescent patients receive a diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder even though between 10 and 20 percent exude at least one primary characteristic of a disorder or depressive tendency (Fierman, 2010). Although the disorder may not reach its peak during adolescents, by diagnosing it early enough, effective treatments can take place that minimize the effects and promote greater normal functioning in society.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum for the prevalence of Anxiety Disorders is in the elderly. Although it is not as widely reported, the occurrence is not rare. The majority of these in ages 55 and up are seen in disorders directly relating to phobias (Sergio & Valeska, 2012). These older adults are more susceptible to being given psychotic drugs to reduce symptoms than adolescents (Fleming, 2012). This is because younger individuals are still in developmental stages of life and it is believed that they can be encouraged to reduce the tensions experienced through counseling practices.

    Treatment Treatment for Anxiety Disorders is often the combination of psychotherapy and pharmacology. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective strategy in helping an individual learns coping mechanisms that will reduce the prevalence of the tension and a plan to act against the random occurrences (Boydston, 2012). This form of therapy attempts to restructure the thoughts that cause the disorder. When only mild symptoms exist, therapy is the primary system of treatment utilized such as during the onset of the illness or during early stages in life.

    However, if it is not diagnosed until it has progressed substantially; medications combined with therapy must be administered. A pharmacological approach usually gives selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) to patients. These have the highest likelihood of reducing the tensions and promoting a more functional lifestyle. If the drug given does not show an improvement after 12 weeks, it is likely that the medication will be switched to another SSRI (Fleming, 2012).

    It is not common to increase the dosage or the frequency because no studies have proven that this helps the condition but rather can potentially promote the chance of addiction. Due to the negative attention received in the media and a person’s fear of becoming addicted to Tricyclic antidepressants, some people avoid this treatment plan altogether despite the fact that it is a common approach (Ajel, 2008). There are many negative side-effects compared to those in SSRI’s; however, if those do not work, antidepressants tend to be a common alternative strategy.

    Prolonged treatment of any kind is the key to combat the negative effects of an Anxiety Disorder; therefore, this must be taken into consideration when choosing the path to recovery. Conclusion Anxiety Disorders are likely to exist in at least one person in a social circle. Individuals who experience an Anxiety Disorder do not have a positive outlook for their future; however, early diagnosis seems to have a correlation with reducing the growth rate of the symptoms in a patient. The key to sustaining life and reducing the negative physical and psychological progression related to an Anxiety Disorder is to seek treatment as soon as possible.


    Ajel, K. ; Baldwin, D. ; & Garner, M. (2008). Anxiety Disorders. Psychiatry, 36 (8), 415–421. Retrieved on December 9, 2012 from http://www. sciencedirect. com. ezproxy. liberty. edu:2048/science/article/pii/S1357303908001448 Barone, E. ; Elsasser, G. ; Kavan, M. (2009). Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Am Fam Physician, 79 (9), 8. Retrieved on December 9, 2012 from http://rx9vh3hy4r. search. serialssolutions. com/? ctx_ver=Z39. 88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon. serialssolutions. com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft. genre=article&rft. atitle

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