The term "anxiety disorder" encompasses a variety of different disorders, all of which share a common thread: the patient suffers from an abnormal type or amount of anxiety that interferes with his or her ability to engage in daily life activities. If you identify with any of the following, you may have an anxiety disorder.
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About Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders involve both psychological and physical symptoms. Anxiety disorders can be brought on or exacerbated by traumatic life events, though some of these disorders have a strong genetic component. A 2006 study by the Government of Canada found that anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychological disorder.
Psychologists recognize six specific disorders within the broader umbrella category of anxiety disorders: phobias (fear-based avoidance of a specific stimulus), panic disorder (frequent panic attacks brought on by a situational trigger or for no reason), generalized anxiety disorder (chronic, uncontrollable worry about all manner of things), obsessive-compulsive disorder (persistent and uncontrollable obsessions that compel people to repeat certain acts), post-traumatic stress disorder (a prolonged and extreme anxiety response to war, abuse, tragedy, or other severe stressors), and acute stress disorder (a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that lasts less than 4 weeks).
Anxiety disorders are marked by excessive feelings of stress, panic, or worry, usually (but not always) in response to a specific stimulus. These feelings are accompanied by physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or light-headedness. In every instance, the response is disproportionately greater than the real threat that the person faces. That is to say, the fear and anxiety is irrational and unjustified given the stimulus.
Treatment Of Anxiety Disorders
Treatment for an anxiety disorder will often involve both psychological therapy and medication. Medications that are used for treating anxiety disorders are called anxiolytics. Benzodiazepines such as Valium have proven to be very effective in treating anxiety disorders. Some studies have also found SSRI antidepressants to aid in reducing symptoms. Psychological therapy is a vital part of treatment, as it focuses on confronting irrational fears. The most common form of psychotherapy used in treating anxiety disorders is cognitive-behavioural therapy, or CBT. Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is a CBT-based strategy that involves exposing a person to an anxiety-inducing situation and then preventing them from engaging in any kind of coping mechanism; this forcing them to confront their anxiety and resolve it once and for all. Other CBT approaches involve helping the patient to understand their anxiety is irrational and then helping the patient to modify irrational beliefs. CBT and ERP have been found to be the most effective therapies for anxiety disorders. Treatment generally occurs on an outpatient basis, with therapy lasting from just a few months to several years, depending on the nature and severity of the disorder.
Post Rehabilitation Of Anxiety Disorders
The post rehabilitation prognosis for people with anxiety disorders is usually positive. The focus after leaving treatment is on learning how to manage feelings of anxiety and control oneself when faced with triggers. Allowing oneself to be exposed to fear-inducing stimuli in controlled environments can help to break down irrational anxieties. The recovering patient must continue to confront his anxieties, or relapse will occur. Having a strong social support network and staying involved in confidence-building activities and hobbies will help the patient to overcome his fears.
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