Anxiety, Mood/Affective and Dissociative/Somatoform Disorders
Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorders in the United States. There are many different types of anxiety disorders: that include panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress syndrome, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. We’ve all experienced minor anxiety at some point in our lives – It’s the butterflies you feel in your stomach before a big date, the tense feeling you get when you know you’re in danger. This stress response, or fight/flight response is what helps us deal with everyday problems and situations. In healthy individuals, this response is provoked by a genuine threat or challenge to help deal with a particular situation. Anxiety, however, is excessive or inappropriate arousal characterized by feelings of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear. Although these feelings are often not attributable to a real threat, they can paralyze the individual into withdrawal and fear.
A phobia is a senseless, abnormal, specific fear. A person experiencing a phobia recognizes that no actual danger is imminent. Phobias may be so compelling as to force a person to alter his/her way of life in order to avoid circumstances that trigger the phobia. A phobia can be an animate object, an inanimate object, something living or it can be heights, darkness closed spaces, infections, water and open spaces. Phobia comes from the Greek word phobos, which means extreme fear or terror (www.phobiatx.com). Phobia sufferers can be of any age but it is believed that a phobia is only properly determined when a child is above the ages of five or six. Phobias make people behave in an irrational way.
Panic disorder is characterized by sudden attacks of severe anxiety that can incapacitate a person for about ten minutes. People with this condition have feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. Other symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, chest pain, palpitations (irregular heartbeats) and a feeling of choking, which may make the person feel like he or she is having a heart attack or “going crazy. These panic attacks are often such traumatic experiences, that a person experiencing them will do anything to avoid them. This often leads to what is known as PDA, or Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is the fear of being in a situation or place where escape seems difficult. Panic disorder leads to this because patients often find that, staying in their home prevents their attacks. Panic disorder can occur with, or with out agoraphobia and either way it is a devastating disorder that effect’s a person’s whole lifestyle.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)is a continuous anxiety lasting a month or more. People with this disorder feel anxious, worried and are preoccupied with feelings of doom. A person suffering from generalized anxiety disorder tends to worry about everything. They have a great deal of stress and have a difficult time relaxing. The focus of their anxiety is not specific or excessive to one area of life. Rather, it is the experience of diffuse and constant worries, “persistent what if thoughts.” The majority of the times the worries are unrealistic (e.g., what if I fall and break my neck, what if my house is robbed) (www. Anxietynetwork.com). Nonetheless the person has formidable difficulty controlling their worries. Physical symptoms include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance (DSM-IV, 1994). The anxious state of the person negatively affects the social, occupational or interpersonal areas of living (DSM-IV, 1994).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental disorder where your brain seems to get ‘stuck’ on an idea or thought, and can’t let it go. Some people who have OCD describe it as “mental hiccups” because the thoughts keep reoccurring until something, or several things are done repeatedly to relieve the urge or thought. These thoughts include worries, doubts, or superstitious beliefs brought to an excessive, painful level. The doctor’s definition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a “mental disorder which causes problems with information processing.” Symptoms of OCD always include an obsession, and a compulsion. An obsession is a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often-unreasonable idea or feeling. Examples of compulsions include, excessive hand washing, cleaning, counting, checking, touching, arranging, hoarding, measuring, excessive neatness, and repeating tasks or actions. People with OCD carry out these types of compulsion in a desperate bid to calm the anxiety caused by their obsessions. However, once they have carried out the compulsion, they feel slightly better. This feeling is only temporary, because once the obsession comes back, the whole ritual starts again.
There is not one definition of somatoform disorder; it consists of many problems with the person that is diagnosed with it. There are many physical symptoms that can’t be fully explained which lead to this physical disorder. Many scientists and doctors that have studied this disorder describe it as impulses sent to the brain mostly of unpleasant thoughts such as the brain making the person think that he or she is sick when they are really not. The people diagnosed with somatoform disorder usually have it passed down by their relatives and it’s not something that’s contagious.
Symptoms caused by somatoform disorder usually include: decreased sexual urges in males and females, abdominal cramping, pelvic pain, back pain, frequent headaches, pain in the joints, nausea, bloating, vomiting, food in tolerance and diarrhea. These symptoms are severe enough to cause significant distress. No medical condition can fully explain these symptoms.
All of the anxiety disorders mentioned in this paper have an immense impact in the daily life of sufferers. Each of the anxiety disorders has common physical symptoms. When the anxiety disorder is persistent and overwhelming it greatly affects daily life. Favorably the anxiety disorders are treatable. There are two kinds of treatments, therapies and medication. Many psychiatrics and other physicians usually use a combination of both. Therapies help the individual to gain control over their life, and it depends on the individual of the successfulness of the therapy. Medications help to keep symptoms under control; however, medications do not cure any anxiety disorder. Lastly, it is evident that when an anxiety disorder is persistent and overwhelming it greatly affects daily life. Fortunately, today there are many treatments to cure these disorders.