Anxiety Disorders

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How is anxiety different from fear?

It is common for most people to get confused between fear and anxiety. Fear is a basic human emotion and experienced in response to an immediate danger, it prepares the body for immediate escape from a threatening situation.

Fear is the experienced emotion when the danger is obvious, for example when you see a snake, the emotion experienced is fear. Anxiety on the contrary is a response to perceived threat, it is experienced in anticipation of a future danger. It can be best understood as an apprehension about a future danger for example being anxious about the health of your loved ones.

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    What is the difference between experience of normal anxiety and having an anxiety disorder?

    Anxiety is not always detrimental instead it facilitates human preparedness and adaption to stressful situations. Optimal anxiety is instrumental in enhancing motivation, learning and performance. Anxiety disorders on the contrary are marked by the experience of significant distress and impairs the functioning of an individual. Although mild anxiety has adaptive value in terms of making an individual better prepared, planned and equipped to face possible challenges it is maladaptive in case of anxiety disorders where it is severe and chronic. 

    So, what is anxiety, is it actually a thought or behaviour or feeling?

    Anxiety is a complex blend of emotions, physiological reactions, cognitions and behaviours. These components comprise of unpleasant emotions, preoccupation with negative cognitions pertaining to future threat, physiological over arousal, preparedness for anticipated danger and avoidance of situations or objects that are anxiety provoking.

    Is experiencing fear like a panic attack?

    The symptoms of a panic attack are largely similar to those experienced during a state of fear however spontaneous panic attacks occur in the absence of any external danger whereas fear is associated with immediate external danger. Also, a panic attack is uniquely characterized by an intense fear of impending doom often manifested as a fear of losing control, going mad or becoming crazy. However, both fear and spontaneous panic attack involve the sympathetic nervous system activation that initiates the flight or fight syndrome of the body.

    What are the risks for developing an anxiety disorder?

    Anxiety tends to run in families hence a family history of anxiety has been identified as a risk factor, having a personal history of anxiety in childhood, experience of traumatic life events, severe abuse and parental mental disorders, additionally female gender is at higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.

    Is an anxiety disorder related to something specific or is it general?

    There are various forms of anxiety disorders the basis for which is the experience of disabling anxiety. Some of such disorders are related to specific objects/situations and the others are based on the experience of generalized anxiety. Here are a few explanations of disorders marked by disabling anxiety.

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    Generalized anxiety disorder is marked by the experience of persistent anxiety and worry which is not restricted to or pertaining to a any particular situation or object. It is an experience of free-floating anxiety with chronic tension and diffused uneasiness

    Specific Phobia

    Specific phobia is a strong, persisting fear of an object or situation. The diagnosis of specific phobia requires the development of intense anxiety, even to the point of panic, when exposed to the feared object. Persons with specific phobias may anticipate harm or may panic at the thought of losing control.

    Panic Disorder

    Panic disorder is characterized by the occurrence of recurrent discreet unpredictable attacks of panic that are marked by intense physiological arousal, faulty ideation of physical and mental catastrophe, intense uncontrollable anxiety and strong urge to escape.

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    What is the psychology behind the experience of anxiety?

    There are many psychological explanations related to the origination and manifestation of anxiety. Early theories relate anxiety to inner battle or conflicts, reaction to anticipated future danger based on past experiences such as separation, loss of love and guilt and it has also been seen as expression of attachment-related fears. Some theorists view it as a learned behavior which is maintained by avoidance of anxiety provoking objects or situations. Other theories emphasize the role on faulty thinking and state that on the basis of limited events, people with anxiety disorders magnify the significance of the past and overgeneralize to the future thereby becoming preoccupied with impending disaster and self-defeating statements.

    Biologically what cause anxiety disorder?

    Anxiety is caused by an inetraction of biological factors. Firstly they include disturbance in the functioining of the neurotrasmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin, and r-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The major brain structures involved in the anxiety disorders are amygdala, hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.

    What is the treatment of anxiety disorders?

    Anxiety disorders can be managed through pharmacological and psychological treatment methodologies. The class of drugs often used as treatment for anxiety are called the serotonin reuptake inhibitors however the trials of medication encompassing the details of choice of drug, choice of most effective and best tolerated treatment and the optimal duration of treatment can only be made by the consultant psychiatrists. Non-pharmacological treatments incluing cognitive behaviour therapy, behaviours therapy and relaxation techniques are effectively used to manage anxiety.

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