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Anxiety Disorder


Older Adults



  Anxiety Disorders  
  Normal anxiety signals and alerts the individual to the possibility of danger in order that harm may be avoided,  but pathological anxiety occurs and persists in the absence of real threat to the individual. It is as though a burglar alarm system keeps giving false alarms and can neither be turned off nor adjusted.

A distinction is conventionally made between fear and anxiety on grounds that fear tends to have a specific object,  a fear of something in particular while anxiety is more general and unattached to specific objects. Symptoms of anxiety include a feeling of impending doom, that something terrible is about to happen, that one is losing their mind or about to faint, collapse, have a seizure or die of a heart attack or stroke.  Physical symptoms include rapid and pounding heartbeat, pulsing arteries especially in the head and neck, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, trembling, sweating, generalized bodily weakness, and light-headedness. Panic attacks represent the maximum possible state of anxiety and often, especially before their true nature is understood, result in visits to the hospital emergency room and even 911 calls for medical assistance by people who believe that they are about to die or go crazy.

There is a considerable degree of variation among normal individuals in their proneness to anxiety, with some people seemingly always calm, unruffled and laid back no matter what happens to them, and others hyperactive, jumpy, apprehensive and fearful even when things are going well for them. Inborn and sometimes genetic factors probably play a significant role in such differences.

Almost all psychiatric or psychological problems, conditions and illnesses are accompanied by some degree of anxiety as a nonspecific accompanying feature. People suffering from depression, for example, are very commonly anxious as well. When anxiety is the chief or only problem, however, the condition -if it is severe and persistent enough- is termed an anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) describes people who are in a constant and lasting state of high anxiety which disturbs them and affects their lives negatively. Panic disorder consists of sudden and usually unprovoked attacks of overwhelming anxiety as described above. Agoraphobia is a condition often associated with panic attacks in which the individual is uncomfortable or anxious in public places or out of their own home. Specific phobias include the well-known ones of insects, snakes, needle-sticks, animals, heights and closed places as well as many more.Post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) may follow life-threatening or other massive psychological stresses such as military combat, natural disasters, serious accidents or any disruptive life event for which the individual is unprepared and unequipped to deal with. Flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbing and other symptoms may be present.

Social phobia may take the form of intense performance anxiety or stage fright well beyond the range of normal and sufficiently severe to interfere with the individual's life and activities. Another form of social phobia causes the person afflicted to be markedly uncomfortable around other people and resembles an unusually severe and at times disabling form of shyness.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is characterized by mental obsessions and behavioral compulsions such as counting, cleaning, checking or arranging things in rigid and unvarying ways. OCD sufferers may be plagued by recurring irrational or nonsense thoughts, fearful impulses which they never act upon but always feel like they will, and a compelling need to do things in a certain way or certain order.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is characterized by persisting anxiety, phobic-avoidance, flashbacks and repetitive dreams following a psychologically traumatic experience.

Other forms of anxiety are those associated with stressful life circumstances, substance(alcohol or drug) abuse or dependence, caffeine or other drug effect, and various medical conditions. Proper treatment of anxiety requires correct evaluation and diagnosis of the specific type and its cause.

Modern approaches to the treatment of the anxiety disorders no longer focus as much as they once did upon remote or mysterious causes which require analysis and prolonged therapy in order to be resolved. There is little evidence that most cases of anxiety disorder benefit from such treatments. Instead, cognitive and behavioral treatments focus on helping the individual to identify and correct his faulty and unrealistic thinking and to overcome by practice and direct action his specific fears and aversions. Relaxation, stress management and therapeutic hypnosis may be of assistance in some cases.

Medications such as the antidepressants and tranquilizers may be helpful in some cases of anxiety disorder. Best results are almost always obtained when medications are combined with psychotherapy and educational approaches to recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatry and Mental Health
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Links Anxiety Disorders Site

Anxiety Attacks and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety and Panic Hub

Anxiety Disorder
Wikipedia Article

Anxiety Disorders
American Psychiatric Association

Anxiety Disorders
U.S. Surgeon General

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

Anxiety Disorders in Children and Teens

Anxiety and Panic Disorder Health Center

The Anxiety Panic Internet Resource

Anxiety and Panic Support Groups

Anxiety Screening Quiz

Anxiety Symptoms Screening Test

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Internet Mental Health

Internet support groups

National Anxiety Foundation

National Center For PTSD(Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)

National Institute of Mental Health

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Wikipedia Article

Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation

Online Support Groups

Self-assessment sites on the WWW

Social Anxiety Disorder
Wikipedia Article

Social Phobia: The Largest Anxiety Disorder

Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association

Support Groups
Anxiety Disorders Association of America

Support Groups for OCD