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(GAD) describes people who are in a constant and
lasting state of high anxiety which disturbs them and affects their
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stress Disorder or PTSD is characterized by persisting anxiety,
phobic-avoidance, flashbacks and repetitive dreams following a psychologically
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.
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.