Anxiety & Phobic Disorders

Facts
  • Anxiety disorders affect approximately 19 million American adults.
  • Some of the most common types of anxiety disorders are: panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia (or social anxiety disorder), specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Having a true anxiety disorder should not be confused with the natural anxiety one might feel before speaking in front of a large group of people or going out on a first date.
  • Several parts of the brain interact together, producing fear and anxiety.
  • Anxiety disorders are chronic and can grow progressively worse if not treated.
  • Effective treatments are available that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive, fulfilling lives.

 

Symptoms & Diagnosis
  • Panic Disorder: A panic attack is characterized by feelings of terror that strike suddenly and without warning. Typically during a panic attack, the victim’s heart will pound, and they may feel sweaty, faint, or dizzy. Their hands may tingle or go numb; an attack might also be accompanied by chest pains, nausea, and an impending terror of death. These attacks can occur at any time.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is characterized by anxious thoughts or rituals the victim feels are out of his/her control. The obsession could be with germs and dirt causing the victim to repeatedly wash their hands or they may feel an uncontrollable urge to check things repeatedly. Victims of OCD are often preoccupied with order and symmetry. OCD should not be confused with mild anal-retentiveness, which does not disrupt a person’s lifestyle.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a debilitating condition that can develop following a traumatic or terrifying event. Often, people with PTSD have frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb. The disorder is most commonly associated with war veterans, but it can result from any number of traumatic events. Victims often have nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day.
  • Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): SAD involves overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Victims of the disorder have an intense and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others or being embarrassed and humiliated by their own actions. While many people with the disorder recognize that their fear is unreasonable, they are unable to overcome it. Symptoms include sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty speaking. This disorder can be very debilitating and may keep a victim from going to work or school.
  • Specific Phobias: A specific phobia is an intense fear of something such as closed-in spaces, heights, escalators, water, dogs, etc. Such phobias are not just extreme fear; they are irrational fears of a particular thing. While adults with phobias realize these fears are irrational, the often find that facing, or even thinking about facing, the feared object or situation brings on a panic attack or severe anxiety.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is characterized by exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing provoking it. GAD victims often worry excessively about health, money, family, or work. Physical symptoms accompanying their worry include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.

 

For a proper diagnosis of any of these disorders your first stop should be with a physician. If the disorder is not due to a medical condition, your next stop would need to be with a mental health professional. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors can all help with diagnosing the specific disorder.

Treatment

In general, two types of proven and effective treatment are available: medication and specific types of psychotherapy. Antidepressants, which were originally designed to treat depression, have been shown to be effective in treating anxiety disorders. Anti-anxiety medications are also frequently prescribed. Psychotherapy tends to be more beneficial than medication when dealing with specific phobias. It should ultimately be up to a trained physician knowledgeable in the field of psychiatry to decide which treatment options are most beneficial.

NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) Fourth Edition, The American Psychiatric Association, Washington D.C. Copyright 2000
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