Anxiety is one of the most common psychopathological symptoms. It can be defined as a mood dominated by a feeling of a strong threat or a disturbing change originating from an unknown, unreal source. Anxiety is the body’s response to an irrational threat. Anxiety disorder is not the same as fear.
Each of us has been afraid of something at one time, it is quite natural. Fear plays a very important role – it protects our health and life. It is thanks to him that we will not get under an oncoming car or jump into the water in a prohibited place. So fear is the body’s reaction to a real threat.
The situation is different with regard to anxiety.
In the scientific literature, anxiety disorders constitute a large group and have been included in the section called neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders. It features, among others:
- Anxiety disorders in the form of phobias.
- Other anxiety disorders, including: anxiety disorders with anxiety attacks and generalized anxiety disorders. In this group, the main symptom is anxiety, the symptoms of which are not limited to a specific situation, in this group of disorders there may also be symptoms of depression or obsessiveness.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (obsessive compulsive disorder) characterized by recurring obsessive compulsive thoughts or compulsive actions.
- Reaction to severe stress and adaptation disorders, where we are dealing with disorders that occur as a result of severe stress, traumatic events, etc.
- Dissociative (conversion) disorder, in which there is “partial or complete loss of proper integration between past memories, sense of self-identity, immediate sensations, and control of any body movements.”
- Somatoform disorders, characterized by complaints about somatic symptoms and demanding further tests.
- It is estimated that 15-20% of the population suffer from anxiety disorders, with the highest incidence occurring between the ages of 24 and 44.
This article focuses on the discussion of:
- anxiety disorders in the form of phobias,
- anxiety disorders with panic attacks,
- generalized anxiety disorders, where the last two belong to the group of other anxiety disorders.
The term phobia comes from the Greek language and means fear, fear or terror. Its exact name, adding the appropriate prefix, depends on what the disorder concerns, what object or situation. These factors are therefore external to the person and are not objectively dangerous.
It is difficult to determine the prevalence of phobias in the general population, as estimates are usually based on a specific type of phobia. For example, social phobia affects about 2-3% of the general public and specific phobias affect about 1%.
The causes of anxiety disorders
Anxiety can arise from a variety of factors. From problems that arose in childhood during adolescence, to issues related to adult life. Disorders may appear as a reaction to an unstable family, professional or financial situation. It can also be the body’s response to a fear of various changes in life.
Additionally, i.a. in the case of panic disorder, genetic factors are indicated. As far as generalized anxiety is concerned, it has been proven that it is more common in children whose parents suffered from anxiety disorders, but genetic factors are excluded here, leaning towards environmental ones.
Diagnosis of anxiety disorders
The diagnosis of anxiety disorders is made by an internist, psychiatrist or psychologist based on an interview and appropriate tests. If we notice the above-mentioned symptoms or even suspect that we suffer from one of the anxiety disorders, it is necessary to visit a specialist in order to make a diagnosis.
It is also worth noting that the described anxiety disorders may coexist with each other.
Treatment of anxiety disorders
Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Usually, it takes place in the cognitive-behavioral trend, based on the belief that negative behavior results from reactions that we have learned over the course of life. Another method that is very popular is TMS therapy, which can be used together with psychotherapy. Therapy is about finding the causes of anxiety and changing learned behaviors.
In the case of phobias, the following are used, inter alia, exposure, which consists in gradually bringing the patient closer to a stressful stimulus or leaving the patient in a stressful situation for an increasingly long time.
Pharmacotherapy with the use of anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs can also be an additional method of treatment.